Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Whose Endings Left Me Agog, Agape and Aghast.

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the gals at The Broke and the Bookish. Every week we post our top ten books on the given topic of the day. Don't forget to check in to see what books other bloggers are posting as their Top Ten.

Top Ten Books Whose Endings Left Me Agog, Agape and Aghast (not necessarily in a bad way):

Don't worry. No Spoilers. Far as I can help it, anyway.


When I read this Hercule Poirot mystery for the first time, many, MANY years ago, I remember wondering how Christie was able to do what she did in this tale of murder in the English village of King's Abbott. Of course I re-read it looking for the clues and still couldn't rightly figure it out, though I spotted a few sleights of hand.

This is the book that instantly catapulted Agatha Christie into the Valhalla of the Mystery Gods. It is definitely considered her most memorable and influential book  But I can't really say anymore without giving away the magician's trick.

2) AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie

The second most famous of Christie's shocking endings, I suppose. A bunch of people gather on an island off the English coast at the palatial home of a wealthy man whom none of them actually knows. They are cut off from the mainland except by boat and the boatman seems to have disappeared.

The tension builds as murder by murder, each of the visitors is bumped off. Who could possibly be killing them off one by one? And why?

3) THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT by Agatha Christie

Christie used a similar sleight of hand in this book published previously to THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD - but no one seems to have noticed. Certainly this book didn't approach the notoriety that TMORA did.

When a daring young woman takes a sea voyage in search of clues to the identity of the man in the brown suit, she finds adventure, romance and intrigue. Not to mention, kidnapping and murder.

Note: I could easily fill this list with books by Agatha Christie alone since she was the Queen of Surprise Endings, but I'll restrain myself.

4) GARBO LAUGHS by Elizabeth Hay

Hay is a wonderful Canadian writer whom I discovered by accident and boy am I glad I did. GARBO LAUGHS is the story (more or less) of Harriet Browning who, denied her fair share of movies as a child, now indulges herself in daily movie-thons to the exclusion of everything else, i. e. reality and her family.

What happens when a woman would rather be watching movies than living life? Wait and see.

The ending comes out of left field and left me shocked, but bemused and sort of glad.

5) PASSAGE by Connie Willis

A doctor and a group of her students are studying the scientific effects of near death experiences at a labyrinthine hospital.

This sci-fi story, by the incomparable Connie Willis (thank you yet again Nancy Pearl for introducing me to Willis) contains one of the most shocking events I've ever happened upon in a book. Actually, this twist occurs in the middle of the story, but its effects reverberate for the rest of the book.  In the end you still can't quite believe what happened. So I'm including it in this list because it is such a cataclysmic thing - story-wise.

I know I'm building it up, but trust me, you will NEVER see this coming and once it does, you may put the book down and walk away.

I did, for awhile. Then I came back to see what happened next. Willis is a very daring writer.

I am not ordinarily a sci-fi reader and this book is not really what you might think of as sci-fi, but I don't know what else to call it.

6) BY A SLOW RIVER by Philippe Claudel

A retired policeman obsessed with the long ago murder of a young girl recounts a grim narrative of life as it was lived in his small French village during WWI.  Does one murder matter when just a few miles away, young men are killing each other over a few yards of muddy ground?

The unflinching ending will surprise and dismay.

7) A QUEER KIND OF LOVE by George Baxt

Pharaoh Love is an openly gay NYC Detective. He gets along because the higher-ups and his mates at the cop shop admire his flamboyant knack for catching murderers. His arrest record is unmatched.

The idea of an openly gay homicide cop is a bit far-fetched considering these books were published in or around 1994, but Pharaoh Love is one of Baxt's best creations and if you've never read any of the gritty, razzle-dazzle Love books, I recommend them. This one especially has quite a surprise ending which may or may not leave you smiling.

George Baxt was also the author of many mysteries which involved Hollywood stars and/or celebrities helping solve crimes. i.e. THE WILLIAM POWELL AND MYRNA LOY MURDER CASE. To see a complete listing of all Baxt's books, please check here.

8) ETHAN FROME by Edith Wharton

A grim story of forbidden love in a cold and harsh New England setting. Ethan Frome is a man who married the wrong woman and lives to deeply regret it when love in the form of his wife's young and lovely cousin comes to stay.

The ending, not what you'd expect, is still ghastly.

9) BRAT FARRAR by Josephine Tey

Eight years after a 13 year old boy named Patrick Ashby 'committed suicide' - his body was never found - he turns up again to claim an estate. Or does he? Patrick's twin brother says the young man calling himself Brat Farrar is an impostor, but the rest of his family accepts him.

10) PLOT IT YOURSELF by Rex Stout

A series of brutal murders is set in motion when a book organization which represents authors and publishers hires Nero Wolfe to stop what is obviously a lucrative swindle involving an especially egregious form of plagiarism.

Whodunit will shock you.


  1. I love all three of those Agatha Christie books and I agree that the endings, especially the first time you read them, will blow you away.

  2. Great post. Left me definitely wanting to give some of these titles a go, particularly Garbo Laughs. I haven't read TMORA but I have seen the TV adaptation with David Suchet so I kind of know the ending. I know you can never beat reading it first though

  3. Ryan: You can't beat Agatha for surprise endings. I could have done the whole post based on her books, that's for sure. :)

  4. Lucy: I definitely recommend GARBO LAUGHS. It was a book that came out of nowhere to wow me.

    I say read TMORA, except for whodunit it is so different from the film.

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  6. I love how your first three submissions are Agatha Christie! I'd better get busy and read some of her stuff.

