How do you choose a series to read?
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As an adult I've never been a series reader, in any genre. However, recently I've been seeing the appeal of finding a character you enjoy and whose story continues throughout multiple books.
My question is, especially in the crime/mystery genre - how on earth do you find a series that you like? There are just SO MANY.
I've recently started reading the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell and I also heard about the Kathleen Mallory series by Carol O'Connell through another thread somewhere else comparing the main character to Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I've been on the lookout for other series, but like I said - there are just so many out there. How do you find the ones that appeal to you?
Mostly recommendations from friends or this community. I follow some series still and some I've dropped (Scarpetta being one of the first to go). Some authors sustain their series well and some don't and I feel no guilt when they don't. There has to be more than the plot of each one to keep me; characters, long-arc situations, backstory, something. And of course the individual crimes have to be good as well; a clunker here and there doesn't worry me if the rest of the package is strong.
Different series for different moods! I have a blog at http://booksmoviesandgames.wordpress.com/ and many of the entries are a column that I write for our local library. It is about mysteries and most of them are about series. I give a very brief description of the ones mentioned. Browsing through there might give you some names to start with and then you could check them out here to see reviews! Good luck, there are some great ones out there.
Look into Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series. The TV series by the same name is based on the books. Another favorite of mine is Karin Slaughter's Sara Linton/ Grant County series. After reading these I quite Kay Scarpetta.
The series I read do depend on the characterisation of the main protagonist but foremost the ones I choose depend on the 'type' of premise, or 'type' of crime even. By this I mean I would not like to invest in a heap of reading when I don't enjoy, for example only, psychological thrillers, or serial killers, or police procedurals, even if I liked the main character.
So I firstly decide on that - and then I find I want to read the whole series when I also like the style of writing (another important element when reading a long line of books) and become invested in the characters' fates.
add: I try the first in a series - often from reading threads and reviews on this site, or what my connections add or rate (this being lethal to my TBR pile) - and this helps me decide on which to try, and then whether to continue, as series both improve or decline as more books are written.
I also find (these days) taking a break and reading other genres in between books (maybe read 2, at the most 3 in a row) increases my enjoyment of the series.
And as mysterymax says: mood. :)
I generally get a lot of information about a certain author or recent release from suggestions on LT, friends, or amazon.com. About a year or so ago, however, I was reading the book reviews in People magazine and read about the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. It appealed to me for a few reasons: it's set in London, it's a historical mystery (1930's), and it deals with the psychological aspects of crime solving as opposed to a police procedural. I'm one of those readers that needs to read a series in order so I found the first in the series, Maisie Dobbs, and I've been a faithful reader since then. The mysteries are more cozy than intensely criminal and I like that.
I'm going to agree with the others in this post and agree that the Kay Scarpetta series aren't that compelling. They tend to be more about being "thrillers" than mysteries.
Take a look at someone's library on this site that you have a lot of books in common with and perhaps you'll find a series you love.
A great blog, mysterymax, I plan to go there often! In reference to Jewish sleuths, I really enjoyed the series by Batya Gur, Police procedurals set in modern-day Israel featuring Police Superintendent Michael Ohanyon. There are six books in English. They are long books, but I found them fascinating. Unfortunately, Ms. Gur passed away in 2005.
Other things I am interested in often lead me to good series, e.g.; interest in Elizabeth I led to series by Fiona Buckley and by Karen Harper.
The thriller series authors that keep me busy reading are Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, Lee Child, David Baldacci (he just started one with Zero Day, Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Christopher Reich, and Joseph Finder.
In my case, I read a lot of mysteries and if a series/ author is good that's goes on my list. Many series improve with time--I'd say Deborah Crombie, Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe and Jane Haddam's Demarkian books all improved over the series. Some slip--see Scarpetta!, and some tend to have roughly the same quality along the way whether good or bad, while others are hot and miss. Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder is good from the get-go. Got my start on some,oldies like Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe.
I love strong women protagonists and find Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone stories compelling. Sara Paretsky's V.I.Warshawsky tales , a somewhat tougher heroine here , are also excellent plus I love the Chicago setting. Other series reads which can be excellent are Police procedurals. In the last year I have discovered Peter Robinson's Alan Banks series, well worth a look as are the Charlie Resnick stories by John Harvey. What is it about all these dysfunctional cops that makes them so compelling?
Usually I read the current book of a series first. If I like it, I wil read all of the previous books in no apparent order.
Based on recommendations or reviews or the back of the book while browsing, I'll try the first one and, if it grabs me, off I go. Occasionally, even if the first isn't great, I'll try more if people say the series gets better. The types are all over the map - traditional, noir, thrillers, humorous ones, etc.
Right now Stephanie Plum, Joe Pickett, and Jack Reacher are among my favorites, and I'm always up for an Agatha Christie.
