There’s a trend on Amazon at the moment for including review quotes and synopses in the title, which my wife (a former publishing executive) dubbed ‘screamers’. You know the sort of thing: The House Down the Street - ‘Unputdownable’ says the Sunday Times, Purgatory - The #1 Mystery for fans of ’The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’, Sarah’s One Regret - A twisty thriller with a shocking twist!.
That last one is the one that bothers me the most. Is it really a twist if you’ve been told from the first moment you see the book that it’s coming? It drives me bananas and if I was in the thriller business I like to think I would try to insist that my publisher wouldn’t mention this in the blurb, or - at least - the title. I’d fail, though, because there’s good data that suggest screamers increase sales. That’s why they do it. Obviously.
So, I hate any mention of twists.
Really, I do.
But I have to say that Robert Harris’ “Conclave” has one hell of a twist. I mean, it really fucking does. The book’s about the election of a new pope and there’s some political machinations and backroom dealings, but then there’s a revelation that’s so far out of left field that it’s positively antipodean. I’m not sure I can actually recommend the book on that basis, but as twists go it may be the best one ever. Seriously. Imagine the end of “The Sixth Sense” wasn’t that he was dead, but that he was a robot. That’s the level of “whhhaaaaaattt?!” that we’re dealing with. Although great, it’s not my favourite ending to a book ever. That remains Allan Folson’s “The Day After Tomorrow”, which ends with something like: “And there, laying in the snow, was the frozen head of Adolf Hitler.”
Oh, spoilers obvs.