Serial Killer: When to "off" a series novel.
Last week, Janet Evanovich’s most recent Stephanie Plum novel, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, was released and I wasn’t first on line to purchase it. In fact, it’s now 9 days later and I still haven’t picked up the book–and I saw it in my travels to Costco, Target, and Borders yesterday.
Evanovich’s ‘numbers novels’ (and more recent marketing coup of ‘between the numbers novels’) don’t hold the same reading magic for me. I know that she tries to keep the stories fresh by introducing new characters and varied story lines but I’m just not as smitten anymore.
The stagnating state of Stephanie’s romantic interests is a Catch-22. If she decides between Ranger and Morelli all the sexual tension and suspense will evaporate; if she continues to waffle, Evanovich runs the risk of frustrating her readers.
Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series lost its luster for me a few years ago. How long can her wonderful landlord Henry really live? He’s well into his 80s or 90s by my count! Will Kinsey ever settle down? These novels are a bit more problematic because they lack strong supporting characters. Aside from Rosie, Henry, and his siblings, Kinsey doesn’t have any real mainstays.
Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels have held up reasonably well because she doesn’t pump them out with the same frequency as Evanovich. Her books also have a number of dynamic characters who continue to grow and change, creating fresh story lines and sub-plots.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with serial novels; I actually love to read them because I feel comfy in the protagonists’ lives. I know their habits, their friends, and their back stories, but worry about overstaying my welcome.
It stands to reason that many serial authors are motivated by publishers and agents who strongly encourage them to ‘strike while the financial iron is hot’. Perhaps fans would be devastated if Stephanie Plum turned in her handcuffs and pepper spray for wedded bliss and a brood of kids with Morelli. Who am I to say?
I don’t have any answers and just want to know what you think about serial novels. Is there a ‘right’ time to kill them off? If the writing is still fresh and the characters are still interesting, should the books go on to eternity? In your opinion, which serials should have been killed off long ago? Take a ‘stab’ at this and tell me what you think!