Getting Past Book Three (An Argument for Trilogies)

November 23, 2012

I am completely depressed because I just finished books 5 and 6 on the Bibliophile Mysteries by Kate Carlisle and they were...not good. I finished book 6 a week ago and I am still bummed, let me tell you.

This series is not a super-fantastic font of fabulous reading, but books 1-4 were decently-written, light and fun mysteries with a splash of romance. The heroine, Brooklyn Wainwright, is a book-binder and restores books, teaches classes, and has fun with a funky family and friends. You learn a bunch about rare books, book-binding, paper-making and related talents, and I have a total weakness for that kind of thing. Yeah, I am One of Those People. I enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, not because of the popular vampire element, but because I am a sucker for characters who spend hours at the Bodleian library at Oxford.

I know. It's a problem.

Brooklyn finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery in book 1, and acquires hunky boyfriend, former MI6 agent and current owner of an international security company Derek Stone by the end of the book. So, we are all set for a series of mysteries with Brooklyn and Derek teaming up to discover dead bodies and find the murderer, all within 250 pages or so.

Sounds good to me. I spent books 1-4 enjoying libraries, rare book collections, book-binding, Brooklyn and Derek and their friends and family, and, of course, a few murders.

I downloaded books 5 and 6 last week and looked forward to reading them during a long weekend trip to Pennsylvania. Lots of car time to fill. One Book in the Grave strains even my limits of credibility - and I am pretty forgiving. Friend who has been dead for 3 years turns up not-so-dead? OK. Reason for faking his death? Anonymous threats to his fiance. He couldn't keep placing her in danger. Huh? The story goes downhill from there. And book 6 was even worse. Peril in Paperback sets itself up as an update of And Then There Were None and epically fails. Nothing in this books makes sense. Logic-challenged elements include police who can't get to the house to investigate the murder or even collect the body; Gabriel, Brooklyn's mysterious, espionage-inclined friend shows up at the house for no apparent reason; an unrelated-to-the-characters-or-the-plot orphaned baby is delivered to the door for Brooklyn's lesbian friends. Derek also shows up because he misses Brooklyn, and he is all rumpled on arrival since he drove a Jet-ski to get there. Whoa, what? Yeah, it's winter in Tahoe, snow on the ground, Jet-Ski. And his clothes are not wet.

And in all the WTF-ness, I pondered the whole series idea and decided that the magic book number is three, Harry Potter being one possible exception. I've read a lot of book series, it turns out. J.D. Robb In Death series? Ugh. Checked out after about book 4. Laurie King's Mary Russell books - same thing; God of the Hive was awful (first 3 or 4 books are fabulous though, highly recommend). George R.R. Martin? I got halfway through the latest Song of Ice and Fire</em> - and halfway was 450 freakin' pages - and just said, I can't do this.

Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series was great and creepy and fresh - and she stopped at book five, which may have been smart, despite the fact that she stopped so she could concentrate on her Jo Beckett series, which isn't nearly as good. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. Clan of the Cave Bear books by Jean Auel. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - now there is a classic example of a series that needed to end 3 books ago. And the first book was So. Damn. Excellent. Gah!

Anything written by James Patterson.

The Chronicles of Narnia! Did ANYONE really read The Silver Chair after about page 10? No. Don't lie. You know you didn't.

Not that stopping at three is the answer - as illustrated by Fifty Shades of Grey, some authors needed to stop at one. Or none. But think about it. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - didn't care for how she wrapped it up, but she wrapped it up in a trilogy and didn't leave anyone thinking it should have been shorter (or longer, for that matter). His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. The Millenium Series - aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - by Stieg Larsson.

The Lord of the Rings...although, really, am I the only one who skimmed big gobs of The Two Towers?

And then there are the authors who take YEARS to get to the next book. I'm talkin' about you, Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles). And you, Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastard Series). Geez, don't even get me started...