Authors J.B. Stevens and Kirstyn Petras discuss the opening for thriller novel THE NEXT WITNESS.
The First Line is a recurring column by J.B. Stevens. Mystery Tribune readers (you) get an inside look at what goes through the author’s mind as they craft their opening.
For the column, an author presents the initial sentence of their story. Then J.B. writes his impression of the passage. Next, the author discusses what their intent was with the line. To keep it interesting, J.B. writes his section before looking at the author’s description. Finally, you decide: Did the author achieve their goal?
In this edition, we’re checking out THE NEXT WITNESS by Kirstyn Petras. The book is a May 3, 2022 release from Cinnabar Moth.
THE NEXT WITNESS — the opening line:
Alexander Covington leaned against the metal rail, a flask in his hand. He had left his car parked on the side of the bridge, not bothering with the hazards. At this time of day, who was going to disturb him?
This one is coming across as shadowy as a cave at midnight. The flask, combined with the laissez-faire attitude, along with the bridge-top location… Things feel like they are about to go south in a hurry. I’m not sure what Alexander is going through, but he is in the middle of something rough.
This is a good line, I have a sense of place, a sense of the character’s mental situation, and a feeling that a lot is going on. I’d read more.
What the author was trying to achieve:
I wanted to set an immediate impression that the story will go somewhere dark. I hope readers are met with a sense of depression and desperation, are intrigued as to how this man got to this moment, and will read on to find the answers.
Kirstyn was going for dark, depression, and desperation. (The three Ds of noir.) She did an outstanding job.
I’m going to read this book.
Alexander Covington is hunting a traitor: Melody Karsh, a missing girl accused of treason, a Party member who has forsaken her country. But, letters are appearing in mailboxes, being slipped beneath doors, and in the pockets of passersby. “Free Melody” is being spray painted on walls. Her image – cold, shivering, pathetic – has captured the public’s attention and sympathy.
Melody has no idea that her name is being used to start a movement, not until the executions of those demanding her freedom start airing on television.
Derek Lin would feel sympathy, if he didn’t blame Melody for the deaths of those who have disappeared without a trace, caught up in the investigation to find her.
Melody must choose to join the fight or stand aside. Derek will become a leader or break under the pressure. Alexander will decide how many bodies must fall to save his own life.