by Val Tobin
Agents and editors will often decide whether a book is right for them by reading the first page of the manuscript. Many readers also decide to buy a book based on that critical first-page sample. Each month I’ll post the first page of a book and you’ll 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 and voted, I will include the genre and any preliminary items (for example, quotes) you’d see when opening the book on your own.
Genre: Police Procedural/Murder
Bosch was in cell 3 of the old San Fernando jail, looking through files from one of the Esme Tavares boxes, when a heads-up text came in from Bella Lourdes over in the detective bureau.
LAPD and DA heading your way. Trevino told them where you are.
Bosch was where he was at the start of most weeks: sitting at his makeshift desk, a wooden door he had borrowed from the Public Works yard and placed across two stacks of file boxes. After sending Lourdes a thank-you text, he opened the memo app on his phone and turned on the recorder. He put the phone screen-down on the desk and partially covered it with a file from the Tavares box. It was a just-in-case move. He had no idea why people from the District Attorney’s Office and his old police department were coming to see him first thing on a Monday morning. He had not received a call alerting him to the visit, though to be fair, cellular connection within the steel bars of the cell was virtually nonexistent. Still, he knew that the surprise visit was often a tactical move. Bosch’s relation- …
Would you turn the page? Vote now.
Today’s Book Revealed
Today’s book is Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly.
Blurb from Amazon
Harry Bosch searches for the truth in the new thriller from #1 NYT bestselling author Michael Connelly
An NPR Best Book of 2017
A Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017
A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel Best Mystery of 2017
An Amazon Book of the Month
Harry Bosch, exiled from the LAPD, is working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department when all hands are called out to a local drugstore, where two pharmacists have been murdered in a robbery. Bosch and the tiny town’s three-person detective squad sift through the clues, which lead into the dangerous, big-business world of prescription drug abuse. To get to the people at the top, Bosch must risk everything and go undercover in the shadowy world of organized pill mills.
Meanwhile, an old case from Bosch’s days with the LAPD comes back to haunt him when a long-imprisoned killer claims Harry framed him and seems to have new evidence to prove it. Bosch left the LAPD on bad terms, so his former colleagues are not keen on protecting his reputation. But if this conviction is overturned, every case Bosch ever worked will be called into question. As usual, he must fend for himself as he tries to clear his name and keep a clever killer in prison.
The two cases wind around each other like strands of barbed wire. Along the way, Bosch discovers that there are two kinds of truth: the kind that sets you free and the kind that leaves you buried in darkness.
Tense, fast-paced, and fueled by this legendary detective’s unrelenting sense of mission, Two Kinds of Truth is proof positive that “Connelly writes cops better than anyone else in the business” (New York Post).
Would I Turn the Page?
Yes. I had to turn the page.
I’ve read the book before, and when I typed up the sample, I flipped the page to continue reading to see what happened. I find Connelly’s writing style compelling and will read any of his books I stumble across that I haven’t already read.
In this particular passage, whether you’re already familiar with Harry Bosch or not, Connelly makes you want to turn that page and read further to find out what happens next. You’re hooked right from that first page.
The first sentence alone raises questions. Why is Harry in a jail cell reviewing files for a case? Who is Esme Tavares? Who is Bella Lourdes, and why does she send Harry a heads-up text from the detective bureau?
The text itself just adds to the mystery. We learn what the heads-up is, but reading the text raises more questions than it answers.
Right from the start, we’re pulled into not just one plot thread, but two. First, there’s the Esme Tavares case Harry’s examining. Second, there’s the visit from the LAPD and the DA. We suspect it’s unrelated to Tavares. Harry’s caution in turning on the phone’s recorder adds an element of concern for Harry. Is he in trouble? Readers familiar with Bosch know it’s likely.
If you’ve read last month’s selection, you’re aware of how I feel about description. There’s a Goldilocks zone for it between too little and too much.
For me, Connelly hits that sweet spot (likely because he’s a former newspaper reporter, and they know how to keep it simple). In this passage, the only thing Connelly describes in any real detail is the desk Harry uses because it’s not a real desk. It’s “a wooden door he had borrowed from the Public Works yard and placed across two stacks of file boxes”.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King says this about description: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” Connelly excels at exactly this.
In this excerpt from Two Kinds of Truth, the jail cell gets no description and Harry gets no description. Even the door gets no detailed description — we’re simply told it’s a wooden door. Yet we still have a sense of who, what, when, and where. Connelly tells us all he needs us to know.
I selected a Michael Connelly book this month because it was the opposite of last month’s literary piece. That’s not to imply that I don’t appreciate a literary piece and lovely description. Next month’s selection will feature a book some people find boring and overly descriptive but I find enthralling.
You’ll have to wait until November to find out what it is. Sorry.
What do you think?
Does this passage 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.