Engaging Novels About a Detective
The other day, after publishing the second novel in the Dakota Stevens Mystery Series—The Rich Are Different—I pulled a giant plastic crate labeled “Dakota Stevens Stuff” out of the closet. This crate contains notebooks, early drafts, and reams of research for the first book in the series, A Real Piece of Work.
As I started to file away the materials from The Rich Are Different, I found the original Black-n-Red notebook in which I sketched out my ideas for the characters of Dakota and Svetlana, as well as the outlines for several adventures.
For an hour or more, I flipped through that notebook, reveling in the development of my detective series. The notebook is full of lists, and the longest lists are dedicated to names—names I had for Dakota & Svetlana before they became Dakota & Svetlana. I won’t bore you with what might have been, but I do want to share with you one entry, dating back to the spring of 2004:
“I’m not sure exactly what tack I want to take with this series—whether it will be traditional or more modern—but I know this: I don’t want to write a series of ‘detective novels’; I want to write a series of engaging novels about a detective.”
The difference may sound like mere semantics, but it’s not. From the outset, it was important to me that I not write yet another “detective novel”—something with a formula detective/mystery at the formula length. There were already plenty of those. I wanted to write novels about a detective, and I wanted to include elements of his life beyond the mystery at hand. I wanted to populate these novels with vivid locations and rounded, memorable characters, and I wanted to render it all in prose that was aesthetically pleasing in itself, so you, the reader, could enjoy these novels on several levels: for the plot or story, the characters and locations, the humor, and the language.
That’s why reviews like this one of The Rich Are Different are so meaningful to me—because the reader clearly took away from the book what I intended to give:
“The Rich are Different is a full-bodied novel, with rich characters, living backgrounds and locations, and a tough nut of a mystery to crack.”
I’m pleased because whatever their other strengths or weaknesses, I believe the two novels in the series live up to my original aim: “to write a series of engaging novels about a detective,” rather than just mere detective novels.
I invite you to decide for yourself. Start with A Real Piece of Work (book #1), because The Rich Are Different (book #2) is a true sequel, picking up a few months after the first case ends. I hope you enjoy them, and if you do, please post your positive review on Amazon. Your positive reviews increase the books’ visibility and rankings, ensuring future installments in the series.
As always, thank you for your support. Enjoy your summer and your summer reading.