Sunday, July 31, 2011


Is it cricket to write a mystery novel where you change the ending of a previous book?

Two of my favorite authors have written series books in which a previous book’s event or solution is proved wrong.  It is not what it appeared to be.

I’ve thought a lot about that.  Is that according to the rules?  Does that mean that whenever I read a mystery story, it is possible the mystery isn’t really solved?

If many or most books were that way, would it take the mystery out of mysteries?

I’ve concluded that, with a series, I need to take all the books in the series as the story.  Every particular book along the way is just one step.  So, previous solutions might change.  Previous events might not be what they seemed to be.  The central character might not be as clever as he seemed before.

Still, this matter of changing the bill of goods you sold the reader in a previous book is no light thing.  Mysteries with solutions cease to be mysteries with solutions if a reader always has to have in the back of his/her mind that things might change.

Would I write such a book?  Probably not.  To me, it would be like those sci-fi books were the author never really kills a character.  In some miraculous way, the character comes back again. 

What do you think?  Is it cricket to change the ending or solution of a book that went before?


Naomi Johnson said...

Not cricket. Not cricket at all.

Joe Barone said...

Your comment made me laugh! Thanks.

pattinase (abbott) said...

As a reader. Nope. You only get one chance to write the ending.
As a writer, maybe in a series. Life changes, wrongs get righted.

Joe Barone said...

I tried to think of "classic" writers who did something similar. Things like bringing Sherlock Holmes back to life. I couldn't think of a lot of examples, but I'd bet there are some.

Karen Russell said...

Is Louise Penny one of them? I thought Bury Your Dead was brilliant, and wasn't angry at all that it offered a different solution to the earlier mystery.

It's important, though, not to change anything from the previous book. Penny adds evidence but doesn't change anything about what they already knew.

Joe Barone said...

Indeed that book was one that made me start to ask the question. It was not the only one.