Thursday, 22 May 2014
Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton
While opening with a funeral is not strictly speaking, a cliche, it is used a lot. I think in our 300+ review run so far, I've come across it only a couple times. Of course, there are many more books and films out there that begin with a funeral. The reason for starting with a funeral holds one obvious advantage, someone just died and this creates conflict for those characters fortunate enough to remain alive at t.he beginning. Some writers are attracted to the idea of beginning with an ending of sorts.
I won't bother writing out the entire weather report.
Later we learn, and it's a little unusual, that the entire village is attending this funeral. Then we get a rundown of everyone attending, names and body size or feature for future reference. At this point I don't much care though. I'm more interested in who the person was who died. This is the question this opening raises, the kernel of a hook, and while it remains unanswered, I'm pulled along, but obviously not for long. It is not revealed on page 1, nor does it need to be. Instead, it's revealed on page 5, which is a lot of words to get through for my fragile attention span. In fact, I'm not ashamed to say that I skipped much of the description or whatever on page 3 and 4 just to have my curiosity satisfied ASAP. Once I know this, I go back and read page 3 and 4. For some reason, back story is more interesting when we have some story context.
On the plus side, the characters that are introduced prior to the dead man, who oddly is a complete stranger to the villagers, are a little eccentric, like witches, widows and a supernova wife. This characterization is illustrated in the first bit of dialogue on page 4.
First thing said:
"Mrs. Bunting is going to fly straight over the church if she doesn't let go of that umbrella."
Overall, this opening has all the makings of a good opener, tone is established, characters are introduced and some personality is revealed. But it lacks conflict happening to a specific character. In addition, as this is a mystery, I need a crime front and center to pull me in, unless the byline on the cover says Agatha Christie. The Dame is allowed to waste my time.
Verdict: Pass (barely)