by Val Tobin
Agents and editors will often decide whether a book is for them by reading the first page of a manuscript. Many readers also decide to buy a book based on that critical first-page sample. Each month I post the first page of a book and you can vote on whether or not you’d read the book based on the sample.
After you vote, I’ll let you know the title of the book, my reaction to the sample, and why I’d keep reading or why I’d put it down. The goal is to have fun while we explore the beginnings of a variety of books and what compels readers to keep reading.
While I won’t divulge the title or author until you’ve read the piece, I will include the genre and any preliminary items (for example, quotes) you’d see when opening the book on your own.
NOTE: Set aside your preference for or against any specific genre and just focus on the writing. Does it compel you to turn the page and find out what comes next? Base your decision to turn the page on the excerpt’s writing alone.
Genre: Murder Mystery
A Call to Murder
The call had come at six-twelve precisely. It was second nature to him now to note the time by the illuminated dial of his electric bedside clock before he had switched on his lamp, a second after he had felt for and silenced the raucous insistence of the telephone. It seldom had to ring more than once, but every time he dreaded that the peal might have woken Nell. The caller was familiar, the summons expected. It was Detective Inspector Doyle. The voice, with its softly intimidating suggestion of Irish burr, came to him strong and confident, as if Doyle’s great bulk loomed over the bed.
“Doc Kerrison?” The interrogation was surely unnecessary. Who else in this half-empty, echoing house would be answering at six-twelve in the morning? He made no reply and the voice went on.
“We’ve got a body. On the wasteland—a clunch field—a mile north-east of Muddington. A girl. Strangulation by the look of it. It’s probably pretty straightforward but as it’s close …”
Would you turn the page? Vote now.
Today’s Book Revealed
Today’s book is Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James.
Blurb from Amazon
On the surface, Dr. Lorrimer is the picture of a bloodless, coldly efficient scientist. But after he is brutally slain, Chief Inspector Dalgliesh learns there was obviously more to the man than what met the eye.
Would I Turn the Page?
Based on that excerpt, I’d want to turn the page and read a little more before deciding whether to read the rest of the story. The narrative drew me into the story and immediately raised questions I want answers to, not the least of which is finding out the girl’s identity and who killed her and why.
In fact, I did turn the page and read the whole novel. I picked it up at our local seniors’ centre library, mostly on the desire to try a new famous author. I’d heard of P. D. James but never read any of her books.
As it turns out, this book didn’t make me a rabid fan. I found it heavy on the description, which made it tedious in parts. Lengthy descriptions make me zone out even if the writer is talented. At times, I wondered why the point of view went where it did. I had a desire to trim the verbiage. Still, I finished the story because a) I wanted to learn who the killer was and b) I wanted to give the author a chance.
I subsequently picked up two more P.D. James books from the seniors’ centre library but returned them unread. I couldn’t bring myself to start another story I might have to drag my way through. That’s not how reading is supposed to make you feel.
James has many fans, and the writing style might be for you. The plot certainly intrigues. This, once again, shows that you can’t always judge a book by its first page and that views on writing styles are subjective.
What do you think?
Does this passage from Death of an Expert Witness intrigue you? Does it make you want to turn the page and continue reading? Will you run out now and buy the book? Borrow it?
Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading.