Five unreliable narrators in crime fiction who you won't see coming

19 March 2015

By Pan Macmillan

The unreliable narrator is a crime fiction staple, creating plot twists and turns which are impossible to predict and leaving the reader with no-one to trust as events unravel. Here are our five most unreliable narrators.




Nick and Amy Dunne, Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn’s bestseller Gone Girl takes the notion of the unreliable narrator to the extreme. Nick Dunne’s perfect wife Amy goes missing, leaving him as the main suspect. As we switch between his and her stories, we are absorbed by their versions of events, never certain of who to believe.

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Dr James Sheppard, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Agatha Christie’s classic crime novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd begins with the death of Mrs. Ferrars, a wealthy widow who is rumoured to have murdered her husband. Narrated by Dr James Sheppard, we discover that her death was no accident and soon Sheppard is helping to solve the murder with the help of the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. You won’t see this twist coming.

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Mr Heming, A Pleasure and a Calling

William Heming, the narrator of A Pleasure and A Calling is outwardly a model of respectability, a mild mannered estate agent in a leafy commuter town. But why does Heming keep the keys to every property he has ever handled? And what is he getting up to behind closed doors? A chilling tale in which there is a growing disjuncture what Heming tells us and what we see as the reader.

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Rachel, The Liar’s Chair 
Rebecca Whitney’s The Liar’s Chair is about a marriage which crumbles under the pressure of maintaining a pristine fa├žade. Narrator Rachel’s dishonesty causes us to question her version of events and her behaviour is at times shocking to the reader. However, her husband seems cruel and controlling. What should we believe?

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Rachel, Girl On The Train

Another Rachel, this time our unreliable narrator spends her days looking out the window on London-bound commuter trains. As Rachel’s train passes, she watches Megan with her husband upon the deck of their house, and longs to step into her life. Megan suddenly disappears, and Rachel is certain she holds a key to unlocking the mystery. But should we trust her?

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