April Fool! Greatest plot twists in literature
01 Apr 2015
It’s April Fools’ Day, and one of the greatest forms of practical jokes is, in our opinion, the plot twist.
Satisfying to write, but even more so to read. We’ve gathered together what we think are some of the greatest plot twists in literature. Be warned, this contains many spoiler alerts!
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The first adult novel with a serious plot twist that I remember reading was Agatha Christie’s classic And Then There Were None, when I was nine years old. (Its original and alternate titles are much less appropriate for the modern world.) I was already familiar with the stage play, which also features a twist ending, so I was delighted to discover that the source material had an even darker, twistier ending: *Spoiler* they all die. No, really – a group of strangers are called to a desert island in the middle of nowhere and someone starts picking them off. The twist is that the murderer is a character who apparently died earlier in the novel – he faked his own death, killed everyone else (because they’d all done terrible deeds at some point) and then committed suicide. A follow-up, should anyone ever want to tackle it, would be the detective trying to figure out what happened in this, the ultimate locked-room mystery.
The Goosebumps series
The Goosebumps series had monsters in every shape, form and size you could possibly name but one thing united all of them: their incredible (in all senses of the word) twist endings.
There are so many to choose from, haunted families who turn out to be ghosts themselves, wishes that reverse the entire preceding story and monsters who are actually people – but the best for me, in its all out craziness, is Welcome to Camp Nightmare.
A group of kids go to a summer camp (so far, so normal), and then weird and spooky things start to happen (uh huh) – kids disappearing, strange cries and noises in the night – and this makes the children wonder: could there be monsters in the woods?
No there couldn't! In fact, the camp actually was set up by the kids’ parents, to test the children to see if they were ready to join an army of fighters who wish to invade and conquer . . . Earth.
The whole camp was really in outer space. THE END.
This all takes place in the last 3 lines of the final page. The twist of all twists (in space).
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
That moment when the penny drops and you realise what the story is really all about is what makes Fight Club one of those books you wish you could unread, just so you can experience it all again. The central character forms an underground club, along with his newfound friend, Tyler Durden. Men from all walks of life meet and fight each other as a way of enriching their mundane lives. An interesting concept in itself, but Chuck is just distracting us to make the jaw-dropping revelation even more unexpected. Who is Tyler Durden? Spoiler alert: he is the alter ego of the central character’s mental condition. The central character, who Palahniuk never actually names, is Tyler Durden.
The film adaptation became an cult hit, but the twist is slightly less of a shock as the director David Fincher gives away clues, subtle clues, throughout the movie, so you know that there’s something not quite right about Durden.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of the greatest plot twists of recent times has to be Gone Girl. The story is trundling along nicely for the first half of the book – Nick’s wife, Amy, has gone missing, it’s all very mysterious, maybe it was him that killed her – and then bam, the twist to end all twists: it’s Amy that’s the villain and a bona fide sociopath, and everything we thought we knew about her disappearance is flipped on its head. The genius of it is in the way Gillian Flynn does the unreliable narrator thing through extracts from Amy’s diary, so that you never for a moment consider that they’re anything but fact, until it turns out that Amy has planted the diary to frame Nick and most of what we’ve read in the first half of the book is her carefully constructed fictional version of events. Very clever, and the reason that Gone Girl has become such a phenomenon.
(P.S. If you’ve read Gone Girl and you’re looking for another psychological thriller with a killer twist, may I recommend our own Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant.)