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Book Endings

The End

Imagine the scene, it won’t be hard, you’ve turned the last page of your book and you settle down to write your review.

How much do you say about the ending?

If you read my post from yesterday which was of the classic crime fiction The Murder of Roger Ackroyd you’ll note that this is less of a review and more of, well I’m not really sure – a collection of quotes and a brief synopsis. Why? Well the reason why this book is held up as potentially one of the best written by Agatha Christie is because of the ending, at the time the whole set up was a new idea, and although it may be not so unusual in modern crime fiction it was this device that made the book quite so exceptional. But I review books and obviously if I told you the ending it would spoil your enjoyment so I’m left waffling on sprinkling quotes on a page and not able to talk about the one thing that made the book so wonderful.

For those of us that read and review, this problem isn’t a new one, and often I’m fine with that but this is the one area where blogging just doesn’t create quite the same experience as discussing a book with others who have read it. After all a good ending is key to an enjoyable reading experience and the very bit I am not able to dissect in my writing whereas I could have written an entire post about what I thought of the ending!!

This is particularly true in crime fiction series. How do we know if they’ve ended? One of my favourites wrapped up the main story arc in the latest book – who knows if this is the final episode? Who can I ask? There have been no clues given so I suppose I’m just going to have to wait and see…

Of course the obvious way to finish a crime series is to kill off the lead detective as Colin Dexter did to Morse in A Remorseful Day and it is well-known that Agatha Christie tired of her little Belgium detective and killed him off! Reginald Hill indicated a similar intent in his last book featuring Daziel with Death of the Fat Man. All a bit final but how else do you stop the readers clamouring for more of their favourite detectives? And is it my imagination or are detectives getting younger these days? (Perhaps I’m just getting older?)  What is the modern crime-writer to do with their younger cast? Only this week I came across a blog post by Sharon Bolton entitled Please don’t ask me when Lacey is coming back. I simply don’t know, which summed up the issue from this author’s perspective and after all author’s these days can’t hide from their readers, we can stalk them on social media begging for another story featuring our favourite characters!

What do you think about endings? How do you tackle them in your reviews?

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

35 thoughts on “Book Endings

  1. Not to mention the “last Rebus”, Exit Music, although luckily Rankin didn’t actually bump him off. The solitary Rebus that I’ve read after the resurrection (although I have another waiting to be read soon) is actually a rather different breed, as if it wasn’t so much Rebus himself that Rankin was weary of but the intensity those classic Rebus books had generated — the intensity that was, for me, their main attraction.

    And then there’s the Reichenbach Falls . . .

    1. Thank you, a great example and a good point about the author trying to break free which I think is what Sharon Bolton was trying to say although her latest offering far outshone Lacey Flint, I still want to see more of her!

  2. Roger Ackroyd is a particularly difficult one to review – I thought you did a great job 🙂 The ending can change the way you feel about the whole book you’ve just read, so it is really hard sometimes to discuss on blogs where we’re trying to give a flavour but not include spoilers!

  3. Rebus was the one that came to my mind, too! I seem to remember Ian Rankin saying in a radio interview that he’d had enough of Rebus’ voice in his head and the only way to get rid of it was to retire him. Kept his options nicely open there though. As for writing or not writing about endings (or twists) all I can say is that I’m glad I don’t review crime. You do a fine job with it, Cleo.

    1. I’m glad you bought up twists Susan as I’m someone who gets frustrated by books having tag-lines about twists, because for me, that spoils the whole enjoyment of them – if I’m waiting for them I tend to second-guess what they are. Thank you 🙂

  4. I try to be a bit vague about the ending, or the plot in general, simply because I fear I’ll give the story away. Sometimes they are so integral to the story that it is impossible to do so, such as with Roger Ackroyd. I think you handled it perfectly 🙂

    1. You are quite right Janet and I am very vague about them too but they are integral to the enjoyment, especially in these traditional mysteries which have less in the way of character development etc to talk about! Thank you, you are very kind 🙂

  5. I might say something about an ending being satisfying or unexpected but that’s about it. As the most important part of the book usually, you can’t really give much more away can you? Rebus also came to mind when you mentioned series. Wonder what Lee Child will do with Reacher?

    1. Yes, I sometimes use that route too and sometimes I long to say more but knowing how much I hate it when spoilers are given in reviews I try really hard not to do it myself. Good point with Reacher!

  6. Writing about the end of books is problematic, partly because one of the reasons I began my blog was to remind myself of what happens in the books I’ve read and re-reading my posts doesn’t always help because I’ve been vague about the endings. At one time I had the idea of writing about the Rebus books giving details of who the murderers were etc just for myself, but re-reading all those books and writing it down was stopping me from reading new books! I didn’t get very far.

  7. Endings can be difficult to write about, Cleo, especially endings such as the one in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I don’t do book reviews, but when I do mention the endings of books, I try to stay as vague as I can, for just the reasons you discuss. It’s not easy, though. Really interesting topic, for which thanks.

