Writing a hook sounds easy, but it's not as easy to pull off as you think. But the master of the hook is Simon Kernick, expertly demonstrated in his novel Relentless.
This is a book that really lives up to its name. If you think that you've read books that succeed in seizing your attention, then Kernick takes it to a whole new level. He grabs the reader by the neck and slams their faces against the page, holding it there until the last page is turned.
Now, I'm going to describe the opening of the book to you, and it will sound like spoilers because it is so event-heavy, but this all happens in the opening chapter. In fact I think they even describe it this way on the back cover too, so I don't think I'm spoiling anyone's fun here.
Relentless opens with normal everyman Tom Meron playing in the garden with his two kids. He gets a phone call, and it's Calley, an old friend he hasn't heard from in years. Just when Tom thinks that this might be a friendly call to catch up with him, he notices the way Calley sounds: in pain, scared, like someone is hurting him. Before his friend is murdered over the phone, Tom hears Calley say the first two lines of his address.
The phone dies. A murderer knows where he lives, and Tom's children are still playing outside.
And that's just the beginning. Now, I dare you not to want to find out what happens next! This is what Kernick does so very well: he excels at hurling you, the reader headfirst into a situation that nobody would wish on their worst enemy. On top of that the protagonist, I this case Tom, is just so normal that you instantly relate to him, so the second he gets that fateful phone call, you not only fear for him and cheer him on but you can easily imagine yourself in that situation. I mean, if you had a phone call like Tom Meron did, what would you do? The way the narrative plays out, the way Kernick lays out Tom's thought process and actions, feel completely believable and real. It's like seeing one of your own darkest fears brought to life on the page.
It's not perfect mind. So powerful is that hook that it dictates everything that follows as the rest of the story seems to build itself around that incident to justify it. It's like Kernick thought up the terrifying opening first, then decided how he could explain it later. He does it quite well, mind.
Relentless is a thrilling rollercoaster ride of a book, and it's one of the most gripping books I've ever read. Your knuckles will be white as you clench the book tight and tear through the book. And you will tear through it, because you will always want to know what happens next until the grand finale.