And in the end…

And in the end …


June is national crime reading month in Great Britain, thanks to the Crime Writers Association, UK. Imagine that, a whole month dedicated to reading crime fiction! Then again, I generally dedicate about twelve months out of the year to that…

The CWA’s been posting some wonderful blogs on the subject. Commentaries on subjects such as Does Authenticity Matter in Crime Fiction? (I know a few mystery writers with very strong opinions on this subject), and Are Crime Writers Psychopaths? (now there’s an interesting question).

As you can probably tell by now, I don’t just read and write crime fiction and mystery… I also read about crime fiction and mystery. Blogs by authors, book reviews, blogs about mystery books. If it’s mystery-related, I’ll read it! One commentary that caught my attention recently was posted over on WritersWhoKill (another great blog, if you’re interested).


Kara Cerise references a 2006 study of German students to see what kind of ending they preferred – and what that said about their personalities. Does craving a surprise ending or twist suggest that you have high self esteem? And if you prefer a story that confirms your suspicions, does that really say the opposite about you? The study is a few years old and fairly limited in sample size. But it is a great question for discussion.

I think about endings a lot, of course. One of the hallmarks of a traditional mystery is that justice is achieved in the end. But what counts as justice? I play around with this a bit in my books. Does the killer have to get caught? What if there was someone else who motivated the killer, knowingly or not — does he or she have to get caught? There are lots of definitions of justice.


I’ve had some enthusiastic comments from early readers on the ending of my first book, A Blind Eye. I can’t say too much – spoilers, spoilers (for the Doctor Who fans in the audience) and besides, the book won’t be published until September – but it’s made me really think about what achieving justice means, particularly within the traditional mystery genre. After all, when we pick up a juicy mystery, we have certain expectations, don’t we?

So tell me, what do you want to see at the end of the mysteries you read?

10 thoughts on “And in the end…

  1. I’m for justice, but I especially like seeing some compassion toward all involved– victim, of course, and possibly toward the killer unless he/she is a worthless human being. Great post!


    1. Compassion is a must, I agree. I also struggle with the question of where the story really ends. If the killer plays a big role in the story (which they often do, in murder mysteries…) then there may be some interest in knowing what really happens to him/ her– does she grow? learn? change? Or is she, as you say, simply a worthless human being.


    1. I love that in books (exposing injustices). I also like it when the justice that’s meted out in the end is just- but not what I’d expected justice to be (I hope that makes sense!).


  2. The more unexpected the ending the better. James D. Doss, one of my favorite (very off-beat) writers gave his mysteries some unconventional endings. But then, the entire series was unconventional. My kind of book.

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  3. I like for the bad guy or gal to get caught in the end–in fact, I quit reading one very popular series who let the villian escape. Hated the last Hannibal Lector book.

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    1. I think that’s one of the reasons people read mysteries – remember that great article by Val McDermitt recently about the difference between mystery and thriller? Is the world topsy turvy or neatly ordered?

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