It Ended All Too Soon*

I would guess that, at some point, you’ve experienced a series that went on for too long. I know I have. It’s very hard to sustain a series and keep producing strong character development and fresh plots. But there are also series that we wish would go on a lot longer. Sometimes, for various reasons, authors stop writing a series just when we wish there would be more. Authors pass away, or they change direction in their writing (or careers), or the publisher simply stops publishing the books. Whatever the reason, the series ends after two or just a few books.

For example, although she was prolific, Margaret Millar wrote only three books featuring Southern California attorney Tom Aragon. He works for an upmarket law firm, and frequently finds himself doing the ‘grunt work’ for the senior partners. Still, he’s a skilled lawyer himself, and is also good at finding people. So he often does his own investigating. You can ‘meet’ him in Ask For Me Tomorrow, The Murder of Miranda, and Mermaid.

Scott Young’s Inspector Matthew ‘Matteesie’ Kitologitak works for the RCMP, one of its few indigenous officers. Although his home is in Ottawa, he also travels to the Northwest Territories. Although he doesn’t keep to all of the traditional indigenous ways, he does have a cultural connection. He’s thoroughly familiar with life in the far north, too, and with the kinds of people who live there. The two novels in which he appears, Murder in a Cold Climate and The Shaman’s Knife, depict that life and those people vividly. While Young wrote several other books, both fiction and non-fiction, he never continued this series.

Sarah Caudwell’s Hilary Tamar series is also short – only four novels. Tamar is an Oxford law professor who has mentored a number of attorneys. In this series, it’s really those younger solicitors who do the proverbial footwork when it comes to solving the mysteries at hand. And those cases usually involve one or another of those characters. The novels have a lot of dry wit and some funny scenes, but they’re not ‘laugh a minute.’ What’s particularly interesting is that Caudwell never tells us whether Tamar is male or female. And, since the stories are told from Tamar’s perspective, in the first person, that’s accomplished without the need for cumbersome sentences. Hilary Tamar ‘stars’ in Thus Was Adonis Murdered, The Shortest Way to Hades, The Sirens Sang of Murder, and The Sibyl in her Grave. Sadly, Caudwell passed away before the series could be continued.

Ariana Franklin was a pseudonym under which Diana Norman wrote four novels about Adelia Aguilar, a 12th Century doctor. She’s a physician at a time when it’s dangerous for a woman to work in the medical field. In fact, she has to work ‘behind the scenes,’ and pretend that her assistant, Simon Menahem – Simon of Naples, is the doctor. Originally from the university at Salerno, Aguilar is summoned to the London court of King Henry II. There, she takes up residence and soon finds herself uncovering mysteries. The stories in which Aguilar appears are Mistress of the Art of Death, The Serpent’s Tail, Relics of the Dead, and A Murderous Possession. Norman/Franklin passed away in 2011, before a fifth Adelia Aguilar novel could be published.

Adrian Hyland has written several books, both fiction and non-fiction. He’s only written two novels, though, about Emily Tempest. She’s a half Aboriginal/half white ACPO (Aboriginal Community Police Officer) who lives and works in Australia’s Northern Territory. In the first book, Moonlight Downs/Diamond Dove, Tempest returns to her home after several years away. She’s soon drawn into a mystery when her best friend’s father is murdered. In Gunshot Road, she’s become an ACPO, and is seconded to Green Swamp when a man is murdered after a bar quarrel. Both cases look open-and-shut; neither really is. And in both novels, we get a close look at life in Australia’s Outback.

Christine Poulson wrote a three-book series about Cassandra James, an academic in the English Literature Department at St. Etheldreda’s College, Cambridge. As the series begins (with Murder is Academic, AKA Dead Letters), James is named Head of the department when her predecessor, Margaret Joplin, is murdered. In Stage Fright, James rewrites a novel for the stage, with the plan to do the show at the Everyman Theatre. That is, until the leading lady disappears…  Then, in Footfall, James gets involved in a case when her friend Una is murdered in what looks like a burglary gone very wrong. These novels show university life, and the ins and outs and politics of academia. There’s also a solid sense of the local setting. Poulson has gone on to another series (also quite good!) featuring scientist Katie Flanagan. But I would love to see another Cassandra James novel…

There’s also Angela Savage’s Jayne Keeney series, which I very much hope will continue. The protagonist of these novels is a Bangkok-based private investigator. An Australian ex-pat, she’s learned to adapt to life in Thailand. She speaks the language fluently and understands the customs and local ways. This makes her a valuable resource, especially for people who are not so familiar with the language and culture. The novels have a real sense of the context and setting, and Keeney is a strong female protagonist. Thus far, Keeney ‘stars’ in Behind the Night Bazaar, The Half-Child, and The Dying Beach. I hope there will be more (a-hem, Dr. Savage!)

