Do 300+ Page Books Deliver a Better Mystery than 200+ Page Books?

Good grief! I am reading the second book in a series I thought I would love, but I just can’t seem to get into it. The first book had a good mystery, likable characters, the writing flowed, and the book seemed to promise me it was the first mystery book in what would be a really fun series. (I added the author to my “favorite authors” list.) But, the last few nights I have found myself wondering why I am reading this book.

With over 300 pages, it just seems like the author is using the “stretching” method. You know, putting a lot of unnecessary “fluff” into the book. But since I don’t buy my books like I do my produce, the book’s actual weight (the longer the book, the heavier) doesn’t matter. Do I really want to read the word-by-word exchanges the sleuth has with each of her friends? Do I really need to know every time she drinks a cup of coffee or hot chocolate? Do I really like the sleuth that much, that I’m willing to spend my time reading all of this “filler”?

I know I have commented (several times!) about the length of my books. If I’m going to read a 300+ page book, it had better have 300+ pages of plot. Recently I have found myself wondering if publishers demand 300+ pages from their authors.

I just went to Agatha Christie’s page, and clicked on the links for (more than) several of her books. Why is it that someone like Christie can write a mystery book with 3-D characters, lovely settings, great plots, and interesting mysteries in 200+ pages yet it seems like now it takes 100 more pages to do the same? Do publishers think that we judge our mystery books by their length? Do people feel “cheated” if the book is really good, but doesn’t take that long to read? Am I getting impatient with the 300+ length of books, when I don’t feel they have 300+ pages of interesting reading?

Perhaps an even better question would be “Am I really just nitpicking?”

Comments

  1. No, you’re not nitpicking! Right there with you. I detest “abridged” audio books, but sometimes it feels like authors write a book knowing the “fluff” will be cut out at some point.

    And I don’t need to know every detail about a character immediately. Let some of it come out over time, and let my imagination fill in some of the details.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Jackie, I hadn’t thought about the abridged audio books. I am with you on not liking them. (I won’t get them from audible.) But there is something to be said about the abridged copy taking out all of that padding fluff.

      • I can remember the “Reader’s Digest” condensed books. I would read one of those books and I never felt cheated. I just never realized as I was reading that I was missing out on anything important. Just maybe I wasn’t missing anything important.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list :

          Linda, I just looked up those Reader’s Digest condensed books. I see they were around for +/- fifty years. (I wonder why they went out of business.)

          • They’re still around and now called “Select Editions.” I’ve never understood the derision some people express toward these books. I’m with Linda on never feeling that I missed anything from them.

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              BB, I’ve never heard of the “Select Editions.” (Learn something every day!)

              • Danna and BB, I see a lot of these Reader’s Digest condensed books at library sales and garge sales. If one of my all time favorite authors ( the older ones) have a book in the Reader’s Digest version then I will pick it up, but if it is an author that I never heard of or one that I don’t like then I leave these for someone else.
                I can remember when I was still in school (a long time ago) that when any teacher would give out extra credit for book reports on any book we would choose, the teacher ALWAYS said for us to not try one that was in the Reader’s Digest. Almost all of these teachers must have been wise to some of their students taking shortcuts!!

                • Around here, most libraries don’t accept the condensed/select versions for book sales. There is one that has an in-library store where they do take them and I’ve left a request to be contacted if they have any with the dust jacket since I collect them. One of the volunteers is like me and doesn’t understand why people turn up their nose at the condensed books. She takes some to nursing homes and reads to the patients.

                  • To me BB, something to read is something to read. The Reader’s Digest books have always been good enough for me. After all, like I said, even though these books were condensed, I never knew I was missing out on anything.

  2. Agatha Christie is an exception to all authors, I’ve enjoyed her books for eons and never tire of a retread of her books.

    When I started to read The Thorn Birds many years ago, I read the first couple of chapters, couldn’t get into it, put it away, and about a year later picked it up again and read it in three nights…sometimes you just have to be ready to read a book.

    Give it another try later, it might be the timing is wrong right now…just a thought.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Bev, I think you might be right about the timing of a book. I have left many of my favorite authors, but usually give them two books before I finally call it quit.

