A great first line produces a reaction from its readers whilst also raising questions that'll hook them in. Here are some of my favourite opening sentences from crime and thriller fiction.
Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
This time there would be no witnesses.
Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
It was the bright yellow tape that finally convinced me my sister was dead.
Hilary Davidson, The Damage Done
It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.
Paul Auster, City of Glass
They were in one of the “I” states when Zeke told Isaac he had to ride in the trunk for a little while.
Laura Lippman, By a Spider’s Thread
I wasn’t doing any work that day, just catching up on my foot-dangling.
Raymond Chandler, Goldfish
I rode a streetcar to the edge of the city limits, then I started to walk, swinging the old thumb whenever I saw a car coming.
Jim Thompson, After Dark, My Sweet
When the guy with asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away.
Richard Stark, The Mourner
I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug.
Warren Ellis, Crooked Little Vein
We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.
John D MacDonald, Darker Than Amber
It is cold at six-forty in the morning on a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.
Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal
It’s hard to get lost when you’re coming home from work.
Walter Mosley, Blonde Faith
Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin’s feet were placed in a tub of cement.
Live By Night, Dennis Lehane
A big noisy wind out of the northeast, full of February chill, herded the tourists off the afternoon beach, driving them to cover, complaining bitterly.
John D MacDonald, The Quick Red Fox
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there'.
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
She was ten years old, but knew enough to wipe clean the handle of the bloody kitchen knife.
Annie Hauxwell, A Bitter Taste
I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
Arthur Henry Spain, butcher, of Harlow Place, Flaxborough, awoke one morning from a dream in which he had been asking all his customers how to spell ‘phlegm’ and thought – quite inconsequentially: I haven’t seen anything of Lilian lately.
Colin Watson, Lonelyheart 4122
Winter came in like an antichrist with a bomb.
Ed McBain, The Pusher
The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband.
Declan Hughes, The Wrong Kind of Blood
It is one of the sorry human habits to play the game of: What was I doing when it happened?
John D MacDonald, The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper
Death is my beat.
Michael Connelly, The Poet
Even on the night she died, Rose Shepherd couldn’t sleep.
Stephen Booth, Scared To Live
An hour before her shift started, an hour before she was even supposed to be there, they rolled the first corpse through the door.
Tess Gerritsen, Girl Missing
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Jack Reacher ordered espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived he saw a man’s life change forever.
Lee Child, The Hard Way
I never knew her in life.
James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia
There were two armed men in his backyard when Detective Ash Rashid came home from work, and neither looked happy to see him.
Chris Culver, The Outsider
The business of murder took time, patience, skill, and a tolerance for the monotonous.
J D Robb, Vengeance in Death
I was standing on my head in the middle of my office when the door opened and the best looking woman I’d seen in three weeks walked in.
Robert Crais, Stalking The Angel
Four months and twenty-two days after he stopped taking his medication, Robin Greaves dragged the chair out from under the desk and sat down opposite the private investigator.
Allan Guthrie, Two-Way Split
The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of the Dancers.
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first.
Richard Stark, Backflash
One evening, it was towards the end of October, Harry Arno said to the woman he’d been seeing on and off the past few years, “I’ve made a decision. I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before in my life.”
Elmore Leonard, Pronto
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.
Richard Stark, Firebreak
When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss
Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
Ruth Rendell, A Judgement in Stone
Which is the best opening line? I'm creating a top ten list so please let me know your top 3.
If your favourite opening sentence from crime/thriller fiction is not featured above please get in touch via email. If I like your suggestion then I'll add it to the list.