Elizabeth George's works -- beautifully written, long, intellectually compelling
Karin Slaughter's works -- character driven crack that you can't put down
Stuart MacBride's works -- Scottish, Logan McRae is fallible and funny, terrific books
Mo Hayder's Jack Caffery -- British, really dark and twisted, not for the faint-hearted
Martha Grimes' works -- American writing British mysteries, first about 12 are funny as well as beautifully written but then the characters fail to develop
Julia Spencer-Fleming's work -- cop and Episcopal priest working together, sounds kooky but terrific character development
I get ideas of which series I need to try out from all over the place -- mostly online, and mostly from reviews, or mentions on message boards (like here), or web sites dedicated solely to mysteries. I start reading the first book of a series, and if I'm interested, I keep reading. If I'm not interested for whatever reason, that series and author go on my "Not for me" list. There's a huge amount of good mystery series and authors out there. I can happily afford to be extremely choosey. This method works quite well for me. I have several beloved series that I'm working my way through and I go back and forth between them as the urge leads.
Good series, opposed to stand alones, are heavenly. Once the series has your stamp of approval, it's like a promise, a guarantee of a good read to come.
The series I'm reading now:
Lee Child's Jack Reacher
Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone
Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse
Andrew Vachss's Burke
Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache
If I find a series I'm considering, I'll pick a later book in the series to start. If I like it, I'll start the series from the beginning. I usually go by genre, as a private eye fan, I'm always looking for the next Crais or Lehane style author to develop. I'll occasionally stray into unfamiliar territory and try a cosy. As a fan of good writing, I recognize that while not my usual cup of PI tea, Carolyn Hart will deliver a good story. Discovering Doherty's historicals years ago turned me into a rabid fan.
I read one in the series. If it's good, I continue to read of that series, if I don't like, then I don't continue.
I like to read a big variety of authors, not only getting stuck on a couple. But if I do get stuck on one, I must really have liked their work!
I read one in the series. If I like that, I read another. If I like that, I keep reading the series until I get to the point where I know what's going to happen before I turn the page. When I get to that point, it's time to find a new series.
I work in the book industry, so between LibraryThing and work get a lot of exposure to different authors and series. Mostly I look out for a preponderance of good mentions and positive review attention, then decide if the premise sounds like something I'd find intriguing or enjoy. I'd never heard of Louise Penny before coming here, but saw so many people mention her series favorably that I gave it a try--and loved it. I'm also more likely to try a newer series with fewer volumes, so I feel like there's less to get through in order to get caught up.
If you're completely at a loss, LibraryThing is a great resource. Name the kind of book you're looking for, and you'll likely receive many suggestions.
If you're still looking, try Ian Rankin's Rebus novels. Set in Edinburgh, with a love of the place, some dry humour, and lots of music allusions which will mean something to you if you lived through the 70s. For more music loving sleuths, try Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books (also set in Edinburgh) - first one is Case Histories - & Linda Barnes' Carlotta Carlyle books, set in Boston/Cambridge. Peter Robinson's Alan Banks is into opera & jazz (I think), & lives in a fictitious town in Yorkshire.
There are some great Scandinavian crime writers around: Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg, Jo Nesbo to name but 3.
I find a lot of series here (just saw a few more I'll be exploring from this thread) and always start from book one and read in order. The series I enjoy the most the characters develop and change over time and I enjoy following that progression in order.
Another vote for Rankin and Nesbo. Both write about very interesting men that tend toward self destruction but are good detectives. I think it is important to read them both in order.
Another source for Mysteries is the web site, www.stopyourekillingme.com .
Try www.fictfact.com. You can get ideas, find additional series by a favorite author, and see each series in chronological order. They will also let you know when one of your series has a new book coming out. Check out the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva or the Thomas Pitt series by Anne Perry or the Leaphorn and Chee series by Tony Hillerman.
The names I didn't know I wrote down to try. The rest are all good.
When I find a series or author I like, I make a note on the list I keep in my book bag. Some series I have read in order, some not. Even if I read a series in order, I seldom read them one right after the other, taking time away so I don't get bored with a character. I also like to experiment with different authors for different moods.
It's a fabulous journey.
My favourite series is the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, followed by the Brunetti series by Donna Leon.
Generally when I come across a book which I enjoy and will search out others by the same author. If I find that the book is one of a series I will endeavour to get the rest and read them.
Currently I am re-reading Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series in alphabetical order and have just discovered that Marcia Muller's books are now available as e-books so I am re-reading them. Just to temper the mix I am reading Edmund Crispin's Gervase Fen books
I also own, and re-read, the Discworld books; the same with Amelia Peabody - I read and re-read those books.
I definitely second Elizabeth Peters "Amelia Peabody series". I am currently waiting on the next book in Anne Perry's "William Monk" series. There are many series that are too easy to put down and don't really hold my interest but if the characters have continuing problems and are developed well as each book is read then I find I can't wait for the next one to see what else happens in their lives. It's always a good idea to look at other's book lists that have similar taste with you.
A lot of my series are based on recommendations of others or if I see something that catches my eyes when I see someone else reading it here or on Goodreads. And then I still pick up books in the store or at sales because something about it interests me.
