Does it matter if you guess the ending?
Joan Smith thought After the Crash was ‘one of the most remarkable books I’ve read in a long time’, Maxim Jakubowski called it ‘a compulsive page-turner’ and Barry Forshaw said ‘Michel Bussi knows exactly how to keep the reader turning page after page.’ So I was expecting great things, and maybe that was the part of the problem. I did read it compulsively – but only until about half way through, when I ran out of steam and found I couldn’t – or rather didn’t want to – suspend my disbelief any longer. Yes, it’s a brilliant premise. A baby survives a plane crash in which everyone else dies and two families fight over which of them she belongs to. I won’t say exactly when I guessed the answer to this conundrum and the final twist in a very convoluted plot, because that might constitute a spoiler, but it was pretty early on. I hope I wasn’t going to be right, but I was.
This got me thinking about the challenges of writing for a crime fiction readership, which includes of course other crime writers. Like many other readers (and writers) I must have read thousands of crime novels, and these days I am rarely surprised by a plot twist, though I love it when it happens. Just at the moment I am especially obsessed with plots as I am plotting a novel myself, so maybe that too was part of my problem with After the Crash. I was too conscious of the machinery. Sometimes that doesn’t matter as long as I am enjoying other aspects of the book, the setting, the characters, whatever. In fact, I often reread favourite crime novels, knowing perfectly well who did it. But this time I did mind and I ground to a halt.
So how do you feel? Are you disappointed if the writer doesn’t manage to fool you, or are you happy to go along for the ride anyway?