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Thoughts on Mystery Series

October 22, 2007

I promised I’d talk more about why I like the Kincaid/James mysteries; here it is, such as it is.

I think it’s two things. One, I like watching the relationship between Kincaid and James develop. I want to see where it’s going, and I have faith that it won’t go the same way the Lynley/Havers relationship has gone in Elizabeth George’s mysteries. (More on that another time.)

Two, it’s interesting to see how the stories grow more complex and unique. The first one was good, but not as good as the later books. The other thing that I think sometimes happens when a writer is working on a series is that she figures out what she’s doing as she goes along. I’m noticing a trend in the Crombie books to connect the mystery to events in the past, whether a character’s past or the historic past. (Sarah Stewart Taylor does the same thing with the Sweeney St. George mysteries, which makes a lot of sense, given that Sweeney studies funerary art.)

Sarah Graves, in what is now the Home Repair is Homicide series, didn’t focus as much on the home repair side of things in the early books; the focus was more on Jake Tiptree’s past as a financial wizard and the early titles–<i>Dead Cat Bounce, Triple Witch</i>, reflected that). Over time, however, Jake’s struggles with her very old Federalist house created a theme for the series, which now have titles like Trap Door, Nail Biter, and Tool and Die.

And all of this wanders away–I think–from why I like the Kincaid/James series. I like the characters and I care about what happens to them. I like the writing, the way Crombie uses language. I like the puzzles–even if I figure out part of the mystery, there’s always something I didn’t figure out. and, throughout the series, there’s never been anything that irritated me, made me roll my eyes, or yearn to take my editing pencil to the work.

I have five more books in the series to read–I’ll update this as I read them.

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