    • Bev, At one time “The Thorn Birds” was my all time favorite book. I read this book over and over and over. But then I started to change what type of books that I wanted to read. I still love this book but now it isn’t my all time favorite. Right now my all time favorite is the “Harry Potter” series. That author had such a vivid imagination! But yes, there was a lot of filler in the series. The “Earth Children” series” (i.e. “The Clan of the Bear Caves”) was a good series but that series DID NOT need all of that description within the series.
      My favorite types of books are those that can get me interested from the first page and then make it so that I don’t want the book to end. Some series’ authors just hurt themselves for me adding all that extra stuff. I mean, why do we need to know what a person is wearing all the time!!??

  3. Yes, ‘fillers’ or ‘padding’ can be regrettably common. A bigger book can mean a bigger price tag, and is therefore encouraged by some publishers.
    Or sometimes an author just gets a bit too big for ‘pruning’. (The last three vols of a popular kids’ series about a boy wizard, anyone?)
    But also, sometimes we can just be in the wrong mood for something, somehow. I’ve done this. Books by authors that I normally love (Even sometimes ones that I’ve enjoyed before) – I just can’t get into them.
    I’ve found the best thing is just to put it aside and read something else for a while, and come back to it later. If I still don’t like it… well, then that’s that, but quite often I’ll find it thoroughly enjoyable.
    I’m the first to admit that any author (Even the wonderful Ms Christie) can have an off day, but it’s worth a try.
    Best of luck, Danna! :)

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      *Susan, I like your term “pruning” – and wish more editors would do it!

    • Susan, We mystery readers tend to give Agatha Christie a lot of slack, don’t we? I guess when a writer is, or was, as good at what he or she does that we tend to ignore a lot of the downside to their writing. It’s like, anyone can have a bad hair day!!

      • Just a few more things about Agatha Christie, I tend to think that she was similar to other writers. Some of her books I have a hard time putting down while others are somewhat boring to me. I guess even an artist such as Agatha Christie can also have bad hair days.
        One other thing that I find while reading some of the older, long gone, authors is their vocabulary. There are so many words in the story that I have no idea what they mean. It just gets to be a pain in the neck having to look some of these words up. I wonder if some of these older authors were English teachers at one time. I can still remember when my fellow classmates and I were stumped on the meaning of some words telling us to “look it up in the dictionary.!!”

        • Linda, that’s another feature you will like about your new Kindle – a built-in dictionary. Not sure which type you have, but for mine, you put the cursor on the word and the definition automatically appears at the bottom of the screen. For more info on Wikipedia, you just press a button. I -think- with a touch screen, you just touch the word for the definition.

          • Danna - cozy mystery list :

            BB, I wasn’t sure the built-in dictionary would work without WiFi.

            • If I’m not mistaken, there is a default dictionary on each Kindle. Mine utilizes 3G, but I have it off most of the time and am still able to look up words. Forgot about Linda not having wi-fi at home so she wouldn’t be able to access wikipedia there, though.

          • BB, I am having a hard time trying to get the books that I want to read to come up on my Kindle. I did it once but can’t remember what I did to make that happen. I am going to a class tonight at the YWCA for people who are having trouble with their Kindle. I sure do hope this will help me.

            I do plan on writing down each step by step. I sure hope I can learn something out of this class.

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              Linda, I don’t know how your Kindle works, but when I turn on my Kindle, the queue of books appears. You then tap on the book you want to read, and it opens. If you want to go to the next page, you tap on the right side of your Kindle screen, tap on the left to go to the previous page.

              • Danna, Evidently I have an ” older” type Kindle. All this one does is it allows me to read books. But that’s all I wanted. I am not that computer savvy enough to have anything more complicated. Just like my cell phone— all I wanted was a cell phone that let me call other people or to allow other people to call me. I am just not that into a lot of this techno stuff— but only because I just don’t know how to do this stuff. With the Kindle, all I wanted was to be able to take something with me whenever I go someplace that I want to read. This way I won’t have such a tendency to loose a book, like a library book which would cost me anywhere from 15 -30 dollars a book if I were to loose it!!

                • linda c, sounds like you have the same kind of kindle I have, and I feel the same way – all I want to do on my kindle is read, read read! :-) To pull up the list of books on your kindle, just push the teeny tiny button on the far right side at the bottom of the kindle, the button that looks like a little house. That will take you straight to the “home” page, and you will see a list of all your ebooks in order of most recently read. If it’s a long list you may have to view the “archived” items, that will be the very last thing on your list of books. To return to what you were reading before you pushed the “home” button, just push the “arrow” button on the far left side. Hope this helps and happy reading!

