I’m a mystery/crime reader who is not big on novel series. (Full disclosure: I stopped reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books in the middle of Nothing to Lose and haven’t gone back. I may be the only person in the world who can say “I stopped reading Reacher.” Not something I’m bragging about, by the way.) I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out which one or two books I should sample from a series to try out writers.
I know it’s just me and that I’m out of step with most other mystery readers who just can’t wait for the next Poirot novel by Agatha Christie to come out. Imagine. Me. Out of step. Go figure.
There are writers who I enjoy reading their standalone books but can’t really get into their series character. Laura Lippman, for example. And some writers, I slurp down all the books in a series in what seems to me like a single gulp. The Dave Brandstetter novels by Joe Hansen.
My brainy wife and blogmate can sit down and rip through an entire series by an author in a week and enjoy every one of them. She can read authors who have multiple series (in order, one after the other), enjoy all the books, and even keep the characters straight. See Charlaine Harris and her characters Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, Aurora Teagarden, and Lily Bard.
I’ve tried to devise the best way to try out mystery series. I’ve failed.
Here’s why. I don’t think that the first book in a series is necessarily the best place to start. Ian Rankin wrote in The Lineup: the world’s greatest crime writers tell the inside story of their greatest detectives (edited by Otto Penzler) that he thinks that Knots and Crosses is in some ways too literary. That Rebus knows books a detective in his position, with his background, shouldn’t know. So that may not be the best introduction to the series.
Some authors definitely get better as they go. Some hit it for a six their first time at the crease. How do you know?
So, where do you start with a series detective? Whose word do you take that this would be the place to first encounter Lord Peter Whimsey or Travis McGee or Stephanie Plum? Luck? Trial and error?
So I turn to you, mystery and crime readers. Help me out here. Suggestions for series to sample and one or two books from that series as a place to start?
David and Jody Speer are crime fiction fans who live in the American Midwest. Regular attendees of Bouchercon, you can read more about their views on crime fiction on their blog: shereadshereads.blogspot.com