The Opening For Shadow Dance Was Eye-Opening!

The Opening For “Shadow Dance” Was Eye-Opening!

Authors J.B. Stevens and Martin Ott discuss the opening for Ott’s new crime novel Shadow Dance

The First Line is a recurring column by J.B. Stevens. Mystery Tribune readers (you) get an inside look at what goes through the author’s mind as they craft their opening.

For the column, an author presents the initial sentence of their story. Then J.B. writes his impression of the passage. Next, the author discusses what their intent was with the line. To keep it interesting, J.B. writes his section before looking at the author’s description. Finally, you decide: Did the author achieve their goal?  


For this edition of The First Line, we are looking at Shadow Dance by Martin Ott, a December 2023 release from Regal House Publishing.

Shadow Dance, the first line:

You’re not invisible.

J.B.’s thoughts:

This is the first time I’ve encountered a second-person point-of-view opening line (with my column). Second-person is always tricky, but this sentence works. I assume the passage is a character’s internal monologue and that this is a first-person point-of-view novel.

“You’re not invisible” creates a few good questions for me. Why does the character feel invisible? What is going on that they have to remind themselves they are seen/worthy? What challenges are they hyping themselves to overcome?

This is a competent line, a good line, and I would read further.

Martin’s goal with the line:

The first line has a dual meaning in a novel that explores guilt, redemption, and the ever-present echoes of warfare. At the beginning, our first-person narrator West invokes the first line to explain his inability to escape his past: guilt from the death of his sister and from prisoners tortured in the Afghanistan War.

Our author accomplished his goal—a quality first line.

He knows that it is futile to run and this narrative is supported by a family curse that he is certain is chasing him, even into the underbelly of LA and into the employ of a crime family. By the end of the novel, however, “you’re not invisible” has a secondary meaning: everyone can step out of the shadows to do the right thing and make the moral choice. In West’s case, he steps into the spotlight to face his ghosts, to save lives, even at great personal cost.   

J.B.’s response:

Martin’s explanation was eye-opening—I can see his intent clearly (pun intended). Our author accomplished his goal—a quality first line.


Book Synopsis: 

West is a man looking to flee the past, barely old enough to drink and looking to rediscover himself after several tours in Afghanistan as a POW prison guard. After going AWOL, West looks to reunite with Solomon, his childhood best friend, who exists in the dark underworld of a Los Angeles gentleman’s club, Club Paradise.

West soon finds himself caught in the web of an Iranian family and its patriarch, Big Z Pourali, a former wrestler with a dark side and a string of businesses that put his dancers, employees, and family in peril. West stays in LA to look after Solomon but soon falls for the club owner’s daughter Nikki. West must come to terms with the raw underside of a Los Angeles crime family and his own past, all the while hoping to maintain his sanity in the process.

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