What draws me to a mystery series is different than what attracts me to a standalone, be it mystery or thriller. If a book is a one-and-done, I tend to look for something akin to a roller coaster ride. A fast-paced page turner that raises a lot of questions to which I need to learn the answers. I love a good puzzle. Leave me breadcrumbs, even if they lead me in the wrong direction. I love to be fooled as long as I don’t feel cheated. In other words, don’t drop in a brand-new character in the last chapter and have them be the killer. Don’t neglect those tiny hints that sweet old Uncle Joe isn’t what he appears to be but do hide the clues, preferably in plain sight. I want to be surprised, but if I go back and re-read, I darned well better find clues I missed the first time.
With a series, while I still expect a puzzle, what makes me run to the bookstore to buy the next are the characters and the setting.
As a reader, I have two favorite series. Don’t make me choose which one I love the most!
One is Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. I was drawn to it originally because it’s set in Wyoming and I love the West. But I soon fell in love with Walt and Henry and Vic. I would follow them anywhere, including to Philadelphia where one of the books took place. I enjoy the cases they solve and the troubles they get into along the way, but honestly, I can’t wait for each new release because it means I get to hang out with the gang from Absaroka County again.
My other favorite is Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. She had me with the opening line of the first book. She lured me in with her vivid description of Miller’s Kill in upstate New York. But what kept me coming back was Clare, an Episcopalian priest who used to fly Army helicopters, and Russ, the chief of police who struggles to do the right thing even though he tends to follow his heart instead of his head. I’ve tagged along with them through tragedy and personal trauma, through blizzards and gunfights, and will continue to follow them anywhere, anytime.
I have other series that I devour, buying the new release the day it hits the stores, and they all have this in common: characters I feel are friends. They can have flaws. In fact, they should. None of us are perfect. But I must like them and want to hang out with them. Otherwise, I might read one book and enjoy the mystery, but I won’t come back for more.
Annette Dashofy is a USA Today Bestselling Author and four time Agatha Award Nominee including a 2018 best Contemporary Novel nod for No Way Home. Dashofy writes the popular Zoe Chambers Mystery series for Henery Press. The 8th book in the series, Fair Game is set to be released on May 12th of this year.