There has already been some discussion about McDowell's talent for writing a first chapter or first scene that draws you right in. I'm delighted to say it is the same for The Amulet.
How is this for an opening?
"In March 1965, Fort Rucca—in the southeastern corner of the state of Alabama—was a busy, crowded area. Here new army recruits underwent basic training, and were further instructed in helicopter piloting and helicopter maintenance. It had become known what a terrible war was being fought in the jungles of Vietnam, and how little prepared our soldiers were against that tropical foliage, where thousands of men, and whole factories of machinery and weapons could be moved along supply trails that were invisible from the air. The earliest veterans of the war had come back, and were frantically training more men, with the terrain of Vietnam in mind. The Chattahoochee River is not far from Fort Rucca, and the basin of that slow-moving, wide stream is very similar in density and quality of vegetation, and was the ideal proving ground for those men who would soon see combat.
Fort Rucca is located in the most unfriendly section of Alabama, a flat, featureless landscape, that seems always hot, always menacing, always indignant when farmers try to scratch their meager livings out of the hard soil. The vegetation is coarse, and sharp, and not much good for anything. The only plants that seem to grow well are trees whose lumber is worthless, and shrubs with thorns and briars. The four kinds of poisonous snakes indigenous to the continental United States are found together in only one place: the Wiregrass area of Alabama. That seems only natural to the people who live there."
(@ Lillelara - LoL. This one has a river, too.)