Sunday, May 15, 2011
Today I was the guest at Whodunit mystery bookstore in Winnipeg. It's a fabulous little store and Jack and Wendy, the owners, are just full of knowledge about mystery books, past and present. Despite the fact that today was the first nice day after weeks of cold rain a nice number of folks came out to eat cupcakes, drink tea and talk books with me. We got onto the subject of series books. I tell readers that you don't HAVE to read the Constable Molly Smith books in order, because each plotline begins and ends in one book, but if you like character development, then you might want to start with the first. Which in this case is In the Shadow of the Glacier. The Klondike books can be read in any order as they take place within a very narrow time frame.
Jack, the owner of Whodunit, and a man who has read just about everything, was most insistent that he strongly disapproves of books that require the reader to have read something else first. Every book should stand and fall strictly on it's own merits. An interesting point, I thought. Today's readers, I think, do like character development in a series. They like to follow the main characters as people come and go in their lives. Can that be overdone? Can you give so much character development that you end up spoiling a latter book for someone who hasn't read an earlier one?
I think in particualar of Susan Hill's Simon Seralllier series, unquestionly one of my favourites. You have to read those books in order, particuarly the first three. I did read the second book first, and when I read the first one I knew what was coming and so the shocking ending was no shock at all.
Then there is Steig Larsson's series. If you haven't read the first and second, don't even bother picking up the third.
Contrast this with Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks novels in which Banks grows and changes and his life changes but it is done so slowly that the order of the books really doesn't seem to matter. At least in my humble opinion.
I'd love to know what you think? Do you want a series that has to be read in order? Or, like Jake, does it annoy you?