Another year and more of my favourite opening lines or paragraphs, be they evocative, compelling and/or dramatic, from books I’ve read, or am reading, during the past twelve months – not necessarily new ones. These are just some of those I could have listed so, in no particular order, here they are. Clicking on the book cover will take you to my review.
He was born into cramped alleys and foul air, fish-stick and garbage and the Bellman’s call—Remember the clocks, look well to your locks. London, in the year of their Lord 1532. Father in the wind, mother barely remembered, he grew on the streets, working when there was work, begging and stealing and renting himself when not, and when he first saw Persephone bobbing in a halo of sun on a cloudy day, he thought her a promise someone should have made him.
‘This woman – Jessica Lane – should have died. Eleven people were killed in that crash. Not only did Lane survive, she walked away. She’s still walking.
‘So, I want to know where she’s going. I want to know why she hasn’t been in touch. Why she isn’t seeking help. Why she’s deliberately avoiding the police.
”I want to know who she’s running from.
‘Most of all, I want her found.’
She didn’t know what woke her, and no matter how many times she relived that night, no matter where the nightmare chased her, she never would.
Summer turned the air into a wet, simmering stew, one smelling of sweat and drenching green. The humming fan on her dresser stirred it, but it was like sleeping in the steam pumping off the pot.
On this storm lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat. It also takes their dead. And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.
“Guy with gun alert, Mum!”
Lottie yanks my arm, and we melt back into the shadows between our house and my friend Claire Robertson’s, which has been in darkness since shortly after Shipden was cordoned off from the rest of the world. Quarantine was announced on 26th July; a week later, all four of the Robertson family were dead.
The whistling in his ears faded. He listened to the silence as the seconds passed, measured by the laboured breath from his lungs. Slowly the sounds surrounded him; a hollow drip of water, faint groans, a shifting of props holding up the roof. And then a scream, a yell, echoing along the tunnel.
The footsteps came after him, racing as he raced; slapping the sand, crunching shingle, beating against rock. Grass beneath his bare feet meant he was almost home. Almost safe. Then the crunching became a heavy pad. He ran faster.
They didn’t plan to kill my mother.
She wasn’t like the other women, the ones they stalked and captured. The ones who came to in a cold root cellar miles from where they’d been abducted, hog tied and disorientated, their faces pressed to the dirt floor.
My mother wasn’t like those victims. She was an accident.
Hello to anyone out there who might be listening. My name’s Rowena and today is going to be my day on earth. No, I’m not about to top myself; I died twenty-one years ago.
He sits at his desk, grey with fear and the weight of this momentous step which, once taken, cannot be taken back. Like time and death.
The pen trembles in his hand as he writes.
The blue flashing lights pulsed through the fractured front window, illuminating the blood spatter on the walls. the click-click of the forensic team’s camera ate into the sterile silence as the officers combed through the living room.
Later, the four women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.
That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. Water found its way into the smallest cracks and undermined the sturdiest foundations. Chunks of land that has been steady for generations fell like slag heaps on the roads below, taking houses and cars and swimming pools down with them. Trees fell over, crashed into power lines; electricity was lost. Rivers flooded their banks, washed across yards, ruined homes. People who loved each other snapped and fights erupted as the water rose and the rain continued.
The yelling woke her, the rough voice of her father, shouting into the phone.
“Listen to me. We don’t have days. We have hours.”
The black sky poured through the bedroom window. Shadows crawled along the ceiling.
The sky was papered with stars on the night Duncan Gray died. He watched them from the depths of a muddy crevice, his breathing a laboured gurgle as he began to drown in his own blood.
“We can’t leave him like this!”