09 February 2024

Opening Lines (Again)

A recent SleuthSayers posting by Barb Goffman about good first lines, drew me back to my previous postings (and others) about opening lines. Since I've said enough about the importance of opening lines, I thought I'd share the opening lines of my recently published books and short stories, opening lines which worked for me.



I DROP THE uncut gemstone back into the leather bag with the others and tell her, “Emeralds. Every one.”


The body hung from the low branch of a live oak in the Bayou Sauvage swamp about thirty yards from Chef Menteur Road. Detective Jacques Dugas swatted a mosquito on his neck and studied the scene before drawing a quick diagram with a pencil in his small leather-bound notebook.

SMOOTH (Sep 2023)

THE BURGLAR CROSSED the warehouse like a cat, with purposeful, careful steps, keeping his low-beam flashlight pointed to the floor in front of him.


The First Annual Atchafalaya Coyote Hunt: or, Is There a Sleuth in The House

Black Cat Mystery Magazine Issue 11, Mar 2022

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


The Obsidian Knife

The Book of Extraordinary Femme Fatale Stories, Mango Press, Jul 2022


Damn car wouldn’t start.

Blue Moon Over Burgundy

Black is the NightMaxim's Jakubowski's Cornell Woolrich Antho, Titan Books, Oct 2022


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


The Other French Detective

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Vol. 67, Nos 11 & 12, November/December 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.


A Jelly of Intrigue

Edgar and Shamus Go Golden Anthology, Down & Out Books, Dec 5, 2022

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

Of Average Intelligence

Black Cat Weekly #85 April 15, 2023

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

When Baby Cows Go Bad

Mystery Magazine, June 2023 Issue

“Baby cows attacked me,” says the student sitting on the other side of my desk

A Pretty Slick Guy

Black Cat Weekly #92 June 3, 2023


Billy found the trunk release button and popped open the trunk

A Dirty, Dimly-lit Place

Black Cat Mystery Weekly #103, August 20, 2023

The woman sat at the last table near the side door where the dull lights in the cantina could not reach her and even the moonlight outside was blocked by the leaves of the banana trees.


The Little Iréne Escapade

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Vol. 68, Nos 9 &10, September/October 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


The Split Man

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Vol. 68, Nos 11&12, November/December 2023

The body lay in two pieces, neatly sliced at the waist, the top portion face down, the bottom portion turned upward. 

That's all for now,




  1. Elizabeth Dearborn09 February, 2024 13:56

    Those are some fantastic opening lines, O'Neil. Did you say you wanted to read some of other ppl's openers? You did or you didn't? O.K., I'll start ...

    The One I Loved
    Burst literary ezine, spring 2008

    I hardly ever gave her a thought any more, not till the day her look-alike pulled up to the Quick Sack.

    Who Knew?
    The Clarity of Night

    Reynaldo was my bud from day one. He wasn't Indian like the rest of us in Special Ed.

    Frozen Meat
    B.O.U.L.D. anthology, winter 2022

    "No popsicles!"

    "You trying to kill me?" Jimmy shrieked. People were staring.

  2. Thanks for the comment. All of your opening lines are intriguing.

  3. Late to the party, but here are a couple of mine:
    Death of a Good Man: "Connor blew into Laskin like an ancient prophet, in a chariot of fire: a ’72 Chevy Nova billowing black smoke."
    Public Immunity: "The sight of Neil Inveig, lying on the floor of his bedroom, naked except for his socks, was an instant flashback to Barry’s freshman year."
    Iron Chef: "In Laskin, South Dakota, the Davisons have always been the equivalent of the Sopranos, just not so organized."
    Miss West's First Case: "January 6, 1947, and I hadn’t seen my boss, Ron Conroy, since January first, when he’d sneaked out of my flat at dawn holding his shoes and socks."
    The Sweet Life: "The first thing you have to do when you’re a runaway is survive."


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