Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Three Great Endings to Detective Stories


I was gratified by the interest shown in my last post, on detective story endings, and I thought I'd keep the pot boiling by mentioning a few of my fave endings.

First, a real classic - the closing lines of And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. Dame Agatha was a dab hand at great endings, but this one, which I read when young, has always stuck in my mind.

Second, an ending that gave me an idea for a very different book of my own - Yesterday's Papers. The great ending was in Margaret Millar's A Stranger in My Grave. What I borrowed from this marvellous book was a structural device, and I was really pleased with the result. Yesterday's Papers remains a personal favourite among my own titles I wish it was still in print.

Third, a bitter remark made by Francis Pettigrew at the end of Tragedy At Law by Cyril Hare. Totally original, and quite marvellous - especially for a lawyer!

If you don't know the Hare or the Millar, I heartily recommend them both.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm so glad you mentioned the ending to And Then There Were None. That really is a unique ending, isn't it? The same is true, if I may add, of Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. That one still ranks as one of my favourites. And thanks for your other recommendations, too.

J said...

What I like best about And Then There Were None is that Christie puts the name of the killer in the first and last sentences of the book.

aguja said...

Much food for thought here ... anf titles to look out for. Endings are so very important, I feel, and are probably what makes or beaks a book for me.
Thank you for these.

John said...

The final line in PICK-UP by Charles Willeford of the most brilliant in all of crime fiction. It includes a single word to describe the main character that makes the reader gasp and the entire story takes on a completely new meaning. I can think of not one whodunit that has ever matched this for sheer power. Recently Sarah Waters THE LITTLE STRANGER also tried this tactic to similar effect. But I felt it was more of a trick compared to how Willeford managed it.

Christine said...

I very much like the very last line of Margery Allingham's Coroner's Pidgin, which of course, I won't reveal for fear of spoiling it. And I love the ending of Chandler's The Long Goodbye which once gave me an idea for how to end a story of my own.
Thanks for mentioning Margaret Millar, Martin. She is a great writer. I remember how shocked I was by a plot twist in Beast in View.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments.
J, good point.
John, I will seek out the Willeford.
Chrissie, I've never read Coroner's Pidgin, I must admit.

djskrimiblog said...

Ah, as I liked Yesterday´s Papers very much, I must try to find that Margaret Millar. It goes on the list.

Anonymous said...

I'd heard great things about Stranger in My Grave but was very disappointed when I read it. Don't you agree that, interesting and clever as the structure may be, it's poorly written?