Plot twist!

Otherwise known as a surprise, the plot twist is a key feature in any good mystery; without a good plot twist (or 4 or 6 of them), the story will be, well, predictable and dull. A great writer knows not only how to write a great plot twist, but also when to write them in. So, do most readers love surprises, or is it just me?

In 2010, Sisters in Crime released The Mystery Book Consumer in the Digital Age, a report on consumer book-buying habits. Overwhelmingly, respondents indicated that they like mysteries for the surprises, the twists and turns that built the suspense and kept the reader guessing right to the end of the story.

Of course, the trick for the author is to provide plenty of surprises while still being fair to the reader. Nothing turns me off a story (and sometimes an author) than when they don’t play fair with me, the reader. But a juicy, unexpected twist? Bliss!

I found a list of seven books here with “…the best plot twists and surprise endings ever written.”

  • Fight Club: A Novel (Chuck  Palahniuk)
  • Shutter Island (Dennis Lehane)
  • Gone Girl: A Novel (Gillian Flynn)
  • And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
  • Atonement (Ian Mcewan)
  • Tell No One (Harlan Coben)
  • The Black Dahlia (James Ellroy)

What do you think, did these books have great twists? What books would you add? I have to say, I love Agatha Christie and she never disappoints me with her surprises. Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire Mystery Series) uses a deft hand to serve up great surprises that make his books a “can’t put down” treat. Julia Spencer-Fleming (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries) is another writer who uses a judicious helping of plot twists that keep me reading way past my bedtime. Share your favorites–my TBR pile isn’t quite tall enough!


Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

9 thoughts on “Plot twist!”

  1. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t read any of those – with the exception of Agatha Christie. That was a good twist. Hank Phillippi Ryan had a good on in her latest TRUTH BE TOLD. I’m with you. Surprises are good as long as the author plays fair.


  2. Yes, yes, yes to plot twists. I’m thrilled that you like one of my favorite books – The Black Dahlia. Hardly ever hear of that. I vote with Mary Hank Phillippi Ryan is the mistress of twists. Harlan Coben always knocks it out of the park. Kaye Flora too. Just read Sandra Parshall’s Broken Places and it had a twist that knocked me over. Never saw it coming.


  3. Plot twists are not only fun to read, they’re fun to write! That’s when I love being a pantser. When something pops into my head that I didn’t expect, and then think, oh my gosh, if that happens, then…what?


  4. Sorry for being late to respond. Great comments! I haven’t read Broken Places; I’ll have to check it out. Writing plot twists? I’m still learning, but I can see the advantages of being a pantser (which I am, so–yay!).


  5. I like the ones when the investigator finds out he’s the one who did it. I can’t remember the title. Halle Berry is in it. It’s set in New Orleans. Blast! It was a while back.
    Love Usual Suspects.
    In my last Power Places novel, the villain surprised the B-J’s out of me. That was fun.


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