Hi. I was reading the back copy of a novel on CD. To paraphrase, it said "a thrilling adventure with a shocking ending." I read this type of hyped-up copy on quite a few novel jackets but can only think of one mystery novel (or novel, period) that had an ending that truly shocked me: Anne Perry's, "The Twisted Root," which elicted a loud "EWWWW" from me. Anyone else read a novel which had an ending which truly "shocked" you? A truly "novel" ending? Pun intended.

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Haven't read Perry's book, but I think lately the emphasis has been on building toward a climactic scene. Too many of the old mysteries ended simply in a long chapter where the protagonist explains his brilliant deductions.
I make a conscious effort to a) avoid the explanation scene and b) end with dramatic action or surprise. Thrillers almost always build toward action. Many mysteries aim for the surprise twist (not always successfully). I don't know about "shocking." That doesn't sound terribly appealing. The end of a novel ought to leave the reader not only satisfied but impressed.
I thought the twist ending to Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island was cool.

How about the reverse, when the ending doesn't shock you at all? When you figure out the twist ending or identify the killer on page 87 or so? I remember IDing the murderer in Russell Andrews' 500 page Icarus on like page 53. Hate when that happens.
Shutter Island felt entirely like a big trick. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but it feels like a slight rip-off of Fowles The Magus (which is brilliant). Nevertheless, you have to appreciate Lehane for going out on a bit of a limb with that novel moving away from his normal fare.
Dean Koontz's Mr. Murder had a nice little twist ending. And I liked the ending of Lawrence Block's Mona -- that one wasn't really a shock, but goddamn was it awesome!
I'm going to go ahead and try reading Bruen again. I started the Priest and found it really jumpy. anyone else?
Interesting. Are you implying that a person who doesn't like Bruen might not be all that bright? Just curious.
I'm reading the Dramatist now and it's pretty interesting. The 'mystery' is certainly secondary to the life and times of the protagonist. Which is fine by me. I don't find it AS jumpy but there's still sometimes I wish there was a little more written.
Ditto SHUTTER ISLAND. And let's not forget the big shocker. It would probably seem tame today because so many have ripped off parts of it, but I, THE JURY held the "shocking ending" crown for a long time.
The first instance that sprang to my mind was not a novel but the ending of the first season of "24." I watched the first season over about a week on CD, because I'd heard so many writers and readers talk about how brilliantly it kept ratcheting up the suspense. Later seasons, even before the show jumped the shark, didn't have quite the same shock value, because by then viewers knew that anything, absolutely anything could happen. My second thought is a mystery, Reginald Hill's Dialogues of the Dead. The ending shocked because it revealed the unreliability of a sympathetic point of view character--but it didn't convince, so I wouldn't call it successful, much as I admire Hill's work. Still, what shocks me as a reader is more likely to be an unexpected revelation or an unreliable narrator rather than some gruesome torture or sadistic murder: Joanne Harris's Edgar-nominated Gentlemen and Players comes to mind.
Ah! I have a dim memory of having the same reaction to DIALOGUES OF THE DEAD. The reader felt tricked, and that's quite different from introducing a red herring. Characterization is so important to the overall quality of a novel that we consider that sort of twist a massive flaw in the novel itself. Mind you, I'm a fan of Reginald Hill, but I have increasingly developed doubts, thinking that his control is slipping..
I know it's not fair to mention my own novel, The Sex Club, but many readers and reviewers have commented on the ending. They've called it pulse-pounding, stunning, and unbelievable (in a good way) to name a few. I'm struggling to think of the last book I read that truly surprised me. There have been some, but my memory is too cluttered.
Hard to beat The Getaway by Jim Thompson--completely different ending than the movie versions, and as brilliant an ending as any crime novel I've seen.

Spoilers below about my thought on the ending of Shutter Island

A quarter way through, I started hoping the ending wouldn't be what it turned out to be. I found it a cheat--there's no way a prison hospital would would give this dangerous inmate free reign like they did.


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