Mysteries are present in all kinds of storytelling, from screen, to the stage, to song, to books. Boiled down to the simplest terms, a good mystery introduces the conflict and action that literally “makes stuff happen” for our entertainment.
I have often been asked after reading so many: “Doesn’t it all become somewhat predictable?” Sure it can, but I have found that the quest for the book with the perfect twist I didn’t see coming is just as satisfying as the actual mystery itself.
Recently I asked our editors, some authors, and friends for their favorite book with a surprise twist. Here were the top responses, spoiler free:
Fatal Puzzle, by Catherine Shepherd: Present day Journalist Emily Richter is assigned a series of articles about the historic Zons killings which took place in 1495. However, right before her stories are to be published, a young woman’s body is found hanging from a city tower—grossly maimed and wearing a linen gown, like her medieval predecessors. This intricate puzzle may have you taking notes to keep track of all the clues, as readers are transported thought time to uncover the truth of these sinister murders.
Trent’s Last Case, by EC Bently: Widely regarded as a definitive masterwork in the mystery genre. Portrait artist and gentleman sleuth Philip Trent discovers overlooked details of a recent murder by reading the reports in his local newspaper. Readers will note that not all his deductions are sound, and just when you are sure he will never solve it, you come face to face with the truth. “One of the three best detective stories ever written.” —Agatha Christie
Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane: U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island. As a hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades -- with radical psychological experimentation, nothing on the island is what it seems.
Pines, by Blake Crouch: Secret Service agent Ethan Burke is sent to find a missing fellow agent in the remote Idaho town of Wayward Pines. Within moments of arriving his car is hit by a semi-truck leaving him in intensive care in the local hospital. When he awakes he has no ID, no money, no phone, and, it seems, no escape.
Presumed Innocent, Scott Turrow: Rusty Sabicch, chief deputy prosecutor in Chicago, has three weeks to go in his boss' re-election campaign when a woman on his staff is found murdered. He is charged with finding the killer, until he incredibly finds himself accused of the murder. Politics, infidelity, and court drama keep readers guessing in this classic legal thriller.
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie: An undisputed master of the twist, some are more satisfying than others, but Christie never fails to keep us guessing! And Then There Were None remains a fan favorite of hers, and even after all these years the perfectness of the puzzle is masterful.
The Girl from Nowhere, Christopher Finch: “I’m being followed,” she said. “I think he wants to kill me.” And so we are introduced to the girl from nowhere, Sandy Smollett. Our hero, Alex Novalis, does everything he can to protect her, but with mobsters and thugs on their trail he barely has time to breath much less discover the truth about her. But hang on, the payoff is worth it.