Best First Line Of A Thriller?

Before penning a single word of prose, writers must lay the foundation for a new story, much like a brick-layer lays the foundation for a new house. All kinds of groundwork has to be laid, such as decisions about:
* Which suspense category the story belongs in
* POV issues
* Character goals and motivation
Next comes the hard part: Writing Chapter One, Page One.
Which brings us to today’s topic: Great Beginnings.
For an example of a great beginning, let’s reach WAY back to a sort-of thriller, Rebecca, and its simple but great first line:
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
That line launches the spellbinding tale of its protagonist, who is haunted by the ghost of her husband’s dead wife. And there are many other great openers we could cite.
Here’s a link to the best 100 opening lines of novels, as chosen by the editors of American Book Review.
But those are mostly first lines of…ahem, “literary” novels. For Right now, let’s limit our discussion to the first lines of thriller novels.
You know ’em when you read ’em. They’re the ones that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck on page one and you don’t go to sleep until THE END.
So I’m wondering…what is the BEST grab-you-by-the-throat opening line (and para) you ever read in a suspense book? And what made it so good for you?

15 thoughts on “Best First Line Of A Thriller?

  1. I still like the first line of James Scott Bell’s book, Try Darkness: “The nun hit me in the mouth and said, ‘Get out of my house.'”
    Drew me into the story immediately, and the lines that followed took the novel in a completely different direction than I expected.

  2. You know, the opening line from Rebecca never pulled me in at all. Which might have something to do with why I still haven’t read the book.

    There was an opening line I recall praising at our Book Club, but it mustn’t have been *that* great because I can’t remember it or the book in question. My aging brain doesn’t work the way it used to.

    I did get pulled in to The Martian with it’s opening line, “I’m pretty much fucked.”

  3. One of my favorites is from Louis Bayard’s “The Dark Tower” –

    “I’m a man of a certain age – old enough to have been every kind of fool – and I find to my surprise that the only counsel I have to pass on is this: Never let your name be found in a dead man’s trousers.”

  4. Val McDermid in The Distant Echo: ” He always like the cemetery at dawn.”
    Lee Child’s first two novels grabbed me with “I was arrested at Eno’s Diner, at twelve o’clock.” and “Nathan Rubin died because he got brave.”

  5. Sorry for the conceit. (Pun intended. As I said, sorry.)

    My own: From Night of the Nokozjumi —

    It’s strange what you think about when you’re running across the Afghanistan desert to kill someone.

    Another sorry: for posting so late in the day.

  6. From Deadwood, by Pete Dexter: “The boy shot Wild Bill’s horse at dusk, while Bill was off in the bushes to relieve himself.

    There is something just wrong with this whole idea. I love it.

  7. I have 2

    “The Priest’s Graveyard by” Ted Dekker
    –“There’s nothing new under the sun, now is there Renee?” Father Andro’s chair creaked as he leaned back. “Whatever you’ve done, I’m sure God can forgive you.”

    “Demon: A Memoir” by Tosca Lee
    –It was raining the night he found me

  8. Two also: “When I found my husband at the bottom of the stairs, I tried to resuscitate him before I ever considered disposing of the body” – The Passenger by Lisa Lutz and the famous Stephen King line “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

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