Private Eyes, Angels and others
I did a couple of entries recently about the William Hjortsberg book, Falling Angel, and said that it had a flatout great ending, maybe the best one I’d read.
Crime writer, expert and blogger Martin Edwards suggested it’d be interesting to make a list of the great crime fiction endings, and that seemed an excellent idea, so here we go. And if ever there was an entry where I’m hoping to be outshone by the comments and suggestions it is this one – so please pile in with your ideas. Note the question mark in the title above… I'm hoping I might inspire some other crime fiction bloggers to compile their own Top Ten lists.
There may well not be much explanation of the endings as I want to be spoiler-free – but then endings are quite varied, it’s not always just a shock revelation or twist. Too many crime books (particularly, it must be said, in the Golden Age) consist of a group of people, a murder, one of them did it, let’s work it out. Oh.
It’s nice to celebrate the really clever variations on that.
Links are to blog entries where applicable.
1) Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, obviously. It really is a knockout. Not much makes me gasp after so many years reading and so many books enjoyed, but this one did.
Innocent students dancing for Miss Pym
2) Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey. Just when you think you know what has been going on at the ladies’ teaching college, all your ideas are changed in the last two pages. This is what I said about it: it STILL is a startling ending, on what must be a 7th or 8th read, 30 years after the first time. How I wish there had been the internet back then – now, one would instantly go online to see what other people thought of it. I still haven’t read enough about it, and very much hope that some readers/fans will give their views on it below. Did Miss Pym do the right thing? What on earth will become of the key characters? How could Miss Pym be so casual about it?
3) A Kiss before Dying by Ira Levin. It’s not quite the ending - but there is a twist or revelation in this that stands out as one of the very best in my memory.
4) The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie – I decided to confine myself to only one of her books, even though she does specialize in terrific endings (I could do a Top 10 list just of her best endings). And this one I think is comparatively little-known, and brilliant, and has one of her very best villains.
Innocent schoolboys at Gilbert’s school….
6) A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell. My favourite of her books, and not a surprise ending, as famously she tells you in the first line what is going to happen. But the final two pages are full of melancholy and beautifully done.
Looking after the children for Dennis Lehane
8) Reginald Hill, Dialogues of the Dead. This one I really can’t discuss without spoilering, but it’s an outrageous ending…
9) Robert Barnard: Death of an Old Goat A short, clever, very funny book. I said in a blogpost: in the last page or two you wonder how he can end it: and then the final sentence rounds it off with sudden brilliance.
10) Francis Beeding The Norwich Victims There’s a certain kind of twist or revelation that I can often spot coming, but this one completely confounded me, I was very impressed.
As I’ve been writing this, more and more other ideas have been entering my head (there’s a Patricia Moyes and a John Bingham…) I’m sure I could think of another 10 – but I’m hoping to get some great suggestions from readers….