LITERATURE: BAMS – Opening Lines

I’m almost done with The Best American Mystery Stories,  having put it aside for a while to get caught up on other things, but hadn’t found anything outstanding to post about until now.  In The Love of a Strong Man, by Oz Spies, I found one of the best opening story lines, particularly for a mystery:

This is a story that does not begin and end; it simply crept up on those involved, without warning, and will continue to haunt us, to hang over us after the trial is over, after he has died.  (p. 259)

Obviously, with my fascination with time I was drawn right in on the first ten words.  The next segment of the sentence "it simply crept up on those involved," infuses it with a bit of tension.  The next, "without warning, and will continue to haunt us," sets us on edge, prepares us for something nasty, perhaps.  And the end, hits with a bang, "to hang over us after the trial is over, after he has died."  While it is expository–we know that a serious crime has been committed and that most likely the defendent is guilty–it is also intrigueing.  We need to know what happened; why is this man going to die?  Who is he?  Who is the narrator, and what is the relationship, the evident caring, since it will "haunt" him and others.

I’m impressed.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: BAMS – Opening Lines

  1. Mark says:

    Yes, but it might have been better if “continued to haunt us” weren’t presumptuous about the great impact of the story to come on the reader. Rather to relate how “it haunts us – the people in the story” and let the reader decide for himself if he/she wishes to share the feeling.

  2. susan says:

    True, but honest, this was the best opening of all the stories in the book. And, the story was pretty good, although I’m not sure it measured up to the drama of “haunted.”

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