22 August 2008

Reading the ending first? No way!

I can't believe that any serious reader of crime fiction would read the ending first!

Through my daily Google Alert I discovered this site which contained:
When I read detective, crime or mystery fiction I always read the end first in order to be free of the distraction of trying to work out the who, why, what and where questions which would mar my enjoyment of the unfolding.

I'm not sure what this blogger is claiming to be, but comments are closed on her blog too, otherwise I would have taxed her on this statement.

Please tell me you don't read the ending first! How could you deprive yourself of the development of plot and character, the building of suspense, and then the cathartic experience of the resolution of the whodunnit.

A statement like that really draws into question the issue of why you would read a mystery book in the first place.

I wonder how common the practice of reading the ending first is?
I've done a Google search with the following results:
So come on, 'fess up! Can you honestly say that you never, never, never read the ending before you've finished the book?

But surely you never read the final pages before you read anything else?


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the articles at the links you provide, Kerrie (I will try if I get time), but I agree with you it is mad to read the ending first, particularly of a mystery novel.
However, on the rare occasions when I decide to stop reading a book if it isn't getting my attention by page 100 or so, I might skip through it before donating it to the charity shop.

Another point I've made more than once is that I wish series had "recaps" of the previous installments bound in, for readers who can't remember the details of the previous books. Reviews don't give away the endings (on the whole!) so you can't always refresh your memory by reading the reviews of earlier books. A short bound-in plot summary (with due spoiler alert) would be very useful for regular readers with poor memories.

Kerrie said...

I like the idea of re-caps Maxine, although that assumes that reading a series in order is important. I think catering for people who do read your books out of order presents another range of problems for an author. It is just not sustainable to constantly repeat information from a previous novel, but nor can you write the new novel based on the assumption that your readers know what has happened before.
I guess it comes down to how much real life is a series of unconnected incidents and how much what we do is predicated on something we've done earlier.

Bernadette said...

I really don't see why you would bother reading at all if you're going to ruing everything by reading the end first. In fact I once broke up with a boyfriend who insisted on reading out loud to me the final pages of books I was just embarking on. Talk about a relationship doomed to failure:)

Dewey said...

When I was a teen, I sometimes couldn't resist peeking ahead to the end of books when the suspense was killing me. But I like to think I've matured since then, and developed some self-control. This person sounds like her reasons aren't a matter of self-control, though. Maybe she obsesses over the solution to the mystery to the point that she can't enjoy the story, but like you say, how about a different genre?

As far as what Maxine says about plot summaries, I find Wikipedia great for that. They do usually have spoilers in their plot summary sections, so if you're wanting to refresh your memory about Harry Potter 5 before reading book 6, Wikipedia is great.

Vanda Symon said...

I'd never read the ending first, that's cheating!

I have a vague recollection of reading an article recently that suggested people who read endings of thrillers and crime fiction first suffer from low self-esteem. That's the psychologists take on why they do it.


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