(Taking a short break in the streets of Bristol)
For this week´s alphabet in crime meme, I´ll comment on what the crime writer does not tell us. I was inspired by a very interesting CrimeFest panel where the writers discussed the endings of crime novels, their own as well as those of other writers. Good endings, brilliant endings, disappointing endings - and the endings we will never see because their wives or publishers vetoed them.
The Rule Book was an impressive debut which I enjoyed very much, and the ending worked very well for me, but there are aspects I hope he will take up in later volumes of his great Colm McEvoy series.
Another trend is mysteries of the kind where we know who committed the crime almost from the beginning. There are wonderful examples of the why dunnit around, but after a very promising beginning, the ending of Louise Doughty´s Honey-Dew was a disappointment for me. I didn´t feel she added enough suspense after the first few chapters so in my opinion she should have structured her story very differently, or kept a few surprices up her sleeve.
Do you prefer endings where everything is nicely wrapped up, or is it okay with you when the author hands you the villain but leaves some - or several - unanswered questions?
I'm quite happy with a few loose ends, because I do that myself on purpose. Life by its nature is messy and we are seldom given all the answers, so I like to leave a little mystery, and also leave some stuff up to the reader's imagination. But you have to be careful, because the last thing you want is a reader disappointed with the ending!
I like everything tied up in a nice little package. Vanda is right that life is messy, and that's exactly why I want my fiction with a neat, tidy end. Having said that, though, I do like a promise of more to come. For instance, Laura Lippman's Girl in a Green Raincoat ties up the mystery very well but at the end Tess Monaghan is having a baby and she's worried what kind of mother she'll be and how she'll manage her dangerous career with a child to care for. I love that because I'm wondering the same thing.
Now there's a question. I'll have to sit on the fence with this one and say it all depends on several things, one of them being just how loose the ends are.
I hate it where everything is wrapped up. When does that ever happen in life. Of course, one does need some sort of closure but not total closure.
Vanda: in a series it is less dangerous than in standalones, I´d say.
Barbara: The Green Raincoat is a good example. I certainly felt satisfied with the ending, but as you say, it also leaves you wanting more.
Tracy: good point, but very difficult to give examples without spoiling books for someone else :D
Patti: I think much depends on the writer´s skills - good writers can get away with more open questions than others because you still feel they ended in the right place while other stories just seem muddled.
Obviously I'm all for ambiguous or loose ends as long as the book doesn't just end! I remember reading a 800 page tome to get to the end for it to simply end with 'Continued in volume 2.' It literally just ended mid-flow. The book went sailing through the air! In relation to The Rule Book the original ending had even more of a silence. The one published was the compromise version. I'll say no more. Thanks for the mention.
Rob: as I mention in this post, you are not the only writer who has ended up compromising. Now I don´t know what you had intended, but the final version was a great and memorable read.
I'm with Tracy...it sort of depends on how loose those strings are. I don't mind loose ends when they pertain to the characters in a series. That's part of the development of getting to know them over a period of time. I don't really like something major not resolved, though, like why someone committed a crime or even worse...who committed one! It's fiction, so I expect a certain amount of closure.
Kelly: I agree; we have to know who and why. The rest depends on the writer´s ability to spin a story. And I know that I have often been accused of telling people too little in my flash stories - but do you think I see it that way myself? :)
Hmmm... Good question. I think I prefer something in between. I like a few loose ends - not too many though - and they must not be of vital importance to the crime (like for instance not finding the murderer!).
I find it frustrating if too many clues are left unexplained but I have also experienced crime novels where EVERYTHING is explained and spelled out at the end. The latter usually leaves me feeling a bit patronized somehow because to tie every end for every reader sometimes also means explaining things some readers have already guessed or assumed.
Louise: so true! An explanation over several pages is a dangerous balance.
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