As a mystery writer, it’s no surprise that whodunnits are my favourite genre to read—especially if I’m caught off guard by a shocking twist. But when considering these sharp suspense novels, the question arises: to twist or not to twist?
It’s often agreed that a murder mystery feels most satisfying when the clues were there all along, but the reader simply didn’t piece them together in time. Although, when there are twists involved, it’s all too easy to feel cheated. For me, though, the deception makes the read even more rewarding. It’s that complete 180 flip that turns everything on its head and makes you pause, think back over the clues and subtle nudges, and then kick yourself for not identifying the culprit sooner. Without doubt, these are the books that end up as my 5 star reads. The books that, when you close the covers, you’re left stunned. You’re left with a feeling of: What. Just. Happened?
To celebrate the release of my own twisty YA mystery, The Last One to Fall, I’ve compiled a list of my all-time favorite whodunnits with killer twists.
So, without further ado, and spoiler-free, here are my Shocking Six …
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
I’m kicking this off with a true powerhouse in YA—a book that arguably reinvented the mystery genre for teen readers. Although whodunnits have always been present in YA, in my opinion One of Us Is Lying generated a huge revival. This book—now adapted into a popular Netflix series—put YA mystery on the map…and it was largely down to that twist.
When high school senior Simon Kelleher is found dead in a locked-room setting, four of his classmates become suspects. Addy, Cooper, Bronwyn, and Nate all have something to hide, and the gradual reveal of their secrets will be sure to keep readers on their toes. One by one, we learn about these complicated characters and uncover the truth surrounding Simon Kelleher’s mysterious death.
Tense, scandalous, and gripping, this book is a blame game at its finest.
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Moving away from YA and into adult thriller, Rock Paper Scissors is truly unputdownable, and the big twist left me reeling.
As a last attempt to save their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Wright head to a remote cottage in Scotland. But the isolation, and the torment of haunted memories of the past, leaves them feeling trapped and vulnerable. With the clever addition of penned letters scattering a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader, this is a tangled tale of betrayal, obsession, and lies. A memorable read, to say the least!
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Heading over to the classics with this 1926 Agatha Christie masterpiece, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Renowned for being one of the earliest books to mislead readers with red herrings and misdirects, this novel was ahead of its time. Many would argue that this is where it all began, with twists becoming prevalent and even expected in whodunnits after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd set the bar.
With Hercule Poirot in the leading role, Christie’s celebrated sleuth embarks on a puzzling investigation, examining a string of murders all connected to the enigmatic Roger Ackroyd.
True to form, Agatha Christie gave us a gripping and perplexing mystery, with a twist that sent readers into a tailspin!
They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime…
Staying in the vein of Agatha Christie, Rachel Howzell Hall’s standalone thriller, They All Fall Down, was inspired by one of Christie’s most beloved novels, And Then There Were None.
In this spine-chilling mystery, Miriam Macy is invited to a private island off the coast of Mexico along with six other strangers. However, it soon becomes clear that all seven guests are hiding dangerous secrets. One by one, they’re targeted, culminating in a shocking conclusion.
A rollercoaster of a ride that takes a very surprising turn.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
When Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was released in 2012 it was a huge success. This book was everywhere. A global sensation that was swiftly adapted into a major movie starring Hollywood titans like Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl captivated readers from the first page and threw them for a loop with the ultimate twist.
Nick and Amy have the perfect marriage. But when Amy disappears, suspicion lands on Nick. But Nick is a devoted husband and swears his innocence. Determined to find out what happened to his wife, he begins investigating on his own. However, secrets soon reveal that Nick and Amy’s perfect marriage was not quite as it had appeared.
Chilling, addictive, and suspenseful. The plot is razor-sharp and diabolically clever.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
I’m concluding my list with another groundbreaking YA. Carefully tackling sensitive subject like race, homophobia and prejudice, Ace of Spades stands out for its creepy plot and truly unexpected twists.
When two Black teens, Devon and Chiamaka, are targeted by an anonymous texter, they join forces to uncover the identity of Aces. Set in a prestigious private school, Niveus Academy, the pair must figure out who is spilling their secrets in cryptic texts. This book is a compelling page-turner with a strong message to boot.
Thought provoking and powerful, Ace of Spades certainly makes an impact.