  7. Trish: You can't go wrong when it comes to surprise endings if you pick Agatha. :)

  8. I completely forgot about Ethan Fromme! I love seeing several Christie on your list as well.

    My Top Ten Tuesday:

  9. I agree with you about Agatha Christie! I love so many of her stories =)

  10. Annie: I've always found that ending devastating. ETHAN FROME. What a brutally unhappy man.

  11. Shanella: The Queen of Surprise Endings. :)

  12. Yvette, your choices for today were superb! I've read and loved the Agatha Christie titles you mentioned, but I was especially pleased that you included Rex Stout's PLOT IT YOURSELF, one of my favorites! I need to figure out how to squeeze more reading into my schedule. Great selections, Yvette, as always!

  13. Agree with the Agatha Christies esp the first two (sorry can't remember much of Brown suit) but Brat Farrar did not really have much of a surprise element. One knew one fact from the beginning and the other was more or less obvious.

    really must read rex stout.

  14. I haven't read these books, however, The Man in the Brown Suit and Plot It Yourself are on my TBR list because I read about them here.

    I'm wending my way through the Wolfeman's stories, but other books -- and tasks -- do intervene. I'll get there eventually.

    Oh, to be reading now.

  15. Four out of 10 is my familiarity score on this impressive list of books and they are the three Agathas and Edith Wharton whose HOUSE OF MIRTH is also sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. The rest go into my little book of lists. Your selection of Agatha Christie is spot on and her three titles deserve their place on top. I can't comment on her endings because I usually like all of them. Imagine Christie dealt with forensics and toxicology from her very first book THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES published in 1920. That was nearly a hundred years ago! Never mind she learnt all about it on the job, working as a nurse and a pharmacist.

    Incidentally, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and AND THEN THERE WERE NONE are two out of ten of Christie's favourite books too.

  16. Dorian: Thanks, kiddo! I love putting together lists. It's my favorite blog to-do. :)

    PLOT IT YOURSELF is a doozy, no question. In a million years you'd never guess who did it. Mind-boggling.

  17. neer: You may be right about BRAT FARRAR...But for me, the whole book is one big surprise. Can't say why without SPOILING it for those who haven't read it. :)

  18. Kathy: You won't go wrong with most any Agatha Christie. She was the Queen of the surprise ending.

    You will love PLOT IT YOURSELF and also, MURDER BY THE BOOK. Don't forget that one.

  19. Prashant: Yes, she learned her forensics while working during the war. But the talent was all there just waiting. I think her sister dared her to write her first story and she did: THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES where we first meet Poirot as a Belgian refugee.

    The BBC adaptation, by the way, done many years ago with David Suchet is excellent. They didn't twist the plot hardly at all.

    I actually prefer THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT to THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, but I know most everyone disagrees. :)

  20. Yvette,

    The ending to "Ethan Frome" changes the story from a sad rural love story to one of horror.

    I've read a number of her novels and short stories, and none have an ending that comes close to "EF.".

  21. Yes, I remember that, except it's hard to think of Poirot as a refugee and indebted to his benefactor, Emily Inglethorp. But then the gentlemanly Poirot is gracious enough to acknowledge kindness.

    David Suchet, with a perfect egg-shaped head like Poirot's, is to Dame Agatha's famous detective what Jeremy Brett is to Sir Arthur's legendary sleuth.

    It's a pity Christie and Conan Doyle didn't collaborate and bring them together into one story. It might have been one heck of a murder mystery to solve. Think of the Poirot-Holmes ego clash!

  22. One to add to your list, Yvette, is Christianna Brand's brilliant "Green for Danger." The ending, with its incredible series of sudden twists, will leave you gasping - and yet it has all been fairly clued for you (just as Christie provided clues and cunningly misled us).

  23. After reading the comments and all, I so so want to read Plot it Yourself and Green for Danger. The Wishlist just becomes longer and longer.

  24. Oh, yes, I've got Murder by the Book in my Wolfeman part of the TBR mountain.

    I have The Red Box and The Rubber Band but barely any reading time week.

    An my computer monitor crashed. I got quick tech help from a friend and a loan of a laptop, but it's nervewracking.

    Anyway, Wolfe and Archie are on hold for a bit. They can keep themselves entertained with wisecracks and brilliant observations, you know that "feel for phenomenon."

  25. Prashant: Poirot and Holmes together? I like the idea. :)

    Two giant brains and egos. The crime would have to be gigantic as well.

    I love David Suchet. He is wonderful as Poirot. Born to play the part.

  26. Les: It's on my list already. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get my hands on it. :)

    LOVED the film with Alastair Sim!

  27. neer: Same here. My wish list is enormous!!

  28. Kathy: Sorry you're having computer woes. They are the pits!

    Yes, Wolfe and Archie will be waiting for you at any time. They'll always be there. When you're ready to visit, they will welcome you. :)

  29. Yes. Enough to make a Luddite out of me.

  30. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None, along with many other Christie books, didn't surprise me because my mom spoiled them all for me. From my experience with her I have become totally immune to spoilers. They do not impede my enjoyment of books at all.

    Plot It Yourself didn't really shock me either. Come to think of it, I can't remember any book that has ever shocked me. Must be something wrong with me.

  31. wutheringwillow: Oh, I don't care if I know the ending, I reread all the time. But I do admit that on my first reading of all these books I was initially surprised.

    Most of the time now, from having read all the classic Christies and Rex Stouts and all the rest, I can pretty much figure out who did what to whom. Modern day writers can't stump me much any more.

    But I kind of miss the ability to be stumped. :)

  32. Read Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, if you haven't, a thriller but with character development.

    Two plots, twists and turns until the last page, surprises.

    I didn't figure it all out. A friend figured out one plot line.

    But it's still very well-written.

  33. It's on my list, Kathy. Oh if only there were more hours in the day. :)


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