Characterization is more important to me than setting or plot when I read fiction. . Even when I read a mystery I want strong characters along with the crime solving. That is why I like series with protagonists that grow more complex with each title.
I just finished reading City of Whispers, Marcia Mullerís 29th mystery featuring San Francisco private investigator, Sharon McCone. The series started in 1977 with Edwin of the Iron Shoes and McCone is considered to be the first hard-boiled fictional female detective. McCone was a young single working as an investigator for a legal coop, but over the life of the series, she has married and formed her own detective agency. Her fictional family and friends come in and out of her books and their growth as characters are strong.
Nevada Barrís Rope is the 17th title in a series featuring National Park Service Ranger, Anna Pigeon. Track of the Cat, published in 1993, is set in Guadeloupe Mountains National Park in west Texas. Pigeon joins the National Parkís Service after the accidental death of her husband with each mystery is set in different National Park with settings as diverse as Mesa Verde in Colorado, Statue of Liberty Park in New York and Yosemite in California. Pigeon, as she encounters the evil set in mostly idyllic locations, is reflective, turning to her sister Molly, a psychiatrist, for counsel. As Molly has faded out of the series Pigeon aligns with Paul Davidson, an ordained Episcopal minister and sheriff in Southern Mississippi, who was introduced in Deep South set on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
My favorite British mystery series is the Inspector Thomas Lynley mysteries by Elizabeth George. Starting with A Suitable Vengeance in 1991 George has also just published her 17th title in the series, Believing the Lie. Although the series is named for Lynley my favorite character is Lynleyís partner, Sergeant Barbara Havers. The interaction between aristocratic Lynley and working class Havers adds depth to the well-crafted plots.
Three different mystery series are on my radar from author J.A. Jance. Starting in 1994ís Tombstone Courage, young widow Joanna Brady runs for sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona. There are now 14 in the series, including two, Partner in Crime and Fire and Ice, with one of Janceís other series characters, J.P. Beaumont. Beaumont, first introduced in 1985 in Until Proven Guilty has grown over the 20 volumes in the series so try to look past his early chauvinism. Betrayal of Trust is the latest addition. The Ali Reynolds mysteries are also developing but I thought the first in this series, 2006ís Edge of Evil, was not on a par with Janceís other offerings. The 7th in the series, Left for Dead, was just released in February.
Iíve read Sue Graftonís alphabet mysteries, starting with A is for Alibi up to the recent publication of V is for Vengeance. They almost always have strong plots, but I wish that Kinsey Milhone had not remained static in time. It would make her more interesting.