Rupert Holmes on the greatest, most startling plot twists in a long, proud tradition of fooling readers.

Feb 23, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This list is a republication- Source: Crime Reads (by Rupert Holmes).

“Which is exactly why we have to keep startling the reader in a desperate attempt to keep one step ahead: The hero did it. The victim did it. Watson, did it, Holmes did it, it’s the butler, it’s all of them, it’s none of them—”

Hey, let’s twist again! (Like we did last summer, remember?) I pick up every puzzler hoping to be both astounded and humbled by some stunning revelation lurking within. The classic mystery novel is the magic show of literature, and the illusionist’s audience can be divided into two camps: those who hope to guess the trick in advance (often incorrectly) and those of us who eagerly hope to be fooled, misdirected, and stunned by the magician’s craft . . . because it makes us feel like children again, and sustains our hope that there might be real magic in the world.

As a reader I live for twists, plot turns, gasp-inducing reveals and reversals . . . and as a novelist and playwright, my characters live or die by them as well. So I try to ensure each new work of my own comes with a free crackerjack surprise in every box. For example, my play Solitary Confinement at The Kennedy Center saved its biggest twist for the company bow, and totally fooled the then-President of the United States (perhaps not my most challenging feat), and my latest novel Murder Your Employer attempts to bamboozle you at Three-card Monte as many times as there are cards in the deck.

I’ve been asked to list a few of the mysteries that have, over the years, caught me napping while I was riveted with suspense. Even listing them here is counter to their authors’ intent, tipping you off that there’s an accomplished confidence game in the works, but I’ll do my best not to tip their hands. Most importantly, let me assure you that nowhere in what follows will you find those two most loathsome words in literature’s vocabulary: spoiler alert. Read on, without blinders.

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