A discussion of series novels and some suggestions for reading


I really enjoy reading, but it took a while for me to learn the enjoyment of reading.  As a sophomore in high school, the book, “Exodus,” by Leon Uris, captured my imagination, and while it took me a while to get through such a long book, I got interested in the characters and stayed with them throughout.  Now I find it much easier to get interested in reading books.  I tend to favor fiction, but lately I’ve been reading quite a bit of non-fiction that has also been of great interest to me.  Sometimes I get stuck.  I find that I just can’t get into reading anything.  I’ll read two or three books a week for several months, and then I’ll come up against a brick wall.  I just can’t seem to find anything that really draws me in.  When that happens, I turn to an author with whom I am familiar; an author who never disappoints me. 

I actually enjoy series writers.  Sue Grafton introduced Kinsey Milhone in 1982 with “A is for Alibi.”  She has worked her way through the alphabet with “B is for Burglary” all the way to “V is for Vengence.”  Kinsey is a private investigator.  Several of the characters are in every episode, and I enjoy the familiarity of the various characters.  They’re like old friends.  Of course, not all of them are likeable, but you already know that and accept them as a part of the story.  Another series writer who has attained a great deal of recognition lately is Janet Evanovich with her Stefanie Plum series.  Stefanie is a bounty hunter.  She has two love interests, and a string of minor characters that add color to her stories.  Her first book in this series was made into a movie, but poor casting ushered the movie into the forgettable pile.  Reading the series is kind of mindless fun though, and still enjoyable.  Her series is numbered: “One for the Money,”  “Two for the Show” and so on.  It helps the reader remember what they’ve already read, and what’s next in line.  This is far from great literature and not at all believable. Maybe that’s the secret to its charm.

Now I come to the series that’s currently my favorite.  I’m not trying to tell you what to read, but if you’re looking for some good entertaining reading, you might try this.  This is the J.D. Robb, “in Death” series.  The first of these books was recommended to me, and I was told that humor was an important part of the series.  I really like things that make me laugh, so I gave it a try.  I didn’t really find the first one all that funny, but I liked it well enough to read a second and then a third.  Now I’ve read the entire series and watch for news of the latest episode.  In this case, the latest and 36th episode is called “Calculated in Death.”

J.D. Robb is actually Nora Roberts. I have read none of the Nora Roberts books.  I admit that the titles of this series is a bit grizzly, always ending “in Death.”  The books, though are well written and really do have a lot of humor as well as a number of recurring characters that make an appearance in all of the novels in this series.  NYPD homicide lieutenant Eve Dallas is the central character.  Set in the 2059-2060, she zips around New York in vehicles with abilities far beyond what policemen presently have to chase down criminals.  She is paired with extremely wealthy Roarke in her home life.  They live in a veritable castle in the middle of New York.

Dallas is the girl who always gets her man, or woman.  Whomever has taken another person’s life will be caught by this rough and tumble cop that can show up at any red carpet event putting  the most gorgeous ingénue on the last page of the social register.  Dallas, called Lieutenant Dallas or sir by her underlings, survived a wretched childhood marred by abandonment from her mother and abuse by her father.  These wrongdoings helped mold her into a formidable member of law enforcement.  She is flanked by her husband, Roarke, who, after a life of crime, graduated to legitimate businessman unafraid of bending the law.  He owns much of New York and has additional holdings that even include off planet resorts, all first class in nature.

It’s the futuristic angle of Robb’s series that gives it a special flavor.  All computers are operated by voice commands.  Wrist units put our present day I-phones in the dust.  Urban wars are often referred to as the event that shaped this futuristic world.  Many of the sci-fi aspects of this series are believable.

Dallas is also teamed up with Peabody, her partner in crime enforcement and one of her best friends.  A product of hippie-like parents, Peabody is in love with another cop who works with the electronic aspect of crime and crime solving.  She is obsessed with all the things Dallas sneers at, but they grow to respect and even admire each other, working together to form a crime fighting team.  Nadine Furst is a crime reporter who constantly aims at getting the first scoop.  Mira, a police psychologist, befriends Dallas and helps her deal with her littered past.  Rock star, Mavis, holds the spot as best friend of Dallas. 

Somerset is Roarke’s major domo who keeps their over the top mansion running along with Galahad, the house cat.  Somerset’s disciplined conduct makes for a somewhat comic antagonism to Eve’s less structured manner.  In spite of insults the two hurl at each other, there is a special quality to their relationship.  Somerset comes from Roarke’s colorful past and he is devoted to his employer, who plays the junior in their father-son relationship.   Roarke, too, came from an abused childhood.

Throughout the series, glimpses of Dallas’s and Roarke’s past are relayed, always increasing the intensity of the ongoing stories.  Roarke’s brilliance with the financial aspect of legitimate and illegitimate business dealings makes him the perfect candidate to supplement Dallas’s instinct for bringing perpetrators to justice.

There are some rather graphic descriptions of crime scenes, always having to do with murder.  Some of the detailed scenes of amorous between Dallas and Roarke are a bit gratuitous, but I suppose they do flesh out the story line, if you get my drift.

The beauty of this series is the recurring characters.  Even some minor players have distinct characteristics that help the reader remember how they work their way into the stories.  Robb’s ability to paint visceral descriptions of her characters gives her writing in this series a visual aspect that rivals most movies.

This series might not appeal to everyone, but I have truly enjoyed it and wait for each new edition.  I don’t much care for reading books about characters I don’t really care much for.  I like almost all of Robb’s characters in this series.  Even the true antagonists are interesting and compelling.  Reading is a great form of entertainment, which one can enjoy at whatever pace feels right.  If you’re looking for a new series to follow, you might consider this option.  The first book in the series is “Naked in Death,” which was published in 1995.  She’s still going strong.