Monday, March 29, 2010

I hate it when . . .

. . . an author ends a book the way Susan Hill ended THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN.

**SPOILER ALERT** One of the main characters through whose POV we experience much of the story is murdered.

Here's the deal. Hill is SUCH a fabulous writer. The way she handles details of setting and character both is remarkable. My good friend Mystery Girl, who has muy excellent taste, recommended the book to me, and I can see why she did. Only I felt jerked around by the book's ending. I probably won't pick up another mystery by Hill because I kinda don't trust her now.

All of this has me thinking . . . as writers we want to surprise our readers. We want to be fresh and original. But I think it's important to play fair, too.

5 comments:

Donna Tagliaferri said...

I had the same realization about my husband...

Lisa B. said...

I feel precisely the same way, and I could rattle off a good-sized handful of movie title where they did the exact same thing, and it made me SO MAD. Also, St. Elsewhere, when they made a character they had spent years--YEARS!--making you develop tons of sloppy empathy for (he was also cute, which may or may not be beside the point . . . ) into a rapist. Surprise!

Boo! said I, and that was the last St. Elsewhere episode I watched. Until the final season because at that point I had to, y'know, figure out what happened to everyone.

Marcia said...

I usually prefer an ending that is completely unpredictable.

Jayne said...

I think that fairness is is an important mystery tool. If the reader has no possibility - no matter how difficult or complex it may be - if she cannot possibly figure it out and the bad guy is a passing stranger with no trail in the writing, I think that is cheating. A good mystery writer make it hard and perhaps most of us will in fact be surprised, but we should be able to go back and say,- aha! now I see it!

Mystery Girl said...

When I read VHOM originally I laboured under the idea that the character you're talking about had been found just in time and was recovering in hospital while the police let the killer think he'd actually killed her and then she would pop up at the end. I was gobsmacked to find that didn't happen. But Hill hasn't pulled the out-of-the-blue shock twist card since and I agree with you that her books are PD James-esque and she does put her characters through the wringer.