Recently, I've been getting most of my ideas for new authors or series from the threads in this very group. :)
Honestly I've probably "chose" by just never being opposed to trying out a new author. I picked up a Lisa Gardner book randomly on the shelf at Walmart several years ago because the pricetag was low. Turns out I absolutely love her books, and her Quincy/Rainie series is fabulous. I started the Lincoln Rhyme series because I enjoyed the movie (The Bone Collector), and fell in love with Lincoln (& Amelia) in written form. The Logan McRae series (Stuart MacBride) and Billy Bob Holland series (James Lee Burke) were ones randomly picked up at a book market that were cheap and sounded potentially interesting. So essentially, I see a cheap book that I like the sound of and I try it out. Usually, I like it.
Oh also, I am more inclined to pick up authors that I've heard good things about for ages, if I'm, say, in a library looking for nothing in particular, like Ian Rankin, Lee Child, etc. But I haven't really even done that yet because there's other things I want to read, and I like to own books (just because I love books and want them all hahaha) so I generally do as I said above, find one randomly for cheap that happens to be a series and enjoy it.
My current favorite series' from Sweden:
1. Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo -- The Martin Beck series
2. Leif GW Persson -- The Evert Bäckström series
3. Henning Mankell -- The Kurt Wallander series
4. Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom -- The Ewert Grens series
5. Stieg Larsson -- The Millennium triology
6. Ann Rosman -- The Karin Adler series
7. Camilla Lackberg -- The Fjällbacka series
8. Jens Lapidus -- The Stockholm noir series
Speak of the devil.... Maj Sjowall was on a tv-show about literature tonight (Sweden), and spoke old memories of writing the Martin Beck series with former partner Per Wahloo. She said that many new writers just don't know how to write and shouldn't write. She was funny. She also said that society has of course changed since the 1960s-1970s when they wrote the books, but the characters are timeless.
Also, the Martin Beck series really paved the way for today's crime novel, with an ordinary human being, but who is a little thick, smokes, is divorced...., in the main role.
They had writers such as Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Jonathan Franzen on Skype to speak of how they have been influenced by Sjöwall/Wahlöö and the Martin Beck series.
I find mine mostly via www.fantasticfiction.co.uk
I take an author that I like, like Vince Flynn, and look over similar authors (i.e Brad Thor) and authors that are recommended by the authors I read.
If you look at Vince Flynn's page, he recommends a number of authors. I browsed many of them, and being a huge fan of political thrillers, I just recently got The Inside Ring by Mike Lawson. If the book is any good, I'll read the others. If it's not, I dump the author (i.e. Ted Bell's book Hawke stunk, so I never bothered to read his others.)
Also, when I look at books they recommend, I go to that author's page, as sometimes the book they recommend is say, the 6th of a series. So I go to the Author's page, and go for the first book. Political Thrillers really do have to be read in order. Just seems too weird if the President is assassinated in the 7th book of a series, and then you go to read the 5th book and suddenly he's alive again.
Friends' recommendations, recommendations from this forum. There is a "New Books" section in my library and I usually browse that when I go to pick up books. That works about 50% of the time as I only skim the synopsis.
There are classic mystery works that I still find even though I have read a lot. Some authors like Christie and Georges Simenon wrote a lot and finding lists, much less the books, is difficult.
Thanks to all for the various websites.
I also use the Fantastic Fiction site as a source. I have been reading Medieval mysteries for the past several years. Of course it all started w/Brother Cadfael-I own all of them & have read them as well as having seen all of the BBC adaptations over & over!
So I became intrigued w/the era & started to look for more authors. I found many & have read all of the books I can get my hands on. Some of the series I have read a lot include Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series, Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse & Joliffe, the player series' & right now I am reading the Gil Cunningham series by Pat McIntosh.
All of the series I am reading & have read are set in England, Wales, & Scotland tho I would like to find one set in Ireland. My recent genealogy research has shown that many of my ancestors came from one or more of these places.
I really love the pace of life of that era as well as the total absence of all electronic media. I love my computer but as a History buff wish to experience another time vicariously-the only way I can! 8^)
#37 I believe Cora Harrison writes mysteries set in medieval Ireland (late medieval period). I have the first book in her lady judge series, but haven't read it yet.
I read one out of order if it got good reviews. If I like it and if it reads well even out of order, I read the rest in the series.
>39 I'm very similar. If I find an author several books into a series, I'll pick up a book a few entries into the series. Sometimes the first book or 2 the author is still feeling their way and the efforts aren't as good. If I like the characters/series when it's a little more established, I'm more tolerant of weaker initial books because I know it's going to get better. Then I can read forward in the series from where I started and catch up on earlier books when I can.
I think sometimes, especially with mysteries and thrillers, people overstate the need to start from the beginning.
I have not been able to find any of Cora Harrison's books in our library-will have to talk to a librarian about them. 8^)
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