Monday, April 15, 2024

Week 16 – A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

Last year on Mondays we had fun with books. This year, we'll look at most of the same books but also some new ones, and see if the first line [or first paragraph] met the goal of a first line which is ==> to hook the reader's attention.

Here are some tips on writing a first line

Week 16 – A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

First published: April 15, 1982

Here's what the story is about: Kinsey Millhone, 32, former cop turned private detective in Santa Teresa California [fictional Santa Barbara], investigates the death of prominent divorce lawyer Laurence Fife. His murder eight years earlier was blamed on his wife, Nikki. Upon her release from prison, Nikki hires Kinsey to find the real murderer.

First line/paragraph:
My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the state of California. I’m thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind. I'm a nice person and I have a lot of friends. My apartment is small but I like living in a cramped space. I've lived in trailers most of my life, but lately they've been getting too elaborate for my taste, so now I live in one room, a “bachelorette.” I don't have pets. I don't have houseplants. I spend a lot of time on the road and I don't like leaving things behind. Aside from the hazards of my profession, my life has always been ordinary, uneventful and good. Killing someone feels odd to me and I haven't quite sorted it through. I've already given a statement to the police, which I initialed page by page and then signed. I filled out a similar report for the office files. The language in both documents is neutral, the terminology oblique, and neither says quite enough.

This story starts in first person POV with “my name is” and a list of characteristics, not something generally advised but Janet Evanovich also does it with her Stephanie Plum series. The plot is introduced by the fact she's a private investigator and she killed someone, but that's all we know. We do learn a lot about the setting and the main character in her own words and in her own  voice, which gives the reader more information than just the words describe. It also mentions a killing in the fourth sentence although we assume that's not the killing that she was hired to investigate. As a reader, I'm left with a favorable impression of this investigator as no-nonsense, gritty, determined, and interesting to read about for 8 hours.

Does this first line/paragraph hook your attention? If you had never heard of this story, would you buy this book in 2024? Knowing the story, would you change the first line? Tell us in the comments!

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I was a fan of this series, and I think a lot of her books start in a similar fashion, though the facts about Kinsey change as she gets more into her life living in a garage apartment and becomes friends with her landlord. It's a telling approach that new writers aren't allowed to use, but it works with this series. I was so sad that Sue Grafton died before finishing it.