Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Mysteries/Series I Own But Haven’t Licked

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: the mystery genre is king of the serializing format.  Book after book.  Release after release.  Year after year.  We follow the misjudgments, drawbacks, and achievements of whatever leading star protagonist we’ve grown attached to.  Attached enough to carry us through book one to book... [insert your number here]. 

Some series are short-lived, and some are decades long.  Some series entries are strong, and some are weak.  In many cases, the author runs out of ideas and begins phoning in his or her stories.  But a few has consistent, formula-driven quality.  Whereas others hit-or-miss after about the fifth or tenth book.  Then there’s cases where an author loses some of his or her audience completely.  Whether it’s by pulling the trigger on loaded opinions, expressed through characters.  Or increasing the vulgarity behind plotted sex and/or crime.  Or–the worse offense–implanting shock factor techniques instead of fleshing out a plausible story.  You refer whatever occasion you've left an author's work for.  
Whether you chose to keep reading a series depends on your level of commitment to author and star.  And “commitment” is the operative theme of this post.
Recently–with so many books coming in–I struggled with what to read.  (Don’t you hate when you have plenty at your fingertips, yet feel you can’t define your mood enough to find which book will serve?)  I scanned my shelves and new-books pile reasoning with myself why this title may work versus this one.  I knew one of them needed to quell my reading thirst, especially with a thunderstorm coming into town.  Candles, books, the pattering rain and roiling thunder; a cozy reading session in manifested!
While I eventually found a book to read (Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon #4, Firestorm), I gaped at the number of mystery/thriller series I’ve abandoned to the shelves over the years.  Some are seven years within their abandonment.  And a few of the unreads I’m a little ashamed–given my love of the genre–to admit I've left to collect dust.  But where did all these books come from?  Who recommended them?  How old was I when I bought them?  And why did I abandon them in the hopes of retreating to them later, at a more desperate date in the future?
That’s what I want to ask and explore in this post.  For those who’ve read any of these books/series, please provide me validity for my issues at hand.  Or express how important it is to keep going.

1.  Robert B. Parker’s Family Honor
First in Parker’s Sunny Randall private-eye series, Family Honor has all the ingredients of the genre I love.  You know, a female detective doing her thing piecing together a murder conspiracy.  Yet, the unfortunate draw is I never finished the book.  It’s been years since I picked it up, so I can’t pinpoint why I bailed on Sunny’s debut more than halfway through.  But I have an idea, stirred by how certain memory imprints emerges after visual cues.  See while Parker is one of the kings of this genre, he left me unfulfilled.  But why?  Parker's the master of dialogue, right?  Well, it's his tool to swiftly get his scenes, narrative, and plot points in motion.  But maybe it was too much for me, whisking through Family Honor at top speed.  So while I can’t really compare the two, Family Honor read like a better written and somber Stephanie Plumb novel.  So fast-paced I never anchored to Sunny Randall herself.  Still, I’ve held on to the book for another attempt.  Though years later at this point.

2.  Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Murder
This is an unread debut stuffed inside my shelf for years (I’m thinking 2009).  Chocolate Chip Murder is first in Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series.  An obvious cozy mystery series themed around sweets and baked goods.  Yet, no matter how insanely popular this series is, I’ve yet to crack open my copy of the first book.  I have no explanation why, but I think it has a lot to do with its formatting.  Silly, I know.  But the print is so small and the book is so thick, with the extra short story and recipes.  So every time I pick it up I feel like it’s a high fantasy novel-level read, camouflaged as a cozy.  Weird, I know.  I’m a walking contradiction sometimes.  Big book.  Little book.  Big words.  Little words.  More details.  Less details.  It goes on.  Or maybe I'm just never in the mood.
3.  Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game
Eh.  So we know I don’t really sprint for leading male protagonist to serve my crime fiction.  On the occasion, maybe.  The Quiet Game came into my possession through the influence of a volunteer working my public library’s used bookstore.  At first she pushed me a copy of Greg Iles’ book, 24 Hours.  You know, as she raved about how amazing it was.  Sold by her enthusiasm, I took 24 Hours as she slipped me a copy of The Quiet Game to boot.  They were a dollar, so I didn’t really fuss.  And, fact is, once I cracked open the copy of 24 Hours, I read it in one sitting.  That’s how glued I was.  The book was a thrill ride you’d hate to put down.  Unfortunately, the same uhmph hasn’t quite caught up with The Quiet Game.  I can blame the thickness of the book.  I could say those 400+ pages to wallow through with Penn Cage (I’m sure he’s a great protagonist) in lead holds me back.  A number of excuses will do.  Yet at the end of the day, I’ve held on to my copy all the same.  One day.  Just one day I’ll get to it.  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll get hooked and engorge myself on the entire series.
4.  Frankie Y. Bailey’s Death’s Favorite Child
I've got an idea why I haven’t read this book after five years.  Why?  Because it’s not first in the Lizzie Stuart series.  I later learned A Dead Man’s Honor is the proper debut of this sleuth’s adventures.  Naturally drawn to a series with an African American female lead and writer; Death's Favorite Child is an easy necessary regardless of its position.  It just sucks I haven’t went back to correct my mistake by ordering the first book in the series.  You know.  OCD fully functioning and all.

5.  Eleanor Tayler Bland’s Whispers in the Dark
My most pitiful and shameful confession arrives with my stalling Bland’s Marti MacAlister series with book nine.  I was on a roll with MacAlister through 2012-2013.  Then I got to the ninth book.  Here, Bland took my favorite black female cop through the city and into the islands for two different plot lines.  One plot focused on MacAlister's profession, the other on a friend’s personal life.  There was just something about this book that drought'ed my thirst.  Well, my thirst for this specific chapter in the series.  So my resounding solution is to forget about this entry and move on to the next.  There aren’t enough Marti MacAlisters or Eleanor Taylor Blands out there for either to be forgotten.  And I still got five more books in the series to go.  Count me in still!
6.  Patricia Cornwell’s Southern Cross
Cornwell started writing this new third-person series before she took her famed forensic pathologist, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, out of the first person narrative and into third.  The changes in POV were experimental you could say.  But when that switch reached Scarpetta, it brought a string of books most dedicated readers cringed over.  Well, the same cringe can kind of apply for Cornwell’s Andy Brazil series–the original guinea pig of her expanding her writing chops.  As show above, Southern Cross is second in the Andy Brazil series.  (Somehow I made it through the maze of the first book, Hornet’s Nest.)  There’s only so much I say about Southern Cross.  Besides how crazy and directionless it felt.  For whatever reason, I feel almost obligated to take all three of the Andy Brazil books down.  “Down” as in swallow, but not "eject."  Nonetheless, I only got a quarter through Southern Cross when I realized it was a going to be a difficult test of my patience.  Something about digital fish swimming over a computer monitor's screen froze me out of the game.  I haven’t been back since the summer of 2011.
7.  Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
No explanation needed.  Only bask in my shame as I unveil the biggest misstep in my crime fiction reading career.  That’s right.  The first Temperance Brennan novel has sat unread on my shelf for close to six years now.  A hot ass mess indeed.  I pick it up year after year, but can never seem to get pass the first chapter.  So I set it aside and save it for the following year.  It’s pitiful.  It’s a shame.  You’d think I'd glutton my way through a series revolving around a female forensics anthropologist.  But I haven’t.  Those are the sad facts.

Well that’s it, guys.  My list of shameful owned but unreads mysteries/series is complete.  Give a guy a round of applause for admitting some of these faults!

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