Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Vertigo 42, the City
Monday, 6:00 P.M.

It was far too high to see Old Broad Street down below, but the windows that traveled all the way around the lozenge-shaped room gave as great a view of London as he'd ever seen.

Before I did anything else, I added the byline hook label to this review. I'm sure many writers at this level still want to have beginnings that hook, but there are just as many more that go with being wordily annoying instead, eager to show off their writing chops.

Beginning with setting only works if it's an unusual setting, like if the story is set in the belly of a whale or on a snowy day in the Sahara desert. With this opening line we have a person in a skyscraper. Nothing suspenseful about that, at least not yet,but when the suspense will start is anyone's guess at this point. Some conflict comes at the end of the first paragraph:

He was so high up...he'd almost had an attack of vertigo...

But this is not the intense conflict that forces readers to turn pages. The first page spends ink describing and explaining setting, so I surmise after a quick glance. I already know I'm not reading this. There is no hook on page 1 and there are so many other options out there.

First thing said:

"My favorite view."

So begins some incidental dialogue that further turns me off this opening. You know, things like:

"Sorry about that."
"No problem."
"You like stuff?"
"Some stuff, yeah."
"I love stuff."
"Thanks for talking to me."
"No problem."

In Martha's defense, she does a slightly better job at the incidental chit-chat than I've done above.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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