Fool Me Once characters Joe, Shane and Maya looking shifty

How the ending of Netflix drama Fool Me Once starring Michelle Keegan differs from the Harlan Coben book

Spoiler alert – Maya dies in both!

If you started Fool Me Once when it dropped on New Year’s Day it’s pretty safe to say you’ve seen the ending by now.

But did you spot how it was different from the one writer Harlan Coben originally penned in his 2016 novel?

As well as changing the location of the drama from New York to the north of England, the very last epilogue scene was slightly different in the book.

So, with spoilers ahead, here’s what happened at the end – who killed Joe, why they killed him, how he ended up on the nanny cam – and how it was different from the original bestseller…

Joe seen on the nanny cam in Fool Me Once
The nanny cam was central to the entire story, and Judith’s eventual downfall (Credit: Netflix)

Fool Me Once ending explained

Maya (Michelle Keegan) killed her husband Joe after discovering that he killed her sister Claire.

He killed her sister Claire because Joe’s family business – a pharmaceutical company headed up by Joanna Lumley’s Judith – was faking the results of its drugs trials and Claire had uncovered it.

Joe also killed his friend from school, Theo, by pouring vodka down his throat in a hazing, and his own brother by pushing him off a yacht after he wanted to come clean about his pal’s death.

Claire had been working with whistleblower Cory The Whistle, who had previously leaked a video of Maya shooting a car full of civilians while overseas on a tour of duty, at the time of her death. So he was pretty invested in helping Maya expose the Burketts.

As was Detective Kierce because his neurological condition was actually caused by dodgy Burkett drugs. And the woman supporting him at AA? The ghost of his dead fiancée seen in hallucinations thanks to said dodgy drugs.

So Cory, Maya and Kierce teamed up to bring the Burkett family down.

The nanny cam explained

The nanny cam was central to the whole plot.

Maya found out their nanny Isabella had tampered with the footage of Joe that Maya had seen on the camera. She did this at Judith’s request, as Judith was convinced Maya had killed Joe and wanted to trip her up.

But it was the nanny cam that led to the downfall of Judith – the mastermind behind it all.

After a successful dinner with their shareholders, Judith, son Neil and daughter Caroline retired to one of the estate’s drawing rooms, where Maya was waiting.

A fantastic adaptation of an amazing book.

She confronted the trio, with Judith confessing to everything dodgy the company had been up to. She also revealed she’d known about the murders of son Anthony and Claire by Joe. Maya unloaded the bullets from her gun and put it on a side table, then told the family she had killed Joe after learning that he killed her sister Claire.

In the midst of all the drama, Kierce is seen heading to the woods and Cory’s shack, where he asks for help. But it’s only after Neil swipes Maya’s gun off the table, re-loads the bullets and shoots her that you find out what Kierce actually wanted help with.

Kierce, Maya and Cory were working together to bring the Burketts down. As a result, they had installed a nanny cam photo frame in the drawing room. And, not only did it capture everything, it was also live-streamed around the world. Kierce was seen screaming that Maya had been shot. Although why he let her go in alone is anyone’s guess!

Michelle Keegan and Emmett J Scanlan in Fool Me Once
Shane had a bigger part in the ending in the novel Fool Me Once (Credit: Netflix)


Now… This is where the differences set in.

After Maya’s on-screen death, the drama flashes forward 18 years. Lily, Maya’s daughter, has welcomed a daughter of her own. Predictably called Maya. It appears Lily has been brought up by Eddie, Maya’s brother-in-law. Friend Shane is also at the hospital to see the new baby. Keirce is also there bearing a gift.

However, in the book, Shane gets more of a starring role in the ending. And this is the part which is a bit baffling to us and viewers – why didn’t they make more use of actor Emmett J Scanlan on screen?

In the book, the epilogue flashes forward 25 years. Plus it’s told from the perspective of Shane. He looks back at the whole nanny cam live streaming reveal 25 years on, instead of it being told as it happened, as it was on Netflix.

Doubt is also thrown on whether Maya went into the confrontation knowing she was going to be killed in the book. Whereas on screen, with the positioning of the gun so close to Neil, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that she was a goner.

Viewer reaction to ending of Fool Me Once

Whatever the reason for the changes, one thing is clear. Viewers loved it.

One commented on Twitter: “That ending was insane. When they realised the nanny cam was in the room? Gold!” 

Well done on a fantastic adaptation of an amazing book,” said another.

Fool Me Once is available on Netflix now.

Read more: Fool Me Once filming locations revealed – from Manchester to Spain

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Nancy Brown
Associate Editor