Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Giving up on a Mystery Series

There was a discussion recently on Dorothy-L about what causes a reader to give up on a once favourite mystery series. I’ve just finished reading Steeplechase, Jane Langton’s latest Homer Kelly mystery, and I’m afraid that I’m ready to throw in the towel on this series. The last couple of instalments have been disappointing and this one is the thinnest of the lot. Homer has become a caricature of himself, and his wife Mary seems to be merely an excuse for Homer to talk out loud. The two of them are here reduced to a very flimsy structure upon which to hang the historical tale that is at the centre of the book. There is a great deal of interesting detail in that historical tale and I found it quite compelling toward the end. (Once I managed to straighten out all the characters with H names that is -- to have Horatio, Horace, Hector, and Homer all wandering about one novel struck me as unnecessarily confusing.) But the connection between it and the present day adventures of Homer and Mary is very tenuous. I loved the early books in this series -- the fascinating literary connections and the wonderful evocations of Harvard, Cambridge, Concord, and that whole area of New England. I miss the old Homer who was a real character rather than a compilation of blustery, annoying tics, and the old Mary who was a strong-willed woman with a mind of her own rather than just Homer’s sidekick. Steeplechase is the eighteenth book in this series. I recommend the first twelve without hesitation; thereafter, go at your own risk.


Janelle Martin said...

Sometimes you just have to pack it in. It isn't an easy decision, almost like have to break up with a lover or give away that favourite pet - but it has to be done.

Just know that the grieving will end...and then you'll be rewarded with enthralling reading.

Tania said...

It's tough to give up on a series that has been so good up until a certain point. There's always that little bit of hope that it could get good again.

I usually give it more than one bad book, just in case one was an aberration. I stop buying after one bad book, and stop borrowing from the library after two or three.

With only so much time to read, and so many good books out there, there's no time to waste on bad ones!

Bibliochef said...

Again, nice post. I agree with your decision on this particular series; she's really gone down hill. I originally liked Jane L. because of the erudite scholarship hidden in them;now it seems under researched, and too pat.

The first series that really did this to me was actually Sarah Paretsky, whose first novel was really smart and subsequent ones really went down hill. My sense is the second in a series is often very telling.

By the way, any suggestions on culinary mysteries? I like them, but find those series get a bit tedious very quickly.