This is by way of a followup to my previous post about how to do readers advisory for books one does not personally like: to be absolutely fair to Joanne Fluke (as well as to other authors new to me), I probably ought to read at least two of the series before deciding whether to pan the series as a whole. To be honest, even the authors whose works I like as a rule do come out with books for which I do not care. Clunkers. I don’t like Jeanne Dams’ Holy Terror in the Hebrides, nor do I like Christie’s The Moving Finger or Jill Churchill’s A Knife in the Dark or War and Peas, but for all I know those are someone else’s absolute favorite. I know I ought not to decide to dislike a series based on just one book; for all I know, I picked the one book in the series which I’d dislike. Authors’ styles change over time; maybe I’d like the earlier books or the later ones better.
If I’m doing Readers Advisory, I have to figure out why the patron liked those particular books. I ought not to say anything more judgmental than “Lilian Jackson Braun’s writing style changed rather dramatically between books three and four in her ‘Cat who…’ series, possibly because there’s a 20 year gap between them.”
Well, I did manage to finish Blueberry Muffin Murder, and it was just as simple and quick a read as Strawberry Shortcake Murder. Having thought about it, I have another couple of types/groups who might like the series: young adults whose reading level has outpaced their maturity, and people who love cooking. Aside from the fact that there’s an obligatory dead body or two–they are murder mysteries, after all–they’re not particularly icky stories, a hallmark of cozy mysteries, and as such I’d feel comfortable suggesting them to younger readers. The later Harry Potter books were far bloodier and traumatizing than the Hannah Swensen mysteries, and I can’t imagine libraries quibbling about letting middle school kids and younger read those. The plots, language and sentence structure are far simpler too, which would give struggling readers an ego boost. I’m not sure I can pinpoint why cooks might like it, other than to mention that I enjoy reading about Betsy Devonshire’s struggles to learn how to run a needlework shop in Monica Ferris’ needlework series because I love knitting. I don’t promise cooks will love Fluke’s works, but they might want to give the books a try for that reason.