The best books with deviously twisted endings

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lifelong Southerner and former journalist who believes that the region holds a unique place in American literature. I have a passion for the ultra-twisty ending because I try to incorporate it into each of my own mysteries. I want a reader to stay up late reading one of my books, then finish it in astonishment, thinking, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!” (And then mention it to her friend over coffee the next morning.) I have read mysteries since I was 12 years old and always appreciate an author who can fool me.  

I wrote...

Murder, Forgotten

By Deb Richardson-Moore,

Book cover of Murder, Forgotten

What is my book about?

In this finalist for the 2021 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, Murder, Forgotten is the story of a bestselling mystery novelist who is hiding a secret from the world. Julianna Burke is losing her memory, and with it, her powerful gift for storytelling.

When her beloved husband is murdered in their beach house, Julianna’s grief is mixed with panic: Is her confusion hiding knowledge about the crime?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of We Need to Talk about Kevin

Deb Richardson-Moore Why did I love this book?

I recommend this book often, but many of my friends are reluctant to read it because it’s about a school shooting. I understand their reluctance, but I urge them to get past it. It is perhaps the most stunning and powerful book I’ve ever read and raises thorny questions of nature vs. nurture. And the ending! Let me just say it hit me like a body blow. I was forced to go back and see how Ms. Shriver had constructed a plot that confounded me so completely. (Don’t try to get away with watching the movie. It is incomprehensible.) 

By Lionel Shriver,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked We Need to Talk about Kevin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of a boy named Kevin who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who had tried to befriend him. Now, two years after her son's horrific rampage, Eva comes to terms with her role as Kevin's mother in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband Franklyn about their son's upbringing. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to…

Book cover of Defending Jacob

Deb Richardson-Moore Why did I love this book?

Again, here’s a book that raises important questions about parents and children and how far the former will go to save the latter. Young Jacob is accused of killing a schoolmate. Surely, with his upstanding parents and privileged upbringing, he couldn’t have done it. Or could he? (I watched the well-done TV series but it changed the harrowing twist at the end. I can’t imagine why.)   

By William Landay,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Defending Jacob as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If your son was on trial for murder, what would you do?

Andy Barber's job is to put killers behind bars. And when a boy from his son Jacob's school is found stabbed to death, Andy is doubly determined to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Until a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder. And suddenly Andy and his wife find their son accused of being a cold-blooded killer.

In the face of every parent's worst nightmare, they will do anything to defend their child. Because, deep down, they know him better than anyone.

Don't they?

Book cover of The Almost Sisters

Deb Richardson-Moore Why did I love this book?

Southern writer Joshilyn Jackson is one of my all-time favorites, with her unerring sense of place. In her last few books, she has turned to mystery plots. The results are mysteries of high literary quality. In The Almost Sisters, unflinching questions about race and privilege reside next to questions of guilt and innocence. I was close to the end before I picked up on a twist she’d embedded. 

By Joshilyn Jackson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Almost Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby…

Book cover of Death Comes as the End

Deb Richardson-Moore Why did I love this book?

I don’t know if I’d feel as surprised if I read this book today for the first time. But when I encountered it decades ago, I was gobsmacked when the murderer was revealed. This is an unusual Agatha Christie mystery, set in ancient Egypt and inspired by her husband’s archeological digs. In my view, Christie can’t be topped. She’s also the one who introduced me to the unreliable narrator with her fabulous Murder of Roger Ackroyd

By Agatha Christie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Death Comes as the End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel of anger, jealousy, betrayal and murder in 2000 BC

It is Egypt, 2000 BC, where death gives meaning to life. At the foot of a cliff lies the broken, twisted body of Nofret, concubine to a Ka-priest. Young, beautiful and venomous, most agree that she deserved to die like a snake.
Yet Renisenb, the priest's daughter, believes that the woman's death was not fate, but murder. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil lurks within her own father's household.

As the wife of an eminent archaeologist, Agatha Christie took part in several expeditions to the Middle…

Book cover of The Girl on the Train

Deb Richardson-Moore Why did I love this book?

I know this book has taken some criticism but I love everything about it – from the jiggling letters on the cover to the alcoholic narrator. The way it unfolds so methodically, so inexorably, is a treasure. Surprises are sprinkled throughout the narrative, as well as in the blockbuster finale. And who isn’t intrigued by the idea of a voyeur peering into our lives, from a moving train no less?      

By Paula Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Girl on the Train as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller, USA Today Book of the Year and now a major motion picture starring Emily Blunt.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple having breakfast on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It's…

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By David Joiner,

Book cover of Kanazawa

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

What is my book about?

Emmitt’s plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of purchasing their dream home. Disappointed, he’s surprised to discover her subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo.

In his search for a meaningful life in Japan, and after quitting his job, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa’s most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English. He becomes drawn into the mysterious death of a friend of Mirai’s parents, leading him and his father-in-law to climb the mountain where the man died. There, he learns the somber truth and discovers what the future holds for him and his wife.

Packed with subtle literary allusion and closely observed nuance, Kanazawa reflects the mood of Japanese fiction in a fresh, modern incarnation.


By David Joiner,

What is this book about?

In Kanazawa, the first literary novel in English to be set in this storied Japanese city, Emmitt's future plans collapse when his wife, Mirai, suddenly backs out of negotiations to purchase their dream home. Disappointed, he's surprised to discover Mirai's subtle pursuit of a life and career in Tokyo, a city he dislikes.

Harmony is further disrupted when Emmitt's search for a more meaningful life in Japan leads him to quit an unsatisfying job at a local university. In the fallout, he finds himself helping his mother-in-law translate Kanazawa's most famous author, Izumi Kyoka, into English.

While continually resisting Mirai's…

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