Friday, November 22, 2013

What I'm Writing--Deborah Crombie

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm so glad I didn't have to go first this week!  But now that Hallie, Hank, Rhys, and Lucy have given us such stellar examples of their works-in-progress, I'm not quite as nervous. Quite...

Here is a snippet from Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James #16. It's called To Dwell in Darkness, and will be out in late March. This is the last scene in Chapter 1.

(The photos are all of St. Pancras International Railway Station in London, where this scene takes place.)



Melody took the Victoria Line straight from Brixton Tube Station to King’s Cross/St. Pancras. There
was no way she could have crossed London at rush hour in her car and got to the station in time for Andy and Poppy’s concert. Even so, when “Person under a train,” came over the tannoy as the train pulled into Oxford Circus, she felt a moment of panic. When a second announcement advised all passengers on the Central Line to reroute, she breathed a sigh of relief, then felt a bit disgusted with herself.



Someone had fallen—or had jumped—under a train, and she was more concerned with her own inconvenience than the tragedy. Still, there was nothing she could do, and she couldn’t help feeling relieved as well that the mess wasn’t on her watch. She’d dealt with a jumper once, when she was still in uniform, and there weren’t many things worse.

She shivered at the memory, in spite of the bodies packed against her in the back of the train car. But she was determined not to let work interfere with her enjoyment of Andy’s moment in the limelight—the first of many, she felt sure. And she couldn’t wait to see if he had actually worn the blue cardigan.

Seeing her smile, the middle-aged woman squashed beside her smiled back. Nodding, Melody took the small contact as a good omen. Most Londoners weren’t too bad, given half a chance. And bless London Transport—they did their best to keep things running.

But when the train idled far longer than normal at Warren Street, then again at Euston, Melody’s anxiety rose. Andy would be crushed if she didn’t make it. She’d almost decided to get out at Euston and walk the rest of the way when the train doors closed and the train moved out of the station.
When the train pulled into King’s Cross Tube Station, Melody was first out the doors. She sprinted for the ticket barrier, then started for the St. Pancras concourse at a jog. Good thing she’d worn boots that day because of the cold, she thought, rather than her work heels and one of the suits Andy loved to tease her about. Warm and red-cheeked by the time she entered the south end of the station, she stopped a moment to catch her breath.

The music came to her faintly, in intermittent bursts, but she recognized it instantly. Before she met Andy, she’d have been hard pressed to tell a guitar from a banjo, but now she would know the distinctive sound of Andy’s guitar anywhere. And there, on another wave of sound, was Poppy’s unique vocal, with Andy singing back-up.

Melody hurried on. At least she hadn’t missed the whole concert, and if she stood at the back, perhaps Andy wouldn’t notice how late she’d been.

As she came into the concourse proper, she glimpsed, beyond the glass elevator, the crowd gathered round the small temporary stage. Moving closer, she saw the duo clearly—Poppy, in a floaty white top over a short flowered skirt and her usual tights and boots; Andy, resplendent in the sky blue cardigan, the light glinting from his fair hair and his brilliant red guitar. Much to their relief, they had been able to salvage Andy’s treasured Fiesta Red Stratocaster from the fire in Crystal Palace. After a little attention from a luthier friend of Andy’s in Denmark Street, the guitar looked—and sounded—good as new.

Andy hadn’t seen her. He and Poppy were into the new song now, both of them playing and singing, their focus intense. Melody felt the same thrill of excitement she’d had the very first time she’d heard them perform together, in the studio in Crystal Palace, before she knew Andy as more than the name of a witness in a case. They had something electric together, Andy and Poppy, the whole bigger than the parts, and Melody could feel the energy move through the gathered crowd.

Under the edge of the cafe arcade to her left, she saw Tam and Caleb, Andy and Poppy’s respective managers. They were watching the stage intently, grinning from ear to ear.

Then something else caught her eye. On her right, near the Mark’s and Spencer’s food shop, a half dozen protesters raised placards in unison. As they were facing away from her, she couldn’t read the signs, but the group looked harmless enough. Still, she didn’t want anything spoiling Andy and Poppy’s moment. Looking round, she saw a female uniformed British Transport Police officer walking towards them, radio in hand.

Good. The last thing she wanted was to have to act in an official capacity here. She turned back to the stage as Andy and Poppy’s voices rose to a crescendo in the last verse of the new song.
She’d raised her hands, ready to applaud, when she heard a whoosh, then a high, keening wail. Voices rose in frantic screams as Melody whirled round.

