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Turned to Stone

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The bedtime story my dad used to tell me began with my grandmother’s body. Back when my dad wasn’t yet my dad, but a young forensic pathologist at Good Shepherd Hospital in the city, a dead woman landed on his table.  

So begins Rebecca Podos’ novel The Mystery of Hollow Places, a haunting page-turner, with 17-year-old Imogene Scott as the protagonist narrator. As Imogene’s father performs the autopsy, he finds that the woman’s heart has turned to stone:

My dad held the heart to the light, rapped on it gently with his knuckles, then locked it in his desk drawer until early the next morning, when he came back with a rock hammer and chisel… Carefully, he slotted the chisel against it, and with a chink, chink, chink, CRACK, the heart split in two. Inside the thick gray rind of rock there were no vessels, or tissues, or anything warm. Instead, a pocket of crystals like clear teeth winked up at him.

As Podos (our guest judge for May’s Mystery Writing Competition!) demonstrates so well, the beginning paragraphs of a good mystery make it nearly impossible to turn our attention elsewhere. Take a look at these other page-turning openers, and then try writing your own first paragraph full of suspense. And make sure to check out these chilling beginnings from our very own killemwithkindnessPuddleduck01, and Atalanta!

Jasper Jones
Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones has come to my window.
I don't know why, but he has. Maybe he is in trouble. Maybe he doesn't have anywhere else to go.
Either way he's just frightened the living shit out of me.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears's house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead.