Murdered, She Wrote

KRISTINA LOGGIA for TIME

GHOST WRITER: A survivor of a brutal attack, Sebold says, "I had a story of my own that was bearing down on me"

My name was salmon, like the fish: first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Go ahead, read it again. Almost everything that makes The Lovely Bones the breakout fiction debut of the year — the sweetness, the humor, the kicky rhythm, the deadpan suburban gothic — is right there, packed into those first two lines, under pressure and waiting to explode.

Part coming-of-age tale, part mystery, part ghost story, Alice Sebold's first novel (she's also the author of a memoir, Lucky) is the tale of an ordinary girl who is raped,...

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