Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

Rome, New York
The last night of April, 1998

They put me in a room with white tile on the walls and a pair of long fluorescent lights glaring down from the ceiling.

The pronoun "they" sounds ominous, but other than that there is nothing really untoward in this line. "They" could be hotel staff. Using pronounology is a technique writers use to to create suspense by withholding information. It's like telling a story by way of omission; any intelligent reader will see through this ploy and have the subtle feeling that their time is being wasted. With the third sentence we get something that makes me wonder if this is a bad situation:

I had a cut on my temple.

We learn that it's itching, and the narrator tries to ignore it. So, I'm thinking that this person is tied up, but that's not the case, the narrator is only locked up in a room.

First thing said:

"Why'd you kill the girl?

This comes on page 2, and it is the first thing a detective asks the narrator after coming into the locked room. It's direct and gets to the point, moving the plot forward. There is lots of dialogue after this as the narrator and detective butt heads with witty dialogue as both try to outwit the other for no other apparent reason than that is what people try to do these days.

This opening scene will hook all those who love this genre. We have a character in conflict, a problem in the form of a dead girl, which raises a few questions. The scene is not as transparent as it seems from the beginning, which only aids in pulling the reader in.

There is no narrative back story in the opening and yet the reader is able to understand what is happening, just like one would watching a scene play itself out on the street - without any context. So you see, back story is not always necessary to make a story beginning be understood; credit the wondrous nature of the human brain. The back story we do get a little later on is in the form of dialogue with the characters telling it in their own words as the narrator explains what happened to the dead girl and what his past relationship was with her.

The lack of a back story dump frees this opening up, and lets the story unfold organically, like real life does, so I'm giving this opening a high rating of 3.5 stars.

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

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