I would also like to read more about Domingo Villar’s Inspector Leo Caldas, who lives and works in Vigo, in the Spanish province of Galicia. Caldas is a pragmatic detective who is realistic about his job and the people he serves. He’s bit philosophical, too. The novels in which he appears, Water Blue Eyes and Death on a Galician Shore give the reader a clear picture of life in Galicia and show how the local police do their work. There’s a certain wit in the novels, too.

There are, of course other series that ended after just two or a few books. These are only some examples. Which series would you like to have seen continued?

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Little River Band’s Reminiscing.

 

 

Published by Margot Kinberg

I'm a mystery novelist and professor who loves to read, write, and talk about crime fiction.

14 thoughts on “It Ended All Too Soon*

  1. Oh, I agree, Margot. I’d love to see more books in quite a few of these series you mention. Until recently, I also feared Eva Dolan might have abandoned her Hate Crimes investigations series, but her latest was a return to that. And Tana French has now written 2 standalones, which makes me worry she might have stopped her Dublin Squad series. 😥

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    1. Oh, I hope she hasn’t, Marina Sofia!! That’s such a fine series, isn’t it? Let’s be optimistic and hope she was just flexing her writing muscles a bit. And I do like Eva Dolan’s Hate Crimes series, too; it was good to see that hasn’t ended. There are just some series I’d hate to see go…

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  2. And I would have loved to write another Cassandra novel, Margot! It is lovely of you to say that you’d like one. The reasons why I haven’t are really to do with the vagaries of the publishing world. But it’s not out of the question . . .
    A writer who’s written a series that I would like more of is Kate Ellis. She wrote two or three Joe Plantagenet mysteries set in York with a supernatural flavour to them alongside her Wesley series and I wish she’d continued them.

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    1. Ah, yes, the publishing business! ‘Vagaries’ is a good for it, Christine. I do hope there’ll be another Cassandra novel at some point. Fortunately, your Katie Flanagan is a great character, and I like those novels, too. Thanks for mentioning Kate Ellis’ work. I like her Wesley series (admittedly, I haven’t read every single entry in it, but still…), but I haven’t tried her Plantagenet novels (yet). No particular reason (besides time, of course), but I ought to do that. I’ve heard good things about those books from more than one person.

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  3. Margot: I have enjoyed and regretted the end of several of the series you have mentioned. The post brought to mind that two of my favourite three Saskatchewan mystery series have come to a premature end. Anthony Bidulka’s series with Russel Quant had 7 fine books before Anthony moved onto other writing projects. I thought the Small Town Saskatchewan mysteries of Nelson Brunanski featuring Bart Bartkowski were getting better as they progressed. I do not know there have been no more than 3 of them.

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    1. I liked Nelson Brunanski’s series, too, Bill, and I’m glad you introduced me to them. I don’t think there’ve been more than three, either, although I wish there were. I like Bart as a character, and I like the sense of place in those novels. And I miss Russell Quant, too! I know authors do go on to other projects, but I wish there’d be another Quant novel. Maybe if we both pester and nag enough… 😉

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  4. Oh you picked out three of my absolute favourites there, the three series I would most like to see more of! Ariana Franklin, Sarah Caudwell, and Chrissie Poulson. At least (at the risk of sounding tasteless) Chrissie is still with us, and writes other books, and maybe will go back to continuing Cassandra’s adventures one day…

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    1. Oh, I hope you’re right and we will, Moira! I’d love to see more of Cassandra. As for Franklin and Caudwell, it really is sad they passed before their series could be continued. It makes me wonder what the stories would have been like if they’d gone on for a bit.

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  5. I find it hard to keep up with series so only ever follow one or two at any point in time. I’m sorry that Sharon Bolton seems to have brought her Lacey Flint series to an end, since I felt it still had possibilities to explore further. I must look into the Margaret Millar books more – I’ve only read one of hers, The Listening Walls, and loved it, but I think it was a standalone.

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    1. Millar did several standalones, I think, and I believe that was one of them, FictionFan. I think her series are worth a look, too, but I like her work, so it’s hard for me to be entirely objective. I haven’t heard anything about a new Lacey Flint novel, so it looks as though you’re right that Bolton’s not doing them, at least not now. I’d like to see where Lacey’s character would go if they did go on… And I know just exactly what you mean about following series. There are dozens that I’d like to follow, but just don’t.

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  6. Oh, how I wish Tony Hillerman was still with us. I’m obsessed! His daughter is a fine writer, but I don’t think continuing his Leaphorn & Chee series was a good idea. The books don’t have that special something that only Tony could provide. Sad.

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    1. It is sad, Sue. I did love Hillerman’s Chee/Leaphorn series, and I wish there were more from him. It’s one of those series that stays with you, and I haven’t read another that evokes the Southwest in the same way.

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  7. That’s a tricky question and seeing as I’m so far behind multitudes of authors and series, it’s one I’m probably not best qualified to answer! I’m struggling to think of a series I’m on top of.

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    1. I know what you mean, Col. There are so many good series and talented authors out there that it’s impossible to keep up with them all.

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