She jerked back instinctively, gasping. There, in the open space where the arcade led out to the western taxi rank, burned a ball of fire as bright as a flaring match. And in its center was a human form.

Don't worry, Duncan and Gemma fans, they will be on the case. But to say more would be a bit of a spoiler, which brings me to my question for you Reds and readers.

One of the things about writing a long-running series is dealing with story-line continuity.  In most of the previous books, it's been a matter of presenting just the right amount of the story arc of the series characters.  You don't want to bore readers who are familiar with the series, but you need to give enough information about the characters' history so that the story--and the relationships--will make sense to new readers.  And the story itself will inevitably be a spoiler to some extent for those who have NOT read the previous books.  (Just the jacket copy gives away the fact that Duncan and Gemma are now married, for instance...)

But in To Dwell in Darkness, I'm dealing with a larger crime story arc that goes back to the book before last and will likely NOT be resolved in this one. There is always a mystery specific to each novel that IS solved--I think it's very unfair to take a reader all the way through a novel and not resolve the "front" story.

But I'm worried that the eventual resolution of this longer-running story arc will lessen the enjoyment of the previous books for new readers.

So, how do you feel about this, fellow REDS?  All of us except Hallie write series novels.  (And right now I'm envying Hallie!) Do you struggle with this?

And readers? Does it bother you when everything is not wrapped up neatly in one book?  Or if you plunge into an unfamiliar series, will you go back to the previous books to unravel the story thread?

PS I can't offer a galley of To Dwell in Darkness yet, but I'll send a hardcover copy of The Sound of Broken Glass to a lucky commenter!

 

53 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

I would think that, once you’ve drawn in new readers who aren’t necessarily starting at the beginning of the series, their own interest in the series would preclude the lessening of their enjoyment of the previous books. I jumped into the Gemma and Duncan stories in the middle, but going back to the earlier stories has certainly been enjoyable. The glimpse into “To Dwell in Darkness” was quite exciting; this book is definitely joining the others on my to-be-read mountain . . . .

Edith Maxwell said...

Thank you for that, Debs!
I jumped mid-stream into your series, as well as Julia's. It was a huge pleasure during a recent recuperation to go back and read them all in order, and now I'm caught up. Maybe a larger crime arc is like the larger character and relationship arcs of these series.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

I think your fans will be thrilled with whatever they get Debs! I can think briefly of Stephen White, whose series is longer than yours. He often weaves in threads from older stories. I don't always remember what's going on, but it's easy to catch up.

Love the excerpt--can't wait for March! xo

Kaye Barley said...

Debs, I've been a fan for a lot of years, as you know. And truthfully? As long as you continue giving us Gemma and Duncan stories, I'm a happy girl. I'm tickled pink to know I'm going to get to visit with Andy and Poppy and Melodie again!!! Yay!!! And like Lucy/Roberta said, if I don't always remember, it's easy enough to catch up. Besides, what a great excuse to re-read!

Denise Ann said...

Sensational!

Deb said...

Thanks, everyone. Lucy, that's comforting about Stephen White. Also, Louise Penny has used a longer running story arc in her last several books. This has been both reassuring for me and a bit scary, as Louise and seemed to have come up with the idea simultaneously...

I never mind jumping into the middle of a series, and I like it am perfectly to go back to earlier books and say, "Oh, so that's how it happened..."

Deb said...

So sorry, I can't type this morning, and I never see the typos until I publish.

Should have been "Louise and I".

"And IF I like it..."

Diana Hurwitz said...

I started the Duncan and Gemma story near the end of the series, and promptly ran to the bookstore to buy the rest of them. So, it didn't mar my enjoyment! If I realize a book is part of a series, I usually buy all of them and start at the beginning, but it isn't a deal breaker. I've started rethinking trilogies and wondering if I should just wait until they are all out to buy them because it can be so long a wait between books.

Diane Waldo said...

If I read and like one book in a series, I will go back and catch up on the story. I prefer to catch a series as the first book is published but I'm willing to go back to the beginning if I came in in the middle. Your books do a very good job of the balancing act for established readers and new readers, but I admit that I tell newcomers to Julia Spencer-Fleming's and Louise Penny's books that they MUST be read in order because there are some major revelations that have to be followed.