  8. It’s really hard to do. I’ve tried to stop mentioning if there’s a twist because, as a reader, I start looking for it then and it spoils your enjoyment. I usually put a line in my review that says the reader will have to find out what happens next or something along those lines.

    1. I’m glad you mention the twist Naomi – I don’t mention them either for the same reason but it really annoys me that publishers think this is a good tag line for their books – I don’t want to know if there is one coming!

  9. Funny you mention this week because I started a review last week by discussing the ending (without spoilers). That example aside,I rarely mention the ending of the book.

  10. Oh, yes, the “vague” endings, which, as Margaret pointed out, make it difficult for us to remember the books we’ve read after the fact.

    Yet that’s what we are left with, most often. Sometimes I mention unexpected twists and turns….or that the ending stunned me. Even those mentions might be considered spoilers by some.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you and I also agree with Margaret as my reviews often fail to jog my memory sufficiently due to the lack of detail surrounding the ending. I do, if I feel it necessary add those sort of phrases too.

  11. Interesting musings on endings! I try to avoid plot generally and find my biggest quandary is how not to say that an ending is completely rubbish. If you say great book/ awful ending people will not bother with it. Ah the tribulations of reviewing… 😉

    1. Thank you – It is a dilemma for us, and when I do read reviews that mention that they didn’t like the ending that doesn’t really give me a clue why – did they think it should be different? Didn’t fit the build-up? or what?

  12. It is tricky, isn’t it? I try to be spoiler-free and only give the plot up to the first two or three chapters or so, and then talk about the rest of it in more general terms – characterisation, setting etc. But the ending – hmm! I find myself saying the same things over and over again – the ending lacked credibility, the ending was satisfying, etc. But sometimes when I read back what I’ve written I wonder if even that might be a spoiler, especially if I’d said something about a great twist (and then will that spoil it for a reader, waiting all the way through for that twist?). I’m in the lucky position that I forget what I read within a week or two, so unless I’m just about to start the book I don’t find other people’s reviews spoil books for me, but I avoid them like the plague if I know I’ll be reading the book soon. You do it very well, I think – I never feel you’ve spoiled a book for me but you always manage to let me know whether it’s going to be my kind of thing or not.

    As for series, I do feel sorry for authors – us fans can be so demanding. I’d like to see Lacey again too, but I love Bolton’s standalones just as much. But I was so pleased that Rankin resurrected Rebus, and I miss Dalziel and Pacoe…

    1. I really do struggle with this part of a review because I don’t want to spoil a book for anyone else but if an ending is particularly abrupt or unrealistic or even worse depends on a raft of information that hasn’t been previously mentioned I feel I should say something, but when I do its fairly bland. I use your technique for reading reviews too – if it is close to me reading it I have a quick glance but no more – if I’ve read the book and I’m about to write my review I avoid so that I don’t unwittingly plagerise, but otherwise I’m unlikely to remember the details so I’m happy to read the review even if I have the book as it often prompts me to pick it up sooner (or later)

  13. I try not to talk about the ending too much, besides “I liked it” Or ” I expected something more” etc. Something that shows what I felt but nothing to give away how it actually ends. But yea, Roger Ackroyd is a tough one to talk about in terms of how it all comes together. But I guess it’s like most mysteries – you can’t reveal the end!

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  14. It’s tough to write reviews of crime fiction without spoilers so I sympathise with your predicament. I avoid talking about endings but then generally I don’t talk an awful lot about the plot in anything I review. Not sure really what I do write about …. As for series being killed off when the author has had enough, there are those devilish people in television land who don’t like to see popular characters disappear. Hence we get Morae reincarnated in his younger days as Endeavour.

    1. Yes I avoided talking about the TV people who take things too far – I refuse to watch Lewis for that very reason. It is hard to find enough to talk about sometimes when everything is a potential spoiler but I usually find something to say!

  15. Sometimes the ending is what makes the book for me, but I sure do not want to spoil it for the reader, so less said the better. It can make me rate a book higher than I would have. I do a bit like you, talking about the characters a bit more and using quotes. It might end up being a short review even though I totally loved it. I think “what could I say that would make me pick it up”. Great post!
    sherry @ fundinmental

  16. Great post Cleo! I know exactly what you mean – some of the best books I’ve read have given me th most difficulty in reviewing, usually because they’ve had a stonking ending that I can’t mention!! I hate reading reviews with spoilers so I try and keep my own spoiler free but it doesn’t help when you want to shout about a particular plot twist from the roof tops! 😊

  17. I personally love to use the page cut, because sometimes I am writing in an attempt to bond with other people who have already read the book – in which case, I want to know what they thought about whatever craziness happened on the last page!!

    And, as a reader, I don’t always mind spoilers. Sometimes I prefer to know how things are going to end, at least in general terms. I’m old school, and like my endings to be happy and neatly tied, so I don’t mind reassurances that that is what I am going to get!!

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