Step Away from the Cliff

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Warning: This post is a vent. Writers who can’t seem to stop
cliffhanging and Readers who love hanging from them, be forewarned!

It happened again.

Over several days, I listened to an audiobook, a mystery-suspense selected by our book club. It was intriguing. Interesting characters who I cared about. Plenty of suspense. By the last quarter of the book, I was glued to my cell phone, listening for how the story ended.

Finally, we reached it. There was the solution. The bad guys were captured. The hero got the girl.

But wait! There was still the epilogue. The main characters got married for their happily ever after. Ah!

But wait again. There was still more as the main character sat down to go over the case only to discover that the case really was not solved! There was still a dirty rotten scoundrel who had gotten away undetected and escaped justice.

The mystery was STILL afoot!


NO! I screamed so loud that Sterling ran from the room with his tail between his legs.

I had spent almost eight hours of my life listening to that book that didn’t have an ending. Rather, it had an end, as members of my book club argued. It just, after the ending, started the next book, which I have since learned hasn’t even been written! There isn’t going to be a sequel! The culprit will never get caught! There will never be justice!

I’d spent eight hours of my life on a book with a dangling plotline (the technical term is “open ending”) that I will never get back.

As a publisher, I have worked on books from two different authors who did the same thing. The first book I considered excellent—except for the cliffhanger. The young first-time writer insisted that it was a trilogy—the first book had to end in a cliffhanger.

Against my better judgement, I agreed to release the book, but told the writer that the second book had to be ready to go upon the release of the first one. He assured me that it would be. The first book was published in 2014. There’s no sign of the second book in his trilogy. Last time I checked his status on social media, he was hanging out with his buds watching Game of Thrones.

The second author was working on what he considered to be a series. The first book ended in a cliffhanger with the characters in a life and death struggle against evil. Last I heard, he gave up writing completely.

I can’t believe that I am the only reader in the world who hates to be left hanging at the end of a book. However, based on how many books our book club has recommended in recent months that have such endings, television shows that insist on having seasonal/series arches that don’t allow you to just watch one hour and then go to bed satisfied, and movies where you have to wait a year to get the solution (Star Wars: The Last Jedi/Avengers: Infinity War), I’m beginning to think that I may have to take up another hobby to feel complete and satisfied—like taste-tester at the Cheesecake Factory.

I confess. I am that one person in the whole world who has yet to see Avengers: Infinity War. My family was furious because I refused to see it until Avengers: End Game came out so that I could binge watch them both on the same day. I told them they could go without me, but they refused. It just wasn’t going to be as good without Dear Old Mom cursing the whole way home after being pushed over a cliff from which to hang.

Tell me that I am not the only reader who hurls a book across the room when the book ends with “Tune in next time to find out if the serial killer who crawled out of the woodwork on the last page is going to dismember the protagonist and his family.”

Look at it from my point of view: Life is short. You never know when the Angel of Death is going to jump out of nowhere to punch your ticket and take you to your final destination, which most likely will not have a library.

The last thing I want to do is spend over two hours of what I have left here on earth in a theater watching a movie that isn’t going to end until a year later, or spend eight hours listening to a book that ends in a life and death struggle that is never resolved because the writer decides to retire his laptop or I got hit by a train before its release.

As I have said, I have been assailed by these non-ending books through selections at my book club. After this last fiasco, I announced that from now on I will read the last chapter/epilogue first. As soon as I see a cliff on the horizon, I’m bailing.

I didn’t used to be that way. I used to think it was sacrilege to read the ending of a book before turning to page one. Equally, I thought it was a killjoy to go to the internet to checkout a synopsis of a movie or television series ahead of time to find out how it ended. But I’ve been burned so many times, that I’ll admit it’s now common practice.

Or is the author going to shove the reader hanging by a tree root off the edge of a cliff while waiting for the next installment, which may or may not come? Will there be justice in the end? Will all the good guys survive? Is this book the complete package—with every storyline tied up with a nice bow?

My declaration about reading the ending first caused quite a discussion between the cliffhanging enthusiasts and those who want their books to be the complete package.

“That’s life,” one fellow reader insisted. “Life is full of open endings. Doesn’t each day end with a cliffhanger? I mean, it isn’t like you go to bed at night with no dangling plotlines.”

I guess there in lies the crux of the situation.

I have been surprised to learn that different people read for different reasons. Some want an artistic representation of life. These are the people who prefer the paintings in the art gallery to look much like life—warts and all. Life does not offer us the complete package, so why should we expect authors to put it in their books? As I read in one blog post, when the boy gets the girl at the end, there are going to be fights, issues, adjustments. There is no such thing as a “happily ever after.”

These readers state that it is unrealistic for books to end without dangling plotlines or cliffhangers.

Yet, there is a whole reading audience, like me, who read to escape the reality of life. From the time I learned how to read, I read books to escape what I considered to be a boring life to go on an adventure into another world that was full of excitement, mystery, and suspense.

The author is my tour guide. I trust the writer to take me on a complete adventure that will bring me into the station called “The End” feeling completely satisfied that I haven’t missed anything – no dirty rotten scoundrels got away.

Nothing makes me cross a writer off my “To Be Read” list faster than for him or her to slow the train down as we approach “The End” station only to speed up again right before we come to the stop. Then to demand that we buy another ticket in order to complete the adventure.

If this ride is the first of many available, the author may suggest that I come along on the next—in the form of a synopsis after I leave the station. At that point, if the writer has earned my trust, odds of my buying their next book will be high.

Nothing breaks my trust in an author faster than ending the book by opening a can of worms and forcing me to buy the next book to get the solution. Odds are, I will scream, spend several days cursing, and not buy the next book.

I don’t consider dangling plotlines and cliffhangers to be intriguing literary tools. I consider them to be a cheap exercise in manipulation.

So there you have it. I warned you that this was a vent. I’d like to hear from you down below in the comments. As a reader, do you like cliffhangers or dangling plotlines which force you to buy the next book? As a writer, do you use cliffhangers or dangling plotlines? If so, feel free to voice your views in defense of them.

There’s nothing like a good debate.


To enter the drawing for an ebook copy
The Root of Murder by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment telling us what you
think about cliffhangers/dangling
plotlines. The winning name will be
drawn on
Monday evening, May 6th.