Monday, January 16, 2012

Archer Mayor #23 and Other Evidence of Mystery Series That Alternate

Okay, I apologize already for the title -- but it really does describe what I'm up to.

This weekend, Vermont mystery author Archer Mayor has posted on Facebook some details of his exciting 23rd book in the Joe Gunther police procedural series. The book won't come out until the fall of this year, by Mayor's turned in his manuscript and today he announced the title: PARADISE CITY. Please, please, let the publishing process leave the title as is!

As a New England traveler, I knew right away what "Paradise City" refers to -- Northampton, Mass., has a wonderful long-standing autumn art fair called the Paradise City Arts Festival. The photo here gives you a bit of the flavor.

And as a mystery fan, I'm delighted with how Mayor handles keeping his Joe Gunther series fresh, by moving the action to a town away from Gunther's hometown of Brattleboro, VT, in every second book. It works.

Canadian author Louise Penny uses the same geographic alternation: one book mostly centered in her fictional village of Three Pines (in the rural part of Quebec Province, just north of the Vermont border), the next in another location such as Montreal or Quebec City. Penny has confessed that with at least one death in each of her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books, she'd come close to depopulating Three Pines if she set every murder there! So alternating location works well for her.

Another series that I enjoy is the Lydia Chen/Bill Smith one created by S. J. Rozan, who ought to get a LOT more name recognition -- if you haven't read any of hers, try a couple of these well-built traditional mysteries with a provocative location, New York's Chinatown. Rather than alternate locations, Rozan alternates narration voice for this series: one book from Lydia's point of view, the next from Bill's. Because the two characters are so different, and there's such great tension between them, the alternating perspective is exciting.

So -- reader question of the day -- what other mystery authors make a practice of alternating some particular aspect within a mystery series? (Husband Dave, you're not allowed to add your own comments until a few hours from now, to give other readers a chance!)

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