As I write this, I am distracted because what I want to be doing is reading Maggie King’s new release Murder at the Moonshine Inn, Book #2 of the Hazel Rose Book Group Mysteries. This distraction, luckily, feeds into my subject, the appeal and hazards of mystery series. Maggie’s book serves as an example of the “appeal”; I’ve had a recent read that I’ll put in the “hazard” category.
I find Hazel Rose an engaging sleuth, so I want to know what she’s up to in this new book. Yes, I am interested in and care about what happens in the life of this fictional character. The redneck flavor to the new novel interests me also, and I had to laugh when Maggie King described at her book launch party how she and her husband dressed the part to go undercover and visit some redneck bars, in the name of book “research.” I’d have liked to be a fly on the wall. Maggie King’s book hits the “appeal” aspect of mystery series right on the head. Readers become invested in a character and want to be part of the continuing adventures of that character. Another sleuth I want to follow is Delanie Fitzgerald from Heather Weidner’s Secret Lives and Private Eyes. The second in the series of Private Eye Delanie Fitzgerald is awaiting publication, so I’ll get my Delanie fix soon. Some of the other series I follow include Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, Laurie King’s Mary Russell series, the Preston and Child Aloysius Pendergast novels, Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt series and her William Monk series, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, and it goes on and on. Orderofbooks.com is a website I check now and then to see what I’ve missed. I am books and books behind, in many of these series . . . so many books, such little time!
The October 2016 new mystery book releases page at cozy-mystery.com informs me of more books I’ve missed. Tasha Alexander recently released A Terrible Beauty, the eleventh book in her Lady Emily Mystery Series. Christine Trent’s 2016 A Grave Celebration is Book Six of the Lady of Ashes Mystery Series. I am truly amazed to see that Donna Andrews is up to Book #20 in her Meg Langslow Mystery Series; Bill Crider released Book 23 in his Dan Rhodes Mystery Series; and Monica Ferris’s Knit Your Own Murder is Book 19 in her Needlecraft Mysteries Mystery Series. Patricia Cornwell is up to Book 24 in the Kay Scarpetta Mystery Series; Janet Evanovich, Book 23 in the Stephanie Plum Mystery Series. I must admit that I don’t necessarily follow all these series; I simply regard the numbers with awe. I’m not the only reader invested in characters enough to follow them through fiction over time.
Now the hazards. I have overdosed on some characters, mainly because they change over time in ways I don’t expect or like. Other readers tell me they overdose on a character because he/she never changes. I recently stopped reading a series book written by a beloved author because the book was not what I expected. Expectation is a big word; it may signal danger to series writers. We readers are invested to the point where we have preconceived ideas about a main character. We also are accustomed in a series to a writer’s method and tempo. Since we keep reading the series, we like the style. The author veered from her usual style in the book I put down, and I am disappointed, but not enough to keep me away from her next book. I will give the author another chance or two since I am so invested emotionally to all the regular characters.
How many chances will you give an author to return to his/her series authenticity? Two? Three? Have you dismissed an author only to be sorry when you rediscover him? Share with us some of the pleasures and pitfalls of reading the mystery series you follow. Me? I’m off to read Murder at the Moonshine Inn!