Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Jaguar by T. Jefferson Parker

The black van rolled across the barnyard in the rain and stopped beneath an enormous oak tree.

This opening line fails to hook and is doubly boring because of the two cliches employed, the weather opening and the car opening. This might be forgiven if the next line introduced conflict or character but the next line doesn't. See for yourself:

It was a large vehicle but under the canopy it was poorly visible, a dark shape within greater darkness.

For some reason it is more important to describe this nondescript vehicle than to dive into conflict. Nevertheless, as it's these two lines allow the reader to assume something is not right.  Then men spill out of the van and advance to a stable and then to a ranch house. This could be an invasion of Jehovah's Witnesses or a SWAT team. Meanwhile a man is upstairs watching as he buttons his jeans. The paragraph ends with:

He was twenty-one years old.

Like I need to know this now. Who cares how old he is. Tell me when it matters.

First thing said:

"Men are here."

This comes on the first page and only confirms what the opening paragraph revealed anyway, so it's actually redundant.

However, by the end of page 1 a scene is rapidly unfolding, in which men with guns are storming a house. It escalates quickly. The man who is 21 and who buttoned his jeans, Bradley, is knocked out and when he wakes up he is in a very small, confined space on page 3. Most readers will be pulled in as the tension rises as this man tries to figure out where he is. Then the van men present conditions this Bradley must meet in ten days or his wife gets it; they'll mail him her skin rolled up in a small box, and so begins a ticking-clock plot scenario, which is always good for some suspense and quick-paced reading.

Verdict: Pass

I would score this higher but the opening line is an utter fail. Obviously some people don't value the power of the opening line.

Rudy Globird

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