It’s hard to trick readers. They know their stuff, learn your rhythms, your tricks, how your mind works. They work hard to figure out what you’re up to before you get to the big reveal, the final clues, the last page. When you can pull a surprise out of your hat, AND play fair, it’s a big accomplishment.
People talked and talked about The Sixth Sense and Knives Out because the movies kept most people guessing right up until the end and they didn’t see the last twist coming. I felt that way about the last episode of POIROT that HH and I watched.
We pay for Acorn and watch that show every Sunday night, making our way through all of the old Poirot series we watched years ago. I’ve read all of Christie’s novels and must have watched these shows at one time, but it’s been so long ago, I don’t remember “who did it” anymore. And The Hollows completely stumped me. I have to admit, when Christie tricks me, it’s an added joy. It makes me admire her even more.
This particular story had a LONG lead in. HH kept looking over at me and asking, “Is someone going to get killed?” Any Agatha fan knew she was setting up the husband to be a corpse sometime in the future–lots sooner than old age. And the suspects, this time, all had better motives than the usual. Oddities of behavior and offbeat clues popped up all over the place. So many suspects did such unexpectedly stupid things–the butler polishing the gun because he found it on the hall table and it had dust on it, the mistress of the estate finding that gun in the hen house and putting it in her egg basket, etc.–that I had to scratch my head.
Of course, at the end of the show, every silly reaction had a perfectly good reason, but they didn’t fall into place for me until Hercule explained all of the events in order. And then I was pleasantly amazed.
I try to give motives and clues in my mysteries, but I seldom feel truly clever. But then, I never really aim to amaze my readers with a hidden twist that was there in front of them all the time. It’s too daunting of a task for me. I’m just happy if I get everything right when I finish the last page. There’s a man in my writers club who writes clever twists with ease. I’m in awe of that. It’s not a talent that comes naturally to me. But boy, is it fun when someone else does it.