04 August 2023

Opening Lines – OK, here we go again

In his July 30th posting, R.T. Lawton gave us new insights in the setting the hook in a story. Other SleuthSayers, including me, have posted about opening lines. Robert Lopresti posted about one of his opening lines (May 17th posting).

So, I thought I'd share opening lines that worked for me in recent short stories and novels. Why not?


I always wanted to be a sleuth. Pfft! As if.

    opening line of   

"The First Annual Atchafalaya Coyote Hunt; or, Is There a Sleuth in the House"

    Black Cat Mystery Magazine Issue 11, March 2002

Damn car wouldn't start.

    opening line of

"The Obsidian Knife"

    The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories,

 Mango Press, July 2022

Tom steps into the dark bedroom and waits just inside the door for his eyes to adjust.

    opening line of

    "Blue Moon Over Burgundy"

    Black is the Night

Maxim's Jakubowski's Cornell Woolrich Antho, Titan Books, October 2022

“Ah, here is our French detective now,” Captain Joe Rathlee called out from his office door as Detective Jacques Dugas came into the Detective Bureau.

    opening line of

    "The Other French Detective"    Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Vol. 67. Nos 11 & 12, November/December 2022

A woman trying not to look beautiful stepped into my office a little after nine a.m.

    opening line of

    "A Jelly of Intrigue"Edgar and Shamus Go Golden Anthology, Down & Out Books, December 202

(A Jelly of Intrigue is a finalist for this year's SHAMUS AWARD for Best Private Eye Short Story)

“No offense, Officer Kintyre. But I’m smarter than you.”

    opening line of

    "Of Average Intelligence"

    Black Cat Weekly

#85 April 2023

Billy found the trunk release button and popped open the trunk.

    opening line of

    "A Pretty Slick Guy"

    Black Cat Weekly #92 June 2023

A shadow beyond the smoky glass portion of my office door had me fold my newspaper and pull my feet off the desk before the door opened and a heavy-set man stepped in, looked around the big office.

    opening line of

    "The Little Iréne Escapade"

    upcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine


She came in at one o’clock sharp on Decoration Day, Friday, May 30th, just as a light rain began falling outside.

    opening line of

        The Spy Who Used My Love

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2021

The high-pitched shrill of a police whistle turns Detective Mike Labruzzo around.

    opening line of

        Gilded Time

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2022

I drop the uncut gemstone back into the leather bag with the others and tell her, “Emeralds. Every one."

    opening line of

        Hardscrabble Private Eye

 Big Kiss Productions, June 2022

The body hung from the low branch of a live oak in the Bayou Sauvage swamp about thirty yards from Chef Menteur Road.

    opening line of

        New Orleans Heat

 Big Kiss Productions, March 2023

May not be the best opening lines but they hooked the editors enough for them to read on. Of course, the follow-up from the opening line needs to keep them reading.

That's all for now.



  1. As I wrote at Little BIg Crimes, I loved the opening line of "Of Average Intelligence." In just a few words it sets up the whole situation and gets the reader rooting for the right person.

  2. Great openings, O'Neil. And good luck with the Shamus!

  3. Love them!
    My personal favorite of my own first lines is: "Connor blew into Laskin like an ancient prophet, in a chariot of fire: a ’72 Chevy Nova billowing black smoke." from "Death of a Good Man". (AHMM, Nov. 2009)

  4. When you find what works, you keep on doing it. Good job. You've got the touch.

  5. This is O'Neil. Hope this goes through. Been trying to comment for a couple hours. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

  6. Love them! Really intrigued by the trying not to look beautiful - (something I can't say I've ever experienced - being beautiful enough to want to not look it!!) Melodie


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>