In 1984 I landed my first writing gig. My brother, an architect, was commissioned to write a magazine piece about the architecture of a famous resort. He was super busy and asked me to do it. The assignment was paying $2,000. I reluctantly agreed.
I knew nothing about architecture. So I interviewed the architects. I still had no clue. But I knew one thing I had learned while studying journalism: my first sentence had to be magnificent, so perfect that people would read the entire feature.
I sweated over that first sentence. Finally, I crafted an ideal opening line. It was seven words long. I wrote the rest of the piece and submitted it. Some months later they paid me and I received a copy of the magazine. There was my opening sentence in all its glory.
The rest of the article was written by somebody else. They liked my opening but that was all they liked. I got paid two grand for writing seven words. I reached the summit on the first try. That was the most I have ever been paid for anything I have written.
I still don’t know much about architecture but I know an awful lot about books. Here’s one thing I know: that first sentence of a book is so important. That’s when you catch readers or lose them. With that in mind I will declare that the opening sentence of the new mystery, “Things We Do In the Dark” by Jennifer Hillier is the finest, most compelling opening sentence I have read in years.
Are you doubting me? OK, head to the library or a bookstore and peruse her opening line. Then buy or borrow the book. You won’t be able to resist.
As the story begins the police have been called to a mansion in Seattle. A famous comedian is bobbing in a bathtub filled with his own blood. He’s rather dead.
His young wife Paris Peralta stands nearby looking confused. She’s drenched with blood and brandishing one of her late husband’s favorite straight edge razors. Hillier writes a fabulous opening sentence then follows it up with this scene that leaves us shocked, perplexed, and eager to know what has really transpired.
The author employs wickedly clever flashbacks to flesh out her twisted tale. Paris is the prime suspect. She’s really concerned about the press coverage. The tabloids publish photos of her. An inmate serving time in prison on a murder charge sees reports about the incident and realizes hey, I know her.
That’s all I’m going to say about this extraordinary novel. I have been reviewing books and talking to authors for nearly three decades. Sometimes you can just feel it when a book is going to cause a sensation. I have to believe Jennifer Hillier’s “Things We Do In the Dark” is going to be her breakout book.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.