Can't wait for another Duncan and Gemma book! (I've even gotten my husband hooked on the series through audio books since he doesn't like to read.)

Jan J. said...

Cool! Andy and Poppy again! I was also a mid-series starter, buying a random book that sounded interesting and then gobbling up every copy I could find - visiting all the local bookstores and reading them in whatever order I found them.

I have to say, I nearly died when Louise Penny left Jean-Guy so filled with anger at Gamache, but the resolution in the next book was so worth it, even though she kept it going until the end - whew! It was excruciating but rewarding!

I think you have done a great job maintaining the series and story arcs but making each book able to stand on its own. They are so good that even read out of order I have never felt cheated in knowing something ahead and then going back, which I can't say the same for some other series.

Thank you for sticking with this series. I'm sure a stand-alone would be good but I would so miss Gemma and Duncan and the gang and it would be hard to wait that long for another!

Anonymous said...

Louise Penny did that in her Gamache series, and I think she pulled it off successfully. My brother, though, hated it. I guess it's a win some, lose some game. I love the greater complexity of a wider story arc.

Susan said...

I love series, and I would say I read more of them than anything else. It seems like most of the time I discover them by picking one up and reading it.

On rare occasion that one is so good that I immediately go back and catch up, but more often I will like it enough that I pick up another one when I see it. After two or three, I realize that now I am so invested in these characters I really want to go back and put the pieces together. Then I will read the whole series up to through the current one.

I actually consider it a positive when there are story arcs that evolve across multiple books. It leaves me really eager to read future installments. And it does not deter me from jumping in.

Sort of a side note here, but one of the things I appreciate most about your writing, Deb, is that while obviously there has been a lot of negative stuff happen to Duncan and Gemma, you are not afraid to allow them happiness, too. I could swear some series writers believe happiness isn't interesting, so they always pile on new trauma for the protagonists. I think you better reflect the reality of life -- bad things happen, good things happen, and most healthy people find a way to balance them. Thank you for that!!

Kim said...

If characters intrigue me and I feel that I can trust an author, then I will make the leap. I'm happy to start in the middle of a series and go back to the beginning if I like what's I've read. And I don't feel the need to have everything resolved. Most of life is open-ended; if an author does it right, open-ended questions at the end of a mystery can be just as satisfying, and sometimes even more so, that a neatly packaged conclusion.

Kim said...

PS - LOVE this excerpt. I was completely drawn in to one scenario and wondering what would happen with the protesters when the fireball caught me off guard. Can't wait to read this one!

Deb said...

Jan J, interestingly, I've never really wanted to write a stand-alone. I love my characters, and it seems to me that there are so many stories to tell. Especially now that the cast has expanded. It's frustrating not to be able to bring back all my favorite characters in each book.

The only time I was ever tempted was the book that became A Finer End. I really wanted to tell that as a young adult fantasy novel (The idea for the Watchers was based on a book by Alan Garner) AND I was fascinated by the real-life story of Frederick Bligh Bond. That book is an odd duck, admittedly. Some readers love it, some hate it. But I like and am glad I told the story.

Virginia said...

Far from lessening my enjoyment of previous novels, references to past events pique my curiosity: I want to get the backstory, to see how the characters got to the place where I found them. It's like being invited by a new friend to a large family gathering -- I am intrigued by laughing references to "when Michael lived in Oklahoma," curious as to why Cousin Jim and his wife named their son Ludovic, interested in finding out how Maggie met Brian, and dying to know why Uncle Frank looks apoplectic every time someone mentions Princeton. In time, as I get to know this family, I will gather all the facts and put the story together, but half the fun is figuring it all out. Meeting Toby and Kit before learning about Duncan and Gemma's prior marriages may be a bit confusing, but don't worry -- we'll sort it all out.

Maryann said...

When I hear about a new writer who interests me, I generally try to go back and read the first book in the series and continue on from there. Keeps me a bit behind I must admit. I did that with your series and with Louise Penny's and am glad that I did. I am always more interested in the characters than the mystery, I'm afraid, and if the characters really get to me, I'll be happy to read about what they had for breakfast. It was hard to wait to find out what would happen to Penny's Beauvoir and I'm nervous about the problem Duncan seems to be facing. I don't like waiting for years to find out what happens to people I've come to like. Just my two cents--I know many don't mind at all.

