Since the first pages of Relic, Preston and Child have held my attention in the palm of their competent hands. Call them pulp writers, call them anything you please, I simply don't care. They have the kind of magic that works for me--with one exception, but that's not what this post is about.
What this is about is an opening that doesn't work for me, for one very simple reason. Since an excerpt of the first chapter isn't available online, I captured one of the snippets that caused me to roll my eyes and groan, "You've got to be kidding me!" Let's see if you can figure out why. Behold:
Do you see it? It's a classic info dump, an as-you-know-Bob. The two characters are reduced to two talking heads for most of the first chapter in what turns out to be one of the weakest openings I've encountered in some time.
Had I not been a long-time fan of Preston and Child, I might have set the book aside and moved on to something else, but I trust them to tell me a good story so I persisted. My reward, thus far, has been some excellent storytelling, but I had to move past the first chapter to find it. I adore Agent Pendergast with his cool countenance and brilliant mind, and his somewhat rougher cohort, Lt. D'Agosta.
I'm still trying to decide if the opening would have bothered me were I not a writer. The answer is: possibly. But I'll never know. I'm simply too biased at this point, too knowledgeable about things writers try to sneak under the radar, too unforgiving of certain weaknesses in my own writing. No matter how much I let go of my writer self, it still rides shotgun every time I pick up a book. So I can't help but feel the authors took a sloppy shortcut.
You can buy Fever Dream here or here. If you find the opening weak, please persist; it's worthy.