What Makes up a Great Mystery Series?

May 24, 2018
So, I’ve been thinking….
(Yes, I have!  If you wonder where I’ve been for weeks and weeks, I’ve been lost in the woods thinking.  And, despite the heat of the oncoming summer, I believe I’ve come up with a thought.)
Of all the fictional genres out there, one of the most-popular (if not the most) is the mystery novel.  I’m not sure what it says about humanity, but almost half of us who read for enjoyment, find nothing more relaxing than curling up with a story about murder and mayhem.  Maybe we like these stories because of the implicit drama involved, or we like the good guy/bad guy aspect.  Maybe it’s the aspect of solving puzzles we favor.  For whatever reason, a lot of people like mysteries.   And some of the most successful mysteries are part of an ongoing series.
Go hang out with a book club or the mystery/thriller section any bookstore around, and you’ll see what I mean.  Sooner or later you’ll hear someone ask about “the latest Alex Cross” or “the next Kay Scarpetta,” which can sound a little odd, to a newbie.  Fact is, both names belong to fictional sleuths who each star in their own best-selling series of mystery stories.  And I’m talking about enormous popularity here, characters who inspire movies, and web pages and reams of fan-fiction and debate.  So, I have to ask myself, Self, what keeps readers coming back?
So I’d like to look at some popular mystery series during June when people are out at the beach, or in their hammock, head first in another tale about crime.  But, instead of looking at an individual novel, let’s break down some successful mystery series, past, and present, and figure out what made/makes each one work.    And I’d like to have your help.
Now I have my favorites, same as everyone else, but I’d like to hear which ones you like and why.  Do you favor a Mutt-&-Jeff team like Holmes and Watson?  An amateur busybody, like Miss Jane Marple?  A tortured justice professional, like Dr. Scarpetta?  Or an endearing accidental detective, like Odelia Grey or Stephanie Plum?  There’s no judgment here, I just want your feedback to learn what characters have really grabbed your imagination.  And, yes, I’m always hoping to find another good book.
So, fire up those grills, unpack those swimsuits and let’s get ready for some light summer reading.  Just remember not to trip over the corpse that usually appears by Chapter 3!

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