Mimimph said...

Deborah, I've been following your Jemma and Kincaid series since day one and I'm totally invested in the series, in you as the writer and I'm so enamored with the series, the story-line, the evolution of the characters and their lives that I trust you with the "life" of this story. I've always been satisfied, so I say keep doing what your instincts tell you to do!

Also, as fan of the series, I depend on reminders of what happened previously because my memory needs to be refreshed.

When I start a new series in the middle, I do go back to read the series from the beginning if the my first read is compelling enough to do so.

And finally, thank you for being one of the best! I can't wait until March!

Mimimph said...

Deborah, I've been following your Jemma and Kincaid series since day one and I'm totally invested in the series, in you as the writer and I'm so enamored with the series, the story-line, the evolution of the characters and their lives that I trust you with the "life" of this story. I've always been satisfied, so I say keep doing what your instincts tell you to do!

Also, as fan of the series, I depend on reminders of what happened previously because my memory needs to be refreshed.

When I start a new series in the middle, I do go back to read the series from the beginning if the my first read is compelling enough to do so.

And finally, thank you for being one of the best! I can't wait until March!

Kathy Reel said...

What a delicious tidbit from the new book, Deb! Thanks so much!

You mentioned Louise Penny's carry-over story line, and, that's just who I thought of when you asked about this practice. I didn't mind Louise doing it, and I certainly don't mind you doing it. I think fans of your series, and I am definitely one of those, enjoy the connections between novels. I do like that you solve the new case, though, as some closure is nice. I started at the beginning of your series, and I'm pretty much a stickler for reading in order. Without reading them in order, you don't get the build-up of relationships.

Michal said...

I read the series out of order- a professor recommended them to me and I just picked up the first one I could find. So I never got the thrill of following Gemma and Duncan through their larger story arc but honestly, I don't think that ruined it for me. There was enough that would fill in what happened and couldn't spoil it completely so when I went back to read an earlier story, there was still some mystery (pun intended?) What I care about is the characters, no matter when I happen to run into their on their life journey.

Also, I LOVE that this starts in St. Pancras. What a gorgeous train station.

Deb said...

Susan, thanks so much for your comments about the characters. I knew I was taking a risk when I had Duncan and Gemma get married. But that's what people do, and I set out from the very beginning of the series determined NOT to write static characters. It was very interesting that Kent Krueger, one of my favorite writers, talked about the same thing here on JR the other day.

I also wanted my protagonists to be emotionally functional people. They have had things to deal with, yes, and they have their quirks. But if you have a job that exposes you to a lot of bad stuff, you need some stability or you will crash and burn pretty quickly. And I've never really enjoyed reading about emotionally damaged protagonists who can't change...

Beth said...

If it's a series I love, the way I love the Kincaid/James series, then I actually enjoy when not everything is wrapped up neatly at the end. It not only provides a promise of more to come, but it gives that wonderful sense of the characters' lives being ongoing...even when I'm not seeing them, they're still out there somewhere, puzzling over things and living their lives.

I'm the kind of reader who generally loves to start at the beginning, so if I jump into a series mid-way, I usually go back to the start as soon as I can. (Hooray for libraries!) These days, it's gotten to the point that if I hear a lot about a certain writer, or a series premise intrigues me, I'll just try to start at the beginning if it's at all possible. There's so much fun to be had in traveling with characters over the long-haul. And when it comes to detectives, I like to learn their detecting habits from the start.

Rhys Bowen said...

Deb, the excerpt has me hooked, but then I always devour your books the moment they come out.

I'm not sure about the greater plot arc. My books all have a greater character arc, and I have carried over plot elements in the Royal Spyness series, but not whodunit elements.

You write well. Your fans will accept what you offer.

Anonymous said...

I love the series. I have read them all several times and has been mentioned previously, if I've forgotten something, I will go back and reread to refresh my memory. I enjoy story arcs that continue over several books. Also if I have started a series part way through and enjoy the book that I've just read, I will happily start at the beginning to see what I've missed.

Nan Denson said...

