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.