Today's observation #1 - reading a lot is good. Among other things, it allows you to see patterns.
Today's observation #2 - a pattern! This one comes from reading two very good books: Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. The observation is that there is a way to avoid deciding whether to kill off your favorite character or to leave them to deal with all the terrible things you've done to them during the course of the book. This is the exit, stage left. In both of these books characters vanish into the unknown. In one, the character probably really did escape but nobody knew it. In the other, the character probably didn't escape, but the other characters imagined it was possible. I won't tell you who's who. In both cases, it works.
I find the exit, stage left to be quite appealing. I suppose it comes from all the old westerns, when the good guy slips out the back door of the big party celebrating the victory of the small town over the desperados. He saddles his trusty steed, has a touching farewell scene with the rancher's daughter about why he wasn't made to settle down, and then he rides off into the sunset. She goes back to the party, dashes away a last tear, and gives the town's new young doctor the glad eye.
This ending allows for sequels. I don't think novelists who take this route are thinking sequel, but what this ending does for a novel is carry energy. There's a spark of possibility. More than that, there's a sense of fairness, because let's face it: most of our characters don't deserve the terrible things we do to them. They really don't deserve to be whacked.