Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Register or subscribe today
Find more Trends in Crime Fiction Series
Trend spotting is tough. When trying to identify thematic trends, it’s tempting to form a thesis any time we find two instances of something—and then search for that third example that makes it official. Another temptation is to stack the deck with the kinds of books we like, which too often forces us to confront the sometimes sobering gulf between what is critically acclaimed and what is widely read. And, as Joyce Saricks has written so eloquently in her columns for Booklist, our time is often better spent looking at what people are actually reading.
When I was asked to contribute to the panel “Trends in Genre Series” at the Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia this past March, I imagined that I might talk about the way publishers lately prefer the term thriller to mystery. I thought I might ask whether, in the still-hot category of Scandinavian crime fiction, the Swedes are losing ground to the Danes. And I considered counting the not-insubstantial number of mysteries that feature animals and stuffed animals as characters.
But first I spent some time looking at the best-selling and highest circulating crime fiction for 2011. And I did notice some bona fide trends: most of the books were part of long-running series by well-established authors, for starters. Some of these authors had multiple series that they have merged and diverged over time, presumably to keep them fresh creatively—though a cynic might say it’s a way of making more product. Some of these series, too, were written by famous authors who have hired others to do the dirty work of placing one word after another. Some of these series were originated by authors who—gasp!—were no longer even alive.
None of this is news, of course. But it reminded me of something important: we often overlook important truths simply because they’re not new. Scandinavian crime fiction seems like a big story because of the runaway success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, yet all the writers who have been published and translated in his wake hardly dent the sales charts. Writers with long-established brands continue to sell, year in and year out.
Looking at all this, I started thinking less in terms of theme and creativity and more in terms of commerce and marketing. I did more and more research, so much so that, in Philadelphia, I only had time to present a tiny slice of my findings. As part of Booklist’s Mystery Month, I’ll be sharing all of it, pairing the real trends in highly read crime fiction with useful information about recent and forthcoming titles by the authors I’m discussing.
This may not have much to do with readers’ advisory, but simply keeping track of these in-demand authors can be daunting, and I hope to help you do that. Maybe it will be all the more encouragement to recommend offbeat titles by unknown authors who are having a hard time finding the readers they deserve.
Stay tuned for the first installment, “Mergers and Acquisitions.”
Register or subscribe today