Hail to my mystery-loving readers and friends! I come today with a fun challenge I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s all about the best and worst endings in the mystery books you’ve read.
I am currently taking a class on how writers can ensure the endings they create for their mysteries fire on all cylinders and satisfy readers. I always want to satisfy my readers and I’m constantly working on my techniques and practicing my skills to make that happen.
I just finished my first assignment for the class and now I’m curious to see what kind of responses my readers might put forward, given the same challenge.
Here’s your mystery challenge for the day
(1) Name two mystery books or movies with an ending that pleased, surprised, or satisfied you.
(2) Name two books or movies with endings that disappointed and explain why.
For the purposes of the challenge, I allowed for a wider range of suspense fiction rather than focusing on straight-up mystery. Which books or movies spring to mind for you?
I’ll share my responses below, but be warned—we’re talking about endings, so if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, there will be spoilers involved.
Proceed at your own risk!
My best ending answers
The Shawshank Redemption came to mind as one movie with a very satisfying ending.
Andy Dufresne escapes. The awful prison warden and his corrupt cronies get a very fitting comeuppance, dealt by Andy’s cleverness. And Andy gets to continue in freedom and friendship with a trusted companion. Justice prevails at last and all feels right with the world.
Feel good all around.
The ending of The Hunger Games is satisfying, yet leaves a bit of an unsettled feeling that provides a perfect lead-in to the sequel.
The heroine, Katniss, has survived and she’s managed to save her friend Peeta, as well. They’ve defeated the evil Capital—for the moment—and they get to go home.
My worst ending answers
When I got to the end of Donna Tartt’s book, The Little Friend, I threw it against the wall.
I waded through 640 pages to get to the solution of the mystery posed on page one, and it was never resolved. My fault, I know. It was a coming-of-age literary novel, not a mystery.
But it read like a mystery and seemed to promise a solution. I thought it in a similar vein as To Kill a Mockingbird which, to me, had a satisfying ending. But no…disappointed.
Six hundred and forty pages!
When I finished reading In The Woods, by Tana French, I felt like it had been a frustrating waste of time. And I wasn’t the only one. Here are the words of one Amazon reviewer that echo my own:
The book started off with a powerful prologue. It took me straight back to the freedom and deliciousness of childhood.
And then BAM, something terrible happens and you continue reading because you must find out what happened to those poor children with whom you just had a wonderful connection. Yes, the new death is interesting-ish and the writing and overall story were adequate, but the ONLY THING I wanted to know was what the heck happened to the first children and you are left with NOTHING.
Why the teaser of the speck of blood on the new murder weapeon?! I was so angry when this book ended. In fact, I read this about 6 months ago and I am still angry.
Writing better endings for you
I apologize for throwing two of my fellow writers under the bus with this exercise. Of course, that’s not what I set out to do. The reason I’m studying good endings versus bad endings is so I can get better at writing the best kind of endings for you—my readers.
Right now I’m working on the next book in my Riley Forte series which started with Nocturne In Ashes. I’m thrilled about the possibilities I’m exploring for this book and I’m packing it with a huge amount of excitement and suspense.
I can’t wait to share it with you…but it will be a while. Stay tuned.
How about you? What are your favorite book or movie endings? Have there been any that disappointed or made you mad? Tell us about it in the comments.