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Home » Books & writing

First Impressions 5.11.12

Submitted by on May 10, 2012 – 11:53 pm 14 Comments

Time for another sampling of opening passages from the books in my TBR pile, a regular Friday feature here at PCN. As some of you know, I go straight to the first page of the ARCs I receive before reading any accompanying press materials because the book itself needs to draw me in. If it’s a long description of weather or scenery, I’m usually done with it before I even start.

Here are this week’s openers for your perusal:

Heart of a Killer by David Rosenfelt, Minotaur, out now


Detective John Novack knew something was wrong even before he stepped in the blood. Though he was a fourteen-year veteran of the force, in this instance his sense of foreboding did not come from an instinct finely honed by experience, nor was it a result of piecing clues together. The voice on the 911 call, as played back to him while he drove to the scene, had said it all.

“I killed Charlie Harrison.”


The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang, Riverhead, out now

At the age of nine, I slept next to a coffin that Father had made for Grandma’s seventy-third birthday. He forbade us from calling it a “coffin” and insisted that we refer to it as shou mu, which means something like “longevity wood.” To me, it seemed a strange name for the box in which we’d bury Grandma, but it served a practical purpose. It was less spooky to share my room with a “longevity wood” than with a big black coffin.


The 500 by Matthew Quirk, Reagan Arthur Books, out June 5


Miroslav and Aleksandar filled the front seats of the Range Rover across the street. They wore their customary diplomatic uniforms—dark Brionis tailored close—but the two Serbs looked angrier than usual. Aleksandar lifted his right hand high enough to flash me a glint of his Sig Sauer. A master of subtlety, that Alex. I wasn’t particularly worried about the two bruisers sitting up front, however. The worst thing they could do was kill me, and right now that looked like one of my better options.

Which one(s) struck your fancy? Where do you think these books go from here?

Happy Friday and happy reading!



  • Lauren says:

    This week’s selections surprised me. As a big fan of Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series, I expected that fandom to sway my interest the way of that selection. And, I admit, I was interested while not blown away, and will likely read the book. However, I’m really really intrigued by The Little Red Guard and family memoirs are rarely in my bailiwick. But I now definitely want to know more about this one.

    Perhaps this is so because my own family history includes my great-grandmother running her many-bedroomed home as a boarding house for coal miners. Back in the day, coal miners had even worse life expectancies than they do now and often they would have a funeral service in the parlor of the house. Which meant that oftentimes there was an open occupied casket in the parlor for viewing. My Mom and Uncle used to tell stories of the other miners pulling pranks and scaring them with those bodies. In any event, that one interests me the most.

    Third selection doesn’t do anything for me. Doesn’t help that I now nothing about the author. But I may go check out the subject matter because the title and cover intrigue me. Intro, not so much.

  • I love that story about your great-grandma, and how this might get you to read a book you didn’t expect to. I don’t read a lot of memoirs, either, but finished two in the last month and enjoyed them both. It’s fun when our world expands.

    Matthew Quirk is a debut novelist, which may be why you haven’t heard of him, but THE 500 is being compared to THE FIRM and 20th Century Fox has bought the movie rights, so I have a feeling you’ll soon hear a lot more about the book.

    • Lauren says:

      Yes, the corpse of coalminer Smoley is infamous in our family.

      I went and read plotline for The 500 and it totally sounds like The Firm. Which, for me, is a turnoff. I loved The Firm, but I don’t want to read it again. And legal stuff for me is quicksand anyway. Same with TV. Legal-centric has to be really good or different. Otherwise, it’s just what I do every day. Well, other than the murder and mayhem and embezzlement and all the fun, sexy stuff.

    • Lauren says:

      Oh, and P.S. If you read The Little Red Guard afore I do, let me know what you think. Por favor?

  • THE LITTLE RED GUARD sounds really good, possibly because, like Lauren and the narrator, I can relate to coffins in the house. I, too, descend from coal miners stock and the first funeral I can remember involved a wake (we called it a “watch”) at a cousin’s house. Or maybe it’s just because the story sounds intriguing while the other two don’t tug at me at all.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Oh my gosh, do we all have a coffin-in-the-house story? When I was 5, my grandma died. Mom took me over to her house and I watched as relatives washed her, dressed her, then nailed her into her coffin, which was suddenly there. That didn’t upset me at all. Noooooooo.

      • Lauren says:

        Wow. No wonder you’re so messed up. 🙂

        Man our predecessors sure knew how to screw up future generations, eh?

        • Pop Culture Nerd says:

          I forgot to mention they also wrapped her up in plastic—the laymen’s version of embalming? I remember thinking they shouldn’t do that because we kids had always been told we shouldn’t put plastic bags over our heads when playing, and here they were wrapping her entire body in it. How was Grandma going to breathe?? My 5-year-old brain could not understand.

      • Yikes! I was an adult the first time I saw a coffin lid being closed on a corpse, and that freaked me out a little even then. Can’t imagine seeing that as a child and done to a loved one? No no no no no no.

  • EIREGO says:

    HEART OF A KILLER – Ya got me with the first sentence, then almost lost me until the last two.

    THE LITTLE RED GUARD – Held my interest and would make me read further.

    THE 500 – Don’t know what’s going on yet, but I already want to hang out with the protagonist.

    In other words:
    THE 500 has my vote.

  • Paulette says:

    I am calling my mom right now to find out why we did not have a coffin!!!
    The 500 sounds as though it is my kind of book….I am hoping for international intrigue here.

  • Lauren says:

    Paulette, you win the internets today.

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