Deborah, I started reading your series with book 3 and immediately wanted to read books 1 and 2, which I did and I've eagerly awaited each new book since then. It's been a long wait this time since I, too, as someone else said, wonder what's in store for Duncan. Whenever I encounter a new author I read the current book. If I like it, then I go back and find the previous books and read them in order. Many times I find myself saying, "Okay, so that's what he meant by that remark in the current book" and I'm thrilled to find out all the facts that make up the characters, especially when they're as real as yours are. I also agree with the comment someone else posted that you let your characters be happy. Happiness is not dull, it doesn't have to be a tragedy to be readable and entertaining. I'm glad to hear you're not interested in a standalone---keep your talent focused on Duncan and Gemma.

Lisa Alber said...

Thanks for this peek, Debs! What an image to end on too....

I'm just starting my series. Revising the second one, and I'm finding the continuity tough. I've been trying to do it so I don't give ANY spoilers away -- but it's impossible...

I started your books (and Julia's and Lucy's and...) in the middle too. I don't mind going back. I love the idea of a larger mystery arc--I don't think that's a hindrance either.

When you love a series, you love a series...:-)

plaisanter said...

I'm a reader, not an author, and nearly always start a series from the beginning. I don't want to miss a thing! Plus I enjoy not just the development of the characters and story lines, but also the writer's development. It never bothers me when I read the "catch-up" paragraphs; on the contrary, I feel like I'm coming home to a well-loved scenario.

I can't wait to read your latest in the Gemma and Duncan series!

Deb Romano said...

I look forward to the next book. I enjoyed the excerpt you shared today.

When I'm browsing in a library or bookstore and come across a series book that seems intriguing, I make a point of NOT reading it until I've read everything that preceded it. I MUST read the books in proper order. I've done it the other way but find that I feel like I walked into the middle of an intense conversation and nobody wants to fill me in on what I missed! As someone who has read all your books in order,I appreciate the fact that you do give some back story in your books. I don't always remember every last detail of every book; I don't necessarily remember every last detail of my own life!

Thank you for allowing Duncan and Gemma to have happiness in their lives! I've given up on some authors whose characters can never make up their minds about marriage or other important decisions. I lose respect for characters who can't seem to make a decision and stick with it!

I want the main story to be resolved by the end of the book. Other matters can wait a bit. I am NOT a fan of cliffhangers! Too many unresolved matters are just too unrealistic,in my opinion. In real life,some things get resolved quickly and some things take longer. I doubt that anyone lives a life in which nothing is ever resolved in a timely manner.

Reading your books is like visiting with old friends. I miss them when I'm done with the latest book and waiting for the next.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Interrupting this lovely discussion to say that Jack Getze was yesterday's winner of MURDER WITH GANACHE. Jack shoot me an email and I'll get your galley out.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of a balance between long-time readers and first-timers... the long-timers thrill to the continuity of an ongoing plot complication whereas the first-timers need more closure. I would fall on the side of giving more to the ongoing story lines.... like life, right?

Judy said...

Well, I always, repeat always, read a series from the beginning so perhaps I can't speak to that question of yours. But, I don't have a problem with a story arc that may take a book or two to finally reach a complete resolution. If anything, it keeps me on tenterhooks and anxious to read the next book.

dmct said...

I agree with the others who have said it is like coming home to a well known scenario, it is like life. All is not resolved in one season. Just keep doing what you do so well. Unlike most popular writers your last book in the series "Sound of Broken Glass" was every bit as good to read as the earlier ones. A very rare thing.

Anne L. Balkou said...

Hi Deb, I've been a reader of your series since the beginning and have loved every book. It is like finding hidden treasure when snippets, characters or story lines from the past pop up in later books. I like that sense of weaving in and out of people's lives and catching up on their latest-adds so much more depth and reality. Leaving something unresolved or opening a new direction at the end always reassures me there will be another book. When you finish the book you are comforted that there will be another and disappointed it isn't out yet. Thanks for the excerpt!

Unknown said...

Oh, I'm beyond excited that Melody and Andy and the red strat are all still going strong. Fantastic. I started with Leave the Grave Green, and loved it so much I went back to the beginning. I love the relationships most of all, and when characters resurface. I think you are balancing it perfectly. The cliffhanger at the end of Breaking Glass made me a little crazy though, knowing I'd have to wait a long time to get it resolved.

Deb said...

Unknown, I am very happy to have Melody and Andy and the red Strat back, too!

Hallie Ephron said...

Fantastic excerpt, Debs - it feels so great to be among so much talent!

And I like it when a series novel leaves loose ends to be tied up in future books. It makes the characters feel real. Sure there's the problem of 'spoiling' it for readers who jump in in the middle, but I think what's gained is much more.

