Problems with Macro-Chronology
The Night in Question begins with the main character's plan for her interview with the police. There is a well-marked break after the first paragraph, then a jump forward in time to:
They wanted details.
Things like where I (allegedly) picked him up, what we ...
(The Night in Question)
So there is a jump to mid-interview, skipping over the start of the interview. This would be normal and a useful technique when the start was boring and irrelevant to the story.
But, as the story continues, two skipped parts of the interview were backflashed. So things in the start of the interview were important.
I'd wanted to ask him if his name was...
I'd apologized for it right off the bat...
This is still normal. Short flashbacks in narration are usually not considered a problem; the events from before can be described when they are most relevant. We cannot know the order of these two events – we just know they are from the start of the interview – but presumably that isn't needed.
So there's a lot of time jumping, but still within what might be considered normal.
The time jumping gets excessive when the story skips back to the start of the interview and telling the story from there!
"Thank you for seeing me," I"d said when we first sat down.
So the start was important and interesting enough to tell. The author just thought the middle was more interesting, so started there, necessitating this time jumping.
Ironically and sadly, the middle wasn't that interesting out of context; in context, it could have been dramatic.
I call "macro-chronology" the order of scenes or parts within the scene. The author has violated chronological order at bigger level than just sentences.
I'd taken a deep breath and launched into my story. When I finished, they both...
"When I was finished" jumps over the story itself and locates the reader in a new time. Again, there's normally no problem with that, it's a standard technique for avoiding unintesting and unimportant events.
However, where does this leave the reader? Simply "moving forward" is ambiguous, because the author already set events in the future. Does this take us to before the mid-interview entry point? Back to the point where the story did it's flashback? It's not obvious; I got it wrong the first two times I read it:
"Ms. Wilson--" Detective Pohly said.
And there are still references to the story that was skipped:
The question make me angry.... wanted to ask her why my story would have changed in the half hour since I'd arrived.
Near the bottom of page 3 (yes, we are still on the first three pages), the story slips into a flashback about the event she is supposedly telling the detectives. So that's in the past, before the interview. That's normal, it's just excessive. Then:
I'd started off telling them about the grandparents...
Yes, the story jumps back to her telling the story, which was already skipped twice!
After pages of this, we return to the police station:
"You're telling us you didn't recognize him at all?"
At this point, if any reader knows where this is in the interview, or cares, I'm amazed.
So, there is excessive time-jumping, making it difficult for the reader to construct the order of events. A book could not be written like this, that would be crazy. So this much jumping can only occur in an opening.
Without context, things that should have emotional impact are faded. All because the author tried to start with the most interesting part of the scene.
This was a prologue. So when it was done, time jumped merrily into the past; this event is described again in Chapter 27. Macro-chronology will be discussed more carefully again.
The day I went to the Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged.
The hanging was at the gaol...
(The Magpie Tree, Stansfield)
This I assume is an attempt at a goofy start. It's not clear what is the intent of that first line; it has no obvious purpose in the plot. But note how it spans two different periods. This too is common in goofy first lines.