Certain things cling like a willowy blonde to a bald millionaire when it comes to mystery novels written in a series —
- You get to enjoy the same attractive characters time after time.
- You get to see the characters develop over time.
These positive points of light, however, can cast negative shadows —
- You may grow weary of plots that do not vary from a set pattern.
- You may wish for more than a drip or drab of gripping plot aspects that extend over a number of books.
In this review, we will look at two fine mystery series writers, Cara Black and Louise Penny.
And I will give my personal reaction to each writer and her series.
I am current, but just that, with the Aimee Leduc series that Black has been writing since 1999. I must admit to a certain fatigue concerning the series. I find that I have become restive concerning the way Aimee gets banged around in each title and the way that the author is stingy with details about Aimee’s mother, who disappears when Aimee is a child. From the 12 books that I have read in this series, I could collect the details about Aimee’s mom and fill about ten pages total. This is what drives Aimee, but it gets treated like a cheap trick.
For the first time in the many years that I have been following this series, I read a few pages of the 12th title and set the book aside and did not pick it up for a number of months. A new book in the series was announced for a 2013 release while I was sitting on Murder at the Lanterne Rouge like a broody hen.
Aimee Leduc, a spike-haired woman detective in 1990s Paris, works in computer security with her partner, Rene, a dwarf with a taste for fine clothes and cars. Aimee is continually derailed into detective work, to Rene’s constant irritation. She has a hard time saying no, and I am not talking about the string of bad boy lovers she has had over the years.
Rene’s irritation at Aimee has long since started to irritate this reader. The bad boy thing, too.
Mind you, I am likely to buy and read any book with Paris in the title, and this is how I found this series. It pains me to admit that I am tired of a certain sameness that has crept in that is just not the thing.
And the plot decision of making each book a month or so later than the book before means that Aimee has been banged up and in the hospital far too many times in an alarmingly short span of time.
In the real world, she would be a vegetable by now.
Leave the girl time to heal, already.
I am happy to report that I am current with the Chief Inspector Gamache series written by Quebec writer Louise Penny. The eight titles in the series, which started in 2005, have a depth of plot and character that keeps me coming back.
Black is the smoother writer of the two, but Penny delivers a deeper experience and a wider cast of characters. The occasional roughness in her writing points to a problem in the editing department but does not detract, and may just add, to the appeal of this writer for me. I have a connection with her, warts and all. Mine and hers.
The latest title, The Beautiful Mystery, takes place in a monastery, which is a departure for this series, which to this point has been set in a small, out-of-the-way village in Quebec named Three Pines.
I had a powerful experience, far beyond the usual for series novels, when I read The Beautiful Mystery. It all but invaded my dreams and certainly occupied several of my waking hours even after I had finished the book.
I love it when a book does that for me.
Go to www.fantasticfiction.com and type in Cara Black in the search box. Start with the first book in the Aimee Leduc series and get it as a used hardcover from Amazon for about ten bucks. See if the tough, pretty Aimee in her vintage designer dresses and heels grabs your heart. This is likely to happen, and I know that this is what a reader wishes.
Go to Fantastic Fiction and type in Louise Penny, and start with the first novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. Expect to pay considerably more for the first three titles in the series if you wish them to be hardcover first editions. If memory serves, I paid about forty bucks for a signed first edition. Or you can get all the titles for your eReader. I switched to Kindle versions after reading a number of the earlier titles in hardcover.
Both of these writers will give you good value, and depending on your tastes, can continue to do so.
I cannot wait to read the next Gamache title. There are at least three characters in crisis, and I care about each one.
I can wait to read the promised 13th title in Black’s Aimee Leduc series but one day I will, and I suspect that I will be glad that I did.
In reading over my comments on the Aimee Leduc series, I am startled by how snarky I sound, but maybe not as startled as you will be to hear me say that I recommend both writers’ series with equal zeal. My intention is to speak truth in love.
As a writer currently blushing like a flower unseen and wasting his sweetness on the desert air, I wish I had problem-reviews like this thing of light and darkness, mine.