Most people are aware of – and have probably indulged in – binge watching. I have for “Game of Thrones,” and “Grace and Frankie” and “Happy Valley” and “Red Dwarf.” Many weeks, I’ll save all four episodes of “EastEnders” to watch in one block. (The time commitment is the same as for a feature-length movie, but with fresh popcorn.)
I also tend to binge read.
I’ll read a positive review of the latest book in a series, think it sounds like something I would enjoy, and then realize I’ve never read any of the earlier books. So I start from the beginning. It’s not a problem when there are, for example, five earlier books. But when an author has been writing the same series for a couple of decades and now has over twenty books in print, the prospect can be daunting. Plus expensive, even with e-books. (And many libraries, because of space restrictions, cull older books from their shelves.) But I do it anyway. Sometimes, I’m rewarded by an author who is so good that I buy the next book in her series before I finish the earlier one, so I can continue to read without a break.
But there is a potential difficulty with binge reading. Not only can it become tedious (I generally take a break and read something else after Book #3. Or #4. Definitely by #12.), but the idiosyncratic, “charming” tropes an author uses, whether consciously or not, become, to put it bluntly, annoying.
When an author comes out with a maximum of one book every year, it’s easy to forget during the time lag that these writing quirks exist. One author, throughout all his books, describes, in detail, every trip, no matter how short, with names of streets and stores I don’t know, plus all the traffic and parking woes. When reading one or two books a week instead of one book every one or two years, it becomes painfully obvious that the technique is not only frustrating, but pointless. This author, whose books aren’t very long anyway, includes so much information about traffic jams that I began to suspect he was using the details as filler to make the books longer. The fact that the mysteries were pretty thin and not very complex or even interesting became obvious by the end of Book #2. I read the next one anyway, and then stopped when I realized he was repeating himself. I suspect he had discovered cut-and-paste.
Another author’s protagonist tends to have brilliant leaps of logic that help him solve mysteries that have everyone else – police, private detectives, family, friends – baffled. But he lacks the thoughtfulness and insightfulness of a Holmes or Poirot. He just suddenly knows what happened. And during the book he displays all the traits usually ascribed to TSTL (too stupid to live) females. Hey, if someone has just tried to kill your daughter, and is also targeting you, and you go with her to her apartment and notice right away the lock has been jimmied, what do you do? My protagonist (and I) would go back outside and call 9-1-1. What does he do? Enter the apartment, find the light switch doesn’t work, let his daughter precede him inside. Of course, both of them are attacked. To make things worse, in another book – come to think of it, in every book – he knows he shouldn’t be doing what he does and then isn’t surprised when he gets hit over the head or locked in an abandoned building. If he’s not surprised and expects it’s an ambush, you’d think he’d avoid the situation instead of walking into the trap, sometimes several times in the same book.
The time span between books also leads to a kind of amnesia. “Hmm,” I think, “I read the previous book last year. I think I enjoyed it.” So I’ll read the next one, and then part way through remember that I hadn’t particularly liked the protagonist or the setting or the mystery. I read it anyway, though, because I have a completion fetish. I avoid that mistake when reading one book in a series after another with no gap between them, and so I don’t bother reading another in which the protagonist has not changed or developed. Or worse, I don’t find her likeable or believable.
Fortunately, I’ve found the valuable gems – those books I can’t wait to download so I can continue reading without a break– far outnumber the plastic baubles. I’m so glad I have a Kindle.
I decided to google “Yom Killer reviews,” and am glad I did. I somehow had missed a great review of the book on Sept. 4 by the renowned Lelia Taylor of CNC/Buried under Books fame. Thank you, Lelia, for your “overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.”
You can read the review here. (Scroll down as it’s the 2nd one on the page.) http://tinyurl.com/yb4mkp3q
Review of YOM KILLER, by Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Executive Editor and Book Reviewer, The Reporter Group; appears in the August 25, 2017, issue of the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton’s The Reporter, located in Vestal, NY. (http://www.thereportergroup.org/publications.aspx?dID=1&iID=602)
“I’ll admit I feel an affinity for the main character in Yom Killer. After all, how could I not like Rabbi Aviva Cohen, a middle-aged, wise-cracking, liberal rabbi? In previous books in the series, Aviva not only had to deal with balancing the needs of different members of her congregation, but with an ex-husband who is now living in the same town. There were also phone calls and advice from her older sister and her mother, who fortunately don’t live in New Jersey, but who still frequently interfere in her life. In the current novel, Aviva faces a family crisis during the worst possible time for a rabbi: the High Holidays. When she learns her mother is in the hospital, Avivia rushes – with her ex-husband in tow – to Boston. Questions abound: If her mother only had a simple fall, why did the hospital place her in a medical coma? Why does the staff at the hospital and the assisted living facility act as if they are hiding something? Does the fact that a new company owns the assisted living facility and the hospital have anything to do with her mother’s injury? Aviva is willing to risk her own life to find the answer.
“Aviva is an appealing character, partly because she’s honest about her own faults – and she does have several endearing ones, including not thinking before she acts. It’s also hard not to like someone who packs far more books than she can possibly read for the trip to Boston. The novel has the right balance of seriousness and humor, and the mystery was satisfyingly complex …. Yom Killer is fun, easy reading….a perfect book for the beach or relaxing after work.”
My thanks to Helen Chapman for the 5 star review of YOM KILLER she posted on Amazon:
You should buy the book. Promise, no spoilers.
The third of the series about Rabbi Cohen. Funny, poignant, as it touches on too many things none of us really want to think about, and, on top of it all, a darned good mystery.
No, it’s not necessary to read “Chanukah Guilt” or “Unleavened Dead” before Yom Killer, but it couldn’t hurt.
YOM KILLER won the David Award for best novel at Deadly Ink!