That Difficult Second Book… #series #sequels

In one of those coincidences that probably isn’t I read a review of The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (he wrote it; the review is by KL Carey, here) as I was thinking about this post. KL enjoyed it as I did. There’s a little bit of improbability but it’s a neat conceit and overall enjoyable. I was painting the utility – part of my ‘keeping sane in lockdown’ decorating plans – when I listened to it last year and I made a note that, if there was a follow up, I’d give that a go too.

That follow up is The Man Who Died Twice. It’s been out for a while to fairly good reviews and critical acclaim so I put it on my phone and gave it a listen.


Without giving too much away (though if you are intending reading it, you may want to pass the next paragraph) Osman takes his characters and drops them into another mystery. But this time they are front and centre involved and, boy, are they involved. This is no Miss Marple more a geriatric James Bond for the ladies. And the more I listened, the more disillusioned I became.

It’s a thing, this need to ratchet up the ante to keep the punters happy. Every soap opera falls prey to it. Start on a human scale and eventually you end up with the most egregious examples of human behaviour all set in some twee West Country little village or London Square or Liverpool estate.

Happens in literature, certainly modern literature. Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a decent effort, readable, page-turny even with some gratuitous violent sex. But the next two – The Girl With A Fly In Her Ointment and The Girl With A Pain In Her Arse or some such – were frankly ludicrous, over written and boring. Same characters but their jeopardy had to be bigger, their traps more impossible to avoid. What a waste of my eyesight.

It didn’t happen in Lord of the Rings; it didn’t happen in Harry Potter. Maybe because they were plotted as a trilogy/series from the outset. It’s this grafting a second and third book on top of a successful first that might be the issue.

TV’s not much better. I loved Broadchurch, part one. Part two was a waste of oxygen. Downton Abbey managed several series at an easy pace but the Julian Fellowes lost grip on the reins and, whey-hey off we went down rabbit holes of more and more bizarre storylines. Even Line of Duty, one of the great police dramas of the last twenty years fell into that trap with series six.

It takes a brave writer to give up when ahead and not let ego/flattery/the inevitable growth in the bank balance persuade them to write just one more instalment. Like cake and chocolate, there really is a point where ‘enough’ has been achieved.

And, having written this I shall begin the edit of Book Four of my Harry Spittle Saga. Hey, no one is perfect!

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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25 Responses to That Difficult Second Book… #series #sequels

  1. trifflepudling says:

    I know what you mean. Not fiction, but The Repair Shop on bbc started life as a very watchable series about mending old stuff and was remarkably soothing and interesting. They then felt the need to tinker with the formula and introduce more human interest stuff to the mix and it’s just become a slush fest, I hate it!
    The Rivers of London are a bit samey now but I haven’t felt let down – yet. I’m currently reading the Abigail one (meant for teenagers, I think) and it’s a change from Peter’s voice.
    Good luck with the edit!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. willowdot21 says:

    I can see the pitfall you are discribing , as you say it happens on TV , Radio and of course books.
    Not seen it in your books…….Yet 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to agree with you. There more or less earlier is a time one or more characters have told their story. You cannot really awaken them again. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    Totally agree with you about Steig Larsen and Broadchurch. Of course, saying this I am working on book five of my mystery series.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. KL Caley says:

    Yes, I totally agree. It’s a very fine line between leaving the reader wanting more and giving too much. In fact, there are very few series that I read, although I do often return to a writer’s works it does tend to be more standalone works. There are three writers I have read the series of and would recommend/read more; Peter May – The Lewis Trilogy, Elly Griffiths – Ruth Galloway Series, Kate Ellis – Wesley Peterson Series. Great post. KL ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Some authors go to extreme lengths, like dying, to ensure good sales. Now there’s a plot line. No, that’s been done too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What you say makes a great deal of sense. I’m working on the sequel of my last and seem to have an unnatural desire to make it bigger rather than better. I should listen to your wise warning here. Thanks, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elizabeth says:

    My book club read both of Osman’s books. We all agreed that no one had much idea of who did it or why in either case but we didn’t care. We were too busy laughing at the characters and deciding which among us was most like each of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I quite enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club but not enough to tempt me to overlook your warning about the follow up!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. V.M.Sang says:

    Well, you have a point. I don’t, as a rule, read books (of fiction, that is) by celebrities. There’s always that little niggle at the back of my mind which says , “Did he/she really write this, or is it a ghost writer and/or the publisher is using their celebrity to make more money.”
    However, on the subject of sequels, I suspect you are correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Darlene says:

    I try very hard not to do this with my books. I am about to publish book number 9. Perhaps I should quit while I’m ahead. Although ten is such a nice round number.

    Liked by 1 person

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