Thursday, 15 May 2014
The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart
An Elephant, a Funeral, and More Bad News
As the hail bounced on the carriage roof, Mink suddenly wondered whether she ought to buy mourning knickers.
So begins the opening line of chapter 1 after the table of contents, cast of characters and a well-drawn map.
Three words in and we have weather. The only reason it would be necessary to mention the hail is if it's because the hail made Mink wonder about knickers. Personally, I don't see the connection between hail and knickers. Of course, some people will undoubtedly be turned on by the mention of knickers in the opening line, so by all means rush out and buy this one.
The fact that they are mourning knickers foreshadows a death, which usually incites conflict in a story, but we understood there would be a death anyway from the title of chapter 1. I like when opening line and title work together but in this case opening line and chapter 1 heading sort of cancel each other out, at least as far as a plot point goes. In fact, the best thing about this opening is the title given to chapter 1. The title of the book is all right too, as it contains the word mystery.
What follows on page 1 is some description of the setting.
First thing said:
"Ratakins is the name, ma'am."
Verdict: Pass (barely)
This achieves a 50/50 pass for the interesting foreshadowing of mourning knickers. If the weather had been left until later rather than having it lead the opening, this might have scored higher - as it is well written. Well, actually probably wouldn't have scored higher; in the first few pages, besides brooding over a funeral and the death of a father, there isn't much else happening.