Jill Stirling said...

Think I have read them all-but probably need to go back and refresh my memory. I dislike unresolved crimes. But like the challenge of putting it all together. I get involved in the stories of their lives and get annoyed when the writer plays fast and loose with them like Elizabeth George and the meaninlgless death of Helen in the Lynley books. I love the Kincaid stories.

Barbara said...

I think I must go back and re read the previous two in the series! I like it when the stories somewhat continue. Looking forward to this new book!!!!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

This is SO fabulous. Debs, you are amazing.

I get annoyed at loose ends of a specific crime, the one that's the main story of each individual book--but the whole lure of a series is that there will be loose ends of some kind at the end of each book. It's a slice of lfe, right?

Kaye Barley said...

I was so surprised to read that there are people who were less than enthusiastic about A FINER END. It's one of my favorites, and I think it's very special.

Reine said...

Debs, this is going to be fabulous I love that station I love the tube to Oxford! You have it all the setting the story everything except Gemma and Duncan where are they? And—well no I don't want any spoilers regarding Gemma and Duncan—but I really want to know about Gemma and Duncan!

Marianne in Maine said...

This is a fabulous excerpt. Wow! I always anxiously await your next book and now I REALLY can't wait. You paint wonderful pictures, including geography. And your characters have developed so much since the first book.

While I'm finishing a book, any book, that leaves a story hanging I'm immediately annoyed but that passes quickly and I look forward to the next book - as long as the main story is resolved.

I'm glad the strat was saved!

Pat Burden said...

The series is fabulous. I have read them all and I am on my second go round. When I recommend your books, if a reader has not read any of them, I do recommend they start at the beginning. As far as the larger story arc - those that read that book before any of the others will be drawn in by your wonderful story telling and development of characters and go back and start from the beginning. As long as the end of the arc doesn't "come completely out of the blue," it shouldn't be a problem.

Reine said...

Debs, I'm still way behind in my reviews and shouldn't be placed in the drawing list until I catch up.

Ann Zeigler said...

Not to stretch an analogy, but it is a nice extra bite of dessert to have a theme or plot stretching across several books, along with the main dish of a particular book.

Kris Holtan said...

I enjoy a story line stretched across several books in a series.. Have the 15 previous books on Kindle and love how Emma and Duncan's relationship deepened along the way, makes them feel like real people i want to meet.

Nancy said...

I find more complex fiction, in which a plot may be spun out across multiple installments, to be engaging and stimulating. I tend to be distrustful of story lines that are wrapped up too neatly and quickly. I will readily go back to the beginning of a series to which I have been introduced later on, as I did with your marvelous books.

Alberta said...

I'm looking forward to the new book. Having aspects that carry over are all right with me. It makes me want to read the earlier books again!

Terry Shames said...

Everyone has said eloquently what I would say--it doesn't matter to me whether I come into the series in the middle. But one thing I don't think anyone has mentioned. I don't care if I read a spoiler, because by the time I get around to reading the earlier book, I've forgotten the spoiler anyway!One of the few perks of aging?

Anonymous said...

Deh. Waiting for the next book to be published is delicious. Have followed you from the very first book. Love Gemma and Kincaid, and think they are well developed, real and interesting people. So much of their lives, apart from the mysteries, is relevant to most people in that they have the obvious problems inherent to-day in young lives. Family chores, scheduling, time to relax, and the inevitable misunderstandings that dog us all.
You are a fabulous writer. Nuala.

Anonymous said...

AAACCCKKK!!!! I want to read this one too. ;)

Pen M
pmettert@yahoo.com

JRM said...

I started with Dreaming of the Bones and then went back to the beginning and caught up with you somewhere around Water Like a Stone. I've never read a continuing series like this before and I'm more impressed with each novel how the characters from previous books keep developing, while we're being introduced to such interesting new ones. Sometimes I do wonder how a new reader can keep track of it all without having the same history. I definitely wonder how you keep track of it all! But then I remember that I was a new reader once, and after finishing Dreaming, I couldn't wait to go back to the beginning to learn more about Gemma and Duncan's lives, and what mysteries they'd solved before. I think if the central mystery is compelling (which of course they always are!) the new reader will want to go back and learn more about what where everyone came from. It's like having little teasers for your previous books sprinkled in the new ones! - Jim