Monday, 12 November 2012

Reading a Series in Order - and Belinda Bauer

I've posted before about the vexed question of whether or not it matters that a series of books is read in the order of publication. Some fans are very keen to read in order, though the majority of people I've discussed the issue with are fairly relaxed whether or not they read in strict sequence. The question came back to mind when I was reading Finders Keepers by Belinda Bauer.

I've read Bauer's debut, the superb Blacklands, but somehow missed out on the follow-up, Darkside. I was then asked to review Finders Keepers for that excellent website Tangled Web UK, and so I took it away with me on my recent Adriatic cruise. Suffice to say that I was soon hooked and I think this book- although very different from Blacklands - is equally splendid. All the books are set in Exmoor, which is evoked in a suitably atmospheric fashion.

Bauer tells a terrific story about a series of abductions of children, from a variety of viewpoints, including those of two characters she has written about previously. These are police officer Jonas Holly, and young Steven, who in this book meets the girl of his dreams However, I did think that I missed something because I hadn't read Darkside. This, more than most series, probably should be read in order.

All the same, that didn't really spoil my enjoyment or lessen my admiration for Bauer's skill. There is no real whodunit element, and the abductor's identity and motivation is revealed long before the end. In lesser hands, this would be a major structural flaw. But Bauer doesn't only get away with it, she focuses our attention on character and suspense, so that it is possible to suspend disbelief (which, to be honest, you need to do to get the best out of the story) as we follow a dramatic sequence of events quite breathlessly. A very good book from an impressive writer who stands out from the crowd. I really must read Darkside now!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I try to write my books as standalones. However, I noticed the other day on my website stats, that one of the biggest Google searches that resulted in readers landing on my site was "Myrtle Clover books in order." So...readers can feel very strongly about reading books in order, whether or not it's needed.

Martin Edwards said...

Good point, Elizabeth. many thanks. One thing that worries me sometimes is availabilty of older books in a series, although perhaps ebooks make that less of a problem nowadays.

Deb said...

When it's just a matter of the same characters appearing in various books, I don't think it matters if you read the books in order; but some--for example, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles's Bill Slider mysteries really should be read in order because the characters really do evolve and change over time. Same for Peter Robinson's Banks series and Stuart McBride's books.