Starting in the Middle of a Series. Do you ever?

WonTon the Bookstore cat at Chop Suey Books

WonTon the Bookstore cat at Chop Suey Books

Do you ever start in the middle of an established series? I can hear you gasp though cyberspace right now!

At my first mystery book group in Santa Clarita, California, I drove my fellow readers wild with my lack of concern for series order. And through the years I’ve met many readers who were very strict about starting from the beginning—no exceptions. But there are advantages to my slipshod ways.

There’s a popular author of a long-running, gritty PI series that I just love. But if I’d started with #1 in the series I may not have picked up #2—#1 was that bad. And that would have been my loss. I’ve found this pattern with other authors as well.

Writers get better with each book. We become more comfortable with our craft and our characters.

Sometimes I read a new-to-me author’s most recent work. If I like it, I may then go back to the start of the series and read in order. Or I may just read the series randomly. I even gave my sleuth, Hazel Rose, the same blasé attitude. A friend who also disregards order says it all depends on how important the characters’ backstories are to the reader. Apparently she and I put more importance on the front story and figure we can work out the sequence of events in the backstories.

So be adventurous—try starting a series at any point other than the beginning. You might decide it’s a good practice.


Readers, how important is series order to you?

See my earlier post on WonTon the Bookstore Cat.








Starting in the Middle of a Series. Do you ever? — 14 Comments

  1. You made a good point, Maggie. I had never thought of it that way. But, it is true. With each book in a series, we writers strive to improve on the last one. So, it makes perfect sense that, if a reader starts by reading a later book, he/she may be more likely to get hooked on the series and go back to read them all.

  2. Patricia, It’s always worked for me and I don’t usually have any trouble keeping up with the backstories. Maybe I’m just used to complicated lives! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Good subject. I often pick up a book or audiobook and read it because it sounds interesting. If I like it, I’ll go back for other books in the series. Most times that’s how we find series. Some series we can read in random order–the happenings in the main characters’ lives don’t change that much, Anne Perry’s mysteries being one of them. However, having said that, some series need to be read in order to make sense of them, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series a prime example.

  4. I am notorious for picking up books anywhere along the timeline of a series and jumping around. I’m especially guilty of it with books by Elizabeth Peters, M.C. Beaton, and Barbara Cleverly. Great post!

    • ML Longworth’s Death at the Chateau Bremont is the first in her series. I read it first, then read the rest of the series randomly.

  5. I have to say I am strict about reading a series in order. You do make a good point about the quality of the writing getting better–I never thought about it that way. I usually give a new series a couple of books before making a final decision on continuing with it.

    • Christi, it’s good that you give the series a chance. Sometimes I may not like a particular book, but there’s SOMETHING about it that I like. I may not be able to define that something but it can keep me reading the series until I like it.

  6. I’m glad you’re encouraging this practice. I always write series books as if they were stand-alones, so a reader can enjoy whatever books comes his or her way.

    While, as an author, I craft my subplots & secondary characters so that they develop from book to book, I imagine it’s fun for a reader to engage with a character later on, then go back and find out how it all began.

  7. I don’t usually care where I start a series, although I would HIGHLY recommend readers start with the first Daniel Silva novel, A Death In Vienna. Same with J.A. Jance’s Beaumont series. All things that follow are impacted from something that happens in the first book.

    And, if you aren’t sure which in the series a book sits, go to Fantastic Fiction, a UK site that does the work for you. It also tells you the authors’ aliases.

  8. I love the Beaumont series but haven’t read in order. I guess it’s all a challenge for me!

    Stop You’re Killing Me is another great site with all kinds of info on authors, genres, location indices, etc