I started this site with the intention of doing book reviews. It didn’t pan out. Now, I write what comes to mind to keep my practice up. I try to tell my child this. The more you practice long division the better you will be at it. He doesn’t go for it, but I find if I don’t put pen to paper each day what little skill I do have goes by the way side. Repetition is key. And it’s hard.
But since I haven’t done a post on books in a while, I thought it was time. I’ve always been a fan of mystery books. It’s a genre that has exploded in popularity. Connelly has Harry Bosch. James Patterson has, well, too many to count. Tara French was a promising up and comer. Then, the Dragon Lady came and went. Even J.K. Rowling wrote in the genre with more to come (Although, I felt the effort proved uneven).
Now, I love a good mystery book. It’s a guilty pleasure, and I read bunches in spurts. Yes, the genre can grow stale. Some call this blasphemy; however, plot lines can get overused. Few books push new concepts. And those who do reach great heights. It took less than a year for Ben Affleck to play a starring role in Gone Girl. Through the years, I’ve read hundreds of mystery novels.
But my favorites in the genre have the unforgettable, special ending. Most books, well, are all about the suspense. You know the who done it early in the novel. Then, it’s all about the cat and mouse game between villain and hero.
My favorites have the right turn at Albuquerque ending. Yet, the plot isn’t forced, nor does it come out of left field. I really hated Murder She Wrote as a kid. My family watched it religiously on Sunday night. Yes, the clues made sense for Jessica Fletcher but not for the rest of the viewing audience. After you hit the apex in the below books, you nod your head, smile, and say, “That was amazing.” Here are five of my favorites where the author made the turn and created the epic twist (No spoilers here, I promise).
Gentlemen and Players, It is without a doubt my favorite mystery novel. Nothing compares. None of the tried and true elements here. It’s set inside a boy’s school. And the misdirection, playing on our own preconceived views of the world (at least mine it made a fool of), made for an amazing twist. I had to go back and read this again to see how well this was pulled off. Execution is flawless. And the author wrote Chocolat too.
Mystic River, Considered by many to be the best mystery novel of all-time. The movie doesn’t do it justice. If you’ve seen the movie, it ruins the book in so many ways. Sometimes, it’s the simple fears that are the most scary in life.
The Poet, It might be the scariest mystery novel I’ve ever read. Page-turner. Near-invincible villain. Heroine. And it’s considered by many to be Michael Connelly’s masterpiece. “Death is my beat.” What an opening, now go read it. You’ll finish it in a couple days. Or one, because you won’t be able to sleep at night.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, This is the one book that made a generation of kids read again. At the stroke of midnight, I remember standing in line at a Barnes and Noble for Year IV, Goblet of Fire. At the time, I didn’t have any kids. All of the books have that special mystery twist, but this is the one that kept us all coming back for more. I truly believe her early mystery efforts made this work come to life. The world likes to believe in the narrative that talent trumps hard work. The down and out mother who had the eureka on the train moment when the story of Harry Potter appeared. That’s simply not true. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Writers always write. They are always jotting plot points, building out characters. It’s what they do. I’m thankful for J.K. Rowling’s early work. I didn’t care for her first mystery effort, but it’s why we have the boy who lived.
There are a number of honorable mentions. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the first one), Trunk Music (and most early Connelly), The Devil and Miss Primm (I love the concept). And anything with Dennis Lehane’s name on it. Girl on a Train and Gone Girl have merit too. Or, just go read Chocolat. It’s a good read too.
The picture is from the Palace of Versailles, the golden gates. I tried to come up with a picture that is similar to the cover from the Book Gentleman and Players. It’s not really that close, but I do love the picture.