Kate Moretti’s Favorite Modern Whodunits with Unreliable Narrators

Originally published on Bookish.com, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

The best mysteries keep readers on the edge of their seats from page one and cause them to doubt their own theories about who killed who. This is certainly the case with The Blackbird SeasonKate Moretti’s gripping latest novel. A young girl has disappeared, last seen with a married high school baseball coach. He claims to be innocent, but even his wife doubts his tale. To celebrate the book’s release, Moretti put together a list of her favorite modern whodunits.

When I started writing The Blackbird Season, my main goal was to keep the reader off their game and unbalanced. I wanted readers to constantly second guess themselves and spend the entirety of the book wondering “wait, did they do it?” I didn’t specifically set out to write an unreliable narrator (Nate says he didn’t do it and well, you’ll have to read to find out!). But I wanted to play with the idea of perception, the notion that guilt and innocence aren’t as black and white as Law & Order makes us think they are.

I was largely inspired by the modern “whodunit”. Recent books by female authors are incredibly rich and layered, and often it’s impossible to predict the endings. They are character driven (which I love!) and often involve family life, kids, husbands, wives, neighbors and friends.

The Girl on the Train

Rachel Watson is the ultimate unreliable narrator! Rachel is a black-out drunk who is barely still functioning. She watches a couple every day from her train window, a couple that happens to live next door to her ex and his new family. Readers will ask themselves a million questions: What’s with the bundle of clothes? What is going on with her memory? Did she kill Megan? Who killed Megan? I confess I spent most of the novel pretty sure that Rachel killed Megan. But the end… we’ll just say it was a surprise.

Big Little Lies

There’s a PTA party and a murder, or at least you think it’s a murder. Honestly, with this one, you spend most of the book wondering who, if anyone, has died. The plot winds backwards, putting suburban unrest on full display, and peppered with ludicrous (and sometimes hilarious) police interviews. There’s a light humor throughout the whole book but you have no idea who is dead, or who killed them. Even the minor players are developed enough to be doubted!

I Let You Go

A woman is grieving alone in a coastal cabin. She grieves for her son, who was killed in a car accident. But her narrative is disjointed and while emotional, it’s also detached. Too much so. Something doesn’t add up. Then comes the twist and the revelations and we are left to wonder, page after page, who is guilty? What really happened that night? How fine is the line between guilt and innocence? My kind of book!

You Will Know Me

This book is an intimate look inside the world of elite gymnastics. Megan Abbott deftly navigates a family where the parents have sunk their time, energy, money, and entire lives into the success of their child. When a member of the community is killed in a car accident that may or may not be an accident, suddenly everyone is a suspect. I spent the entire story flip-flopping between who I think did it, sometimes changing my mind mid-chapter. The greatest part of this novel, for me, was how easily the reader could follow the family down this disturbing, insular rabbit hole.

Emma in the Night

Two sisters disappear and three years later only one returns. She comes back with fantastical stories about a mysterious island and kidnapping, but the family psychiatrist is suspicious. Did Cass kidnap or kill her sister? Immediately, the reader realizes that something is not right with the Tanner family, specifically the mother. There is a thread of narcissism woven thoroughly throughout their lives and the dysfunction is uncomfortable and disturbing. I spent page after page wondering: Was it the mother? The father? Cass herself? What exactly happened that night at the beach? There is no way to guess the ending of Emma, but the reader will spend a fair amount of time trying!

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Find out more at KateMoretti.com or follow her on Twitter: @KateMoretti1 or Facebook: /KateMorettiWriter.

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