Top ten biggest reveals in mysteries and thrillers
1 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s novels were my first introduction to adult books and I read them avidly, trying desperately to work out who the culprits were and why they’d committed the crime. Through reading her novels, I learned about plot devices such as red herrings that crime writers use, and this made me realize that the novel didn’t just happen but was planned in meticulous detail. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was the first time I’d encountered an unreliable narrator and I remember the shock I felt as I realized the author’s deception. I re-read it immediately to work out how she’d managed to fool me and from then on, I read crime novels in a much more analytical way.
2 Sister by Rosamund Lipton
In Sister, we read about Beatrice and her search for her missing sister, Tess. Its theme is sisterhood—or love—and the lengths to which we’ll go to find and protect the ones we love. But it contains another theme—one that I love most in a novel—which is how little we can ever know someone, despite our close relationship to them. The novel is suspenseful throughout and the reveal is so huge that I went straight back to the beginning and started again.
3 Tell No One by Harlan Coben
Tell No One has one of the best reveals I’ve read. It occurs right at the start, so I hope I’m not giving too much away. When David Beck, widowed for several years, receives an email telling him to view a website at a specific time, he clicks on the link to see CCTV footage that shows his wife, in real time, walking across a road, looking up at the camera and saying, “I’m sorry.” Though this scene is early in the novel, by the time I read it, my pulse was already racing. This had a huge impact on me in the way I write and I only wish I’d thought of this reveal before he did!
4 The Blue Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver
The Blue Nowhere is a classic story of good versus evil, as the police ask Wyatt Gillette, a hacker who’s in prison, to help them nail a malicious hacker called Phate, who uses a computer program to lure victims to their death. In typical Deaver fashion, this novel is so fast-paced with so many twists that you are reading more quickly than you can absorb the shock of the reveals. Not only does the author use technology as a plot device, he uses it as a character itself. The final twist left me reeling.
5 And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
What a perfect mystery: eight strangers are invited to a resort on a deserted island and each of them is killed. Though I last read this book years ago, I can still remember reaching that moment when the last victim died and turning the page—with both trepidation and excitement—to read the huge reveal. This was yet another book that I had to re-read immediately!
6 We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Right from the start of We Need to Talk About Kevin, we know that Eva is married to Franklin, and their son, Kevin, murdered pupils at his own school. The book is epistolary, with each letter being written by Eva to her husband. Though at the start I wondered why Shriver had chosen such a device, I became engrossed so quickly that I forgot to consider this again until the end, when her reasons became horrifyingly clear. Shriver is brutally honest about Eva and Kevin’s relationship and it’s incredibly hard to read at times, but what was obvious to me was that she knew him. She understood him. And what happened then became inevitable, in a perfect example of characters determining plot.
7 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Like many writers, I like to pride myself on guessing plot lines and motives; however, Gone Girl absolutely fooled me with its fabulous twist that made me cry out as I turned the page to discover all my preconceptions had been wrong. My daughter read it immediately after me and I watched her as she reached the critical point; from the way her eyes nearly popped out of her head, I’d say Gillian Flynn fooled her, too!
8 The Widow by Fiona Barton
This novel has everything: secrets, lies, betrayals, unreliable narrators, and a reveal that blew me away. In The Widow, like all the best crime novels, nothing is quite what it seems. This terrific story, full of dark, claustrophobic oppression, considers what it’s like to live with someone who’s committed a terrible crime. I can’t be the only reader who wondered how on earth this theme had never been dealt with before, or the only writer who kicked herself for not thinking of it first. Fiona Barton keeps us guessing right to the very end, but more than that, has written a novel that stays with the reader for long after it’s finished.
9 Between You and Me by Lisa Hall
This clever and topical debut novel turns all of our assumptions upside down and has a massive reveal that readers either see coming from a mile away or, like me, are utterly shocked by and causes them to lie awake into the small hours re-reading it. What I found interesting was the way I felt something was off-key throughout the book, something that I couldn’t quite identify, and once I reached the end and had identified it, I felt a complete fool!
10 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This novel appealed to so many of us: how many of us have traveled to work via the same route each day and wondered at the lives of people in the houses we pass? How many of us have driven past an ex’s house and wondered what his life is like now? Imagine doing that when you have a problem with alcohol. Imagine thinking you can remember, when you can’t, and being told what you did when you were sober, though you have no recollection of it. And then imagine your memory coming back and realizing nothing, absolutely nothing, is what it seems. This terrific novel with its huge twist and staggering sales figures has raised the bar for all debut thriller writers.