Fool Me Once Ending Explained: Who Was Joe’s Killer?

Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once is a classic thriller novel that doesn’t use any new plot designs but still manages to stay suspenseful and intriguing. Published in 2016, Fool Me Once is similar to previous works of Harlan, where older mysteries or events are solved as the story goes on.

Fool Me Once centers on Maya Stern, a former special operations pilot who is dealing with the loss of her husband, Joe, and sister, Claire. Stern uses a baby monitor to keep an eye on her only daughter, Lily, but what she sees through it leaves her confused and puts her on a path of discovering the strange mysteries of Joe’s family. 

Producers from Netflix decided to adapt Fool Me Once into a television series that will likely start airing in the early months of 2024. Since we’ll be discussing the events that happen by the end of Fool Me Once, this article is going to be full of spoilers. 

Fool Me Once: What Happens In The End?

As Maya finds out everything about Judith and the Burketts, she uses the GPS tracker to check where Hector has been traveling all this time. One of the places stands out from the rest, giving Maya a lead on where Isabelle is staying. After calling Eddie and changing their number plates, Maya heads over to the location of Hector’s truck. 

Once she reached the area, Maya noticed Hector coming out of the house along with Isabelle. She thinks Isabelle will go back inside after waving goodbye, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, she gets into the truck with Hector.

Maya was a special ops agent, so there was no way she would let this chance slide. She quickly takes her gun and gets into the back of the truck. After pointing the gun at Hector’s head, Maya starts asking Isabelle all sorts of questions about the nanny cam and her involvement with the case. 

Maya shoots Hector in the shoulder to get Isabelle to speak, and that’s when she reveals that it was her mother who wanted Isabelle and Hector to spy on Maya and make her pay for what she did. They knew that Maya was the one who killed Joe and wanted her to come clean with the truth. 

Fool Me Once Ending Explained: Who Was Joe's Killer?
The Nanny cam footage from Netflix show (Credits: Netflix)

Before Isabelle could say anything else, Shane approached the truck and asked Maya to come out. He confronts her about the ballistic reports, where Maya has asked him to check if one of her gun’s bullets matched the same gun that killed Maya’s sister, Claire. 

This was before Joe was killed, meaning Maya already knew that the bullet was going to be used on Joe, too. This is when Maya finally reveals that she has been the killer all along.

When Maya returned for Claire’s funeral, she noticed that Joe was acting weird. Moreover, the gun safe had also been opened, and all of this pointed towards one thing: Joe was the one who killed Claire. Maya carefully plans to confront him while on a park date. 

She removes the bullet from her guns in the safe and takes another gun with her to protect herself in case something happens. On the date, Maya confronts Joe, and he tells her that Maya was very close to leaking secrets about the Burkett family, so he had no choice but to kill her using Maya’s gun.

Joe also aimed the gun at Maya’s chest and tried to shoot her, but Maya had already taken the bullets out. She points the gun at Joe and shoots him thrice to make it look like the work of the local delinquents. 

Ending Explained 

Maya goes to Judith Burkett’s house and asks her about Claire’s murder and even admits that she killed Joe. Caroline and Neil are shocked to hear that Joe murdered Andrew, Claire, and Theo. Judith tries to make a deal with Maya, but it is too late. 

Fool Me Once Ending Explained: Who Was Joe's Killer?
Michelle Keegan to play Maya Stern in the series (Credits: Netflix)

Neil takes out a gun and kills Maya so that none of them ever have to go to jail, and they could blame the pharmaceutical company scams on Joe. The last chapter then takes us 25 years into the future, where Lily, David, and Alexa are all grown up and have kids of their own. 

Hector’s the only one who knows what happened with Maya and believes she was a good person despite whatever happened at the military or with Joe. Maya could have carried a gun with her, but she didn’t because then the Burketts could easily say they were acting in self-defense. 

In the end, Maya dies, and Hector starts taking care of Lily like her own father. The Burketts likely faced a terrible fate as their murder of Maya was broadcast everywhere. Lily names her first daughter after Maya, although she was too young to remember anything about her mom.

The ending of Fool Me Once is unexpected since no one saw Maya’s death coming. The Burketts held their legacy close to their heart, and Claire, Andrew, & Theo were threats that had to be removed from the path. Once Maya knew that Joe was the one to kill Claire, she thought killing him would be the only way to take revenge. 

While the book takes us through many unnecessary details about side characters, it does have an intriguing storyline and plenty of twists that manage to keep us hooked until the end. Maya’s constant trust issues, Detective Kierce’s two-faced comments, and Corey’s hacking abilities, Fool Me Once has everything that makes a thriller book a good read.

It’ll be interesting to see how Netflix manages to adapt this suspenseful thriller into a TV show. Netflix’s Fool Me Once will be available to stream by January 1st, 2024.

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