11 Books With Shocking Surprise Endings That'll Leave You Speechless
People love stories with twist endings. For savvy modern readers, however, it can be difficult for writers to lead them to a shocking ending that is still satisfying and appropriate for the story. But there are plenty of books with surprise endings that will catch even the most jaded reader off guard. And none of that “it was all a dream” business: I promise.
Mystery novels do twist endings like nobody’s business; after all, they perfected the red herring, or false lead. But other genres, from psychological thrillers to fantasy books, can have endings that you would never see coming. There’s something particularly impressive about getting to the end of a book and realizing you had almost none of it figured out. You had your eye on the shady widow, but the killer was the butler all along.
And although not all books require a shocking ending — sometimes it’s nice to just let things come to an obvious, but satisfying, end — those that make you think, “Well, I did not see that coming!” can stay with you long after you’ve moved on to the next read. So crack open that cover and hang on: these reads have more twists and turns than a roller coaster.
1. 'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart
E. Lockhart's We Were Liars follows a dysfunctional but ultra-rich family who summers at a private island near Cape Cod. But when one of the young vacationers suffers an accident, it will take all of her effort to find the truth of what happen during one fateful summer. You just might need to read it twice.
2. 'Leaving Time' by Jodi Picoult
A mother's mysterious disappearance, a daughter's search for the truth, and lots of information about elephants make up the plot of Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time. A box of tissues is recommended when you get to the end.
3. 'The Lace Reader' by Brunonia Barry
An unreliable narrator who can read the future in patterns of lace propels the action in Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader. This Gothic novel set in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts reaches a conclusion that will take you by surprise.
4. 'The Turn Of The Screw' by Henry James
Need more Henry James in your life? The Turn of the Screw is the mind-bending story of a governess who arrives at an English estate to mind two children — but soon experiences supernatural horrors in the house. This old-school read is a classic ghost story thanks to its freaky ending.
5. 'Sweet Tooth' by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth introduces us to Serena Frome, a brilliant Cambridge student who gets recruited for MI5 in 1972. It's a Cold War spy novel with plenty of intrigue, romance, and of course a surprise ending.
6. 'In The Woods' by Tana French
After surviving a brutal attack as a young child, Rob Ryan grows up to become a detective for Dublin. When similar attacks against children start up again, he must confront his past as he works the pressing case. Tana French's In The Woods is an intense thriller that will command your attention for the whole read.
7. 'And Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie
Oh snap: the queen of the twist ending is in the house. It was difficult to choose just one Agatha Christie novel for this list, but And Then There Were None is an absolute classic. Ten strangers turn up on Indian Island, only to have the host accuse each of them of murder. They start confessing to secrets — and then they start dying.
8. 'The Dinner' by Herman Koch
Herman Koch's The Dinner just starts with two couples having dinner at a posh restaurant in Amsterdam. But when the families delve into the horrible actions of their respective children, the story takes a much darker turn.
9. 'Random Harvest' by James Hilton
James Hilton's Random Harvest is the story of a man whose memory was lost during World War I. He tries his best to piece together his lost time. And then the ending takes you by surprise.
10. 'Mistress of the Art of Death' by Ariana Franklin
In Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death, a medieval forensics expert is called on by King Henry II to examine a series of murders. It's a medieval whodunnit with a striking conclusion.
11. 'A Breach Of Promise' by Anne Perry
A breach-of-promise suit, fighting fiancés, and a murderer make up the plot of Anne Perry's A Breach of Promise. Against the backdrop of Victorian England, these characters' stories have a series of unexpected turns that lead up to the shocking ending.