When I’m reading mystery and suspense, there’s nothing I love more than a satisfying twist. They’re not easy to do! A good twist has to feel both surprising and inevitable: it sneaks up on you, out of nowhere, but later you realize that it makes perfect sense. It casts a new light on everything that came before. The best twists cause me to flip frantically back to the beginning of the book, trying to spot the magic trick that I’d missed the first time around. Here are a few novels that feature my favorite, classic twists. I won’t give any away—you’ll have to read them for yourself.
The inheritor of the Gone Girl mantle. When I started reading this novel, I liked it, but by the time I finished it, I loved it. Paula Hawkins takes a familiar idea and gives it an entirely fresh spin. And even as you’re hurtling along the breakneck plot, with the story getting darker and darker, she’s keeping her cards very close to her chest. I’m not too proud to admit that I didn’t see the twist coming, not even a little bit!
A classic locked-room mystery from the queen herself. The story begins on a remote island, where a motley crew of guests have arrived to spend the weekend, courtesy of a mysterious (and mysteriously absent) host. Until, one by one, the guests begin to die. Who is the killer? This is a crisp and perfect puzzle-box of a novel, and if you’ve never read Agatha Christie, it’s an excellent place to start.
A delicious, haunting, gothic story about how the biggest surprises aren’t always waiting for us in the future—sometimes they’re hidden in the past. The narrator is a young woman who marries the widower Maxim de Winter, and is quickly intimidated by the stories about his deceased first wife: Rebecca, the beautiful woman whose presence still lingers in Manderley. How can she ever possibly live up to Rebecca? But the truth is more complicated, and more sinister, than our narrator realizes.
The twist that got everyone talking, and sparked the ongoing boom in female-centric psychological suspense. This book is such a smash hit for a good reason. A few years ago, I re-read Gone Girl, and even though I knew the ending this time around, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment in the least. Why does it work so well? Gillian Flynn does an incredible job of making Nick and Amy into vivid, flesh-and-blood characters. Their realness is what grounds the twist, making it that much more powerful.
By the Author
A propulsive, "chilling" (Lee Child) novel exploring the dangerous fault lines of female friendships, Necessary People deftly plumbs the limits of ambition, loyalty, and love.
One of them has it all. One of them wants it all. But they can't both win.
Stella and Violet are best friends, and from the moment they met in college, they knew their roles. Beautiful, privileged, and reckless Stella lives in the spotlight. Hardworking, laser-focused Violet stays behind the scenes, always ready to clean up the mess that Stella inevitably leaves in her wake.
After graduation, Violet moves to New York and lands a job in cable news, where she works her way up from intern to assistant to producer, and to a life where she's finally free from Stella's shadow. In this fast-paced world, Violet thrives, and her ambitions grow—but everything is jeopardized when Stella, envious of Violet's new life, uses her connections, beauty, and charisma to get hired at the same network. Stella soon moves in front of the camera, becoming the public face of the stories that Violet has worked tirelessly to produce—and taking all the credit.
Stella might be the one with the rich family and the right friends, but Violet isn't giving up so easily. As she and Stella strive for success, each reveals just how far she'll go to get what she wants—even if it means destroying the other person along the way.
What to Read & Watch Next
About Anna Pitoniak
Anna Pitoniak is the author of The Futures and Necessary People. She worked for many years in book publishing, most recently as a Senior Editor at Random House. She grew up in Whistler, British Columbia, and now lives in New York City.