Top ten twists in movies and novels – Sabine Durrant

A really good plot twist leaves you floored, breathless, as if you’ve been punched. The world shifts for a moment as you accept you’ve been taken in. Who can you trust after it has taken place? No one.

Posted on January 17, 2017 in Best of, Guest Author
Tags: Author Content, crime fiction, lie with me, sabine durrant

WARNING: contains hints and spoilers for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, The Crying Game, Psycho, Rosamund Lupton’s Sister, Dallas, The Sixth Sense, One Day by David Nicholls, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and The Ghost by Robert Harris.


1) The least-likely-person twist

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

She is the queen of course – though if you begin a book thinking it’s the least likely person, then it holds no surprises. (The butler did it.) Roger Ackroyd is on a different plane –everybody has their motive. You sift and wonder. What you never imagine is that Poirot’s right hand man, the narrator no less, has been spinning you all along. Bastard.


2) The moral twist

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

An archetypal thriller – the grim spooky setting of the Kent marshes, Magwitch with his suppurating shackles, Miss Haversham in her haunted bridal house. And Pip, poor Pip – the gloriously cataclysmic moment when he and the reader discover it isn’t smart money that has funded his posh reincarnation, but dirtily gotten gains.


3) The sex twist

Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game

About race and gender and the Troubles, it is brutal and heart-breaking and at the heart of it is Jaye Davidson, a beautiful singer who turns out to be pre-operative transgender. Shocks her IRA lover at any rate.


4) The jump-out-of-your-seat twist

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The story is Hitchcock tried to buy up all copies of the book so people wouldn’t find out what happens. Now you know. The old lady’s dead and it’s Anthony Perkins in her creepy clothes. Yikes.


5) The narrator-in-danger twist

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

You’re just beginning to think that the author has gone a bit mad – needs a bit of editing – when you discover the narrator, holed up by the villain, is losing consciousness. Faint-inducing.


6) The laugh-out-loud twist


The entire ninth season, plus the death of Bobby at the end of the eighth, turns out to have been Pamela Ewing’s dream. Deserves a place for pure nerve.


7) The plot-turned-inside-out twist

M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense

Like The Others, this ghost story is one long conjuring trick, a bravura act of misdirection and sleight of hand. A boy who is visited by spirits that don’t seem to realise they’re dead, confides in Bruce Willis, a disheartened psychologist. Guess what, though? It’s not the spirits who are deluded….


8) The weepy twist

One Day by David Nicolls

Worthy of a thriller, the axis-jolting, heart-thumping reversal at the end makes you re-live everything that’s come before. The lives of two characters, Emma and Dexter, have been picked up on the same day – 15 July every year for twenty years. A random date? St Swithun’s day? The anniversary of the day they met? No – an anniversary in reverse of the day she dies.


9) The halfway twist

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Two interwoven narratives – Nick’s desperate search for Amy, his missing wife, and her diary, revealing facts about their marriage he might not want to see the light of day. A dastardly first half of a book, culminating in the rug-pulling revelation that the diary is faked and Amy is the one in control.


10) The penultimate-sentence twist

The Ghost by Robert Harris

Brilliantly constructed novel about a corrupt prime minister and his ghost writer. It’s first person narrative, which usually means the protagonist survives – except here where, it turns out, the existence of the book itself indicates that he hasn’t.

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