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              Let us know about your YWCA computer class, Linda. I hope it helps you finally be able to read your books!

        • Danna - cozy mystery list :

          Linda, when I’m stumped by a word in a book, I usually just skim over it and go for the content. I’m lucky to have WiFi in the house, and I don’t even bother using the Kindle dictionary to get the word’s meaning.

          • Danna, My granddaughter told me that I need to purchase some kind of Wi fi connector for my home computer so that I can bring the books up easier. That will have to wait until SS check day. Oh well, I do have PLENTY to read until then. It’s just frustrating not being able to do this computer stuff. The kids are lucky today to have all this knowledge. When someone cuts some other person down for being a “computer GEEK” I want to strangle that first person! How I wish a computer “GEEK” lived in this house!!
            My DH and I are going to take a 6 hour computer class at the library on Feb 2. This is a free class that most libraries around here offer.. My main problem is that I can’t always remember things.That is why DH is going with me and is taking the class. Hopefully he can remember some of this stuff. I sure hope we get something that is written down so that I can take it home with me.

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              Linda, I think (although I could be wrong) that you can buy the books (I’m going to say “buy” for the FREE books, also) and then download them onto your Kindle all by plugging the Kindle into your computer. Has your granddaughter tried that? As for the dictionary, I have never used it, and we have WiFi in the house, so I doubt you really need that.

              • Yes, you can “side-load” books via a USB connection. Personally haven’t done it, but it’s supposed to be pretty easy. BTW, which type of Kindle do you have? Touch, Keyboard (KK), Basic (aka Baby), Fire?

                Linda, that’s terrific you have a local organization conducting computer training classes. Hopefully the instructor(s) will have hand-outs for the attendees. If you have a tape recorder (yes, one of those never-hear-of-anymore devices), you might want to use it, too. Of course most people are a lot better at taking notes than I am because I’m such a slow writer that I miss things trying to write it down!

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              Good idea about taking your husband to your computer class, Linda. One of you can take notes while the other asks questions.

          • Maybe I’m an exception. I love words. I used to have a workable vocabulary that would get me in trouble. Medical and health problems have relieved me of that trouble. ;(
            If a book offers me believable characters, humor and a great plot line, then looking up words in a dictionary or thesaurus, to me, is a bonus.
            My rant of any author would be sections dealing not only with personal relationships, but the physical details as well. One author, I keep where I will not get another of her books (ok, maybe I will give a second chance) had several pages of almost pornographic descriptions. I expect that in some romances (thus my choice to not read romances) but in a cozy mystery?…well that was just my opinion, humble or not.

            • Danna - cozy mystery list :

              Gayle, as long as the author isn’t trying to “show off” by using overly difficult words, I’m OK with reading for context. If I feel an author is using bigger words than really need to be used, on a regular basis, I’m sorry to say I don’t stay with the author.

              As for “almost pornographic descriptions” >>> I agree, they don’t belong in a Cozy Mystery. Imagine Agatha Christie having to resort to that!

  4. Not at all. I just had a similar experience and found myself skipping pages of exactly the same fluff you describe.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Ann H, I keep wanting to skip pages, but am always hesitant because I think I’ll miss a clue.

  5. For me to read a book 300+ pages, it better have a fabulous plot that keeps me hooked the whole time (i.e. Harry Potter) or have large print and wide margins. :) It’s one thing if the details in the book are pertinent to the story and I’m okay with a bit of fluff, but some authors need to rein it in. I quit reading one book (not a cozy) because I got tired of the author describing every piece of designer clothing and jewelry that the main character put on and it wasn’t even close to 300+ pages. Obviously real life has its “fluff” moments so I would expect to read about some in a book, but you’d be better a darn good story teller to keep me interested past about 235 pages.

    Personally, it’s not the size of the book that matters to me, but the cover. I’ve picked up many a book because the picture on the front intrigues me. But that’s a different blog entry altogether. :)

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Laurel, I agree about authors needing to be really good story tellers to keep me reading a book past page 235. There’s one very popular author (not Cozy) who writes rather long mystery books. I read three of them. He is a good story teller, BUT each time I read just past the first half of the book, I thought he should have wrapped it up. The second half of his books became absolutely tedious to me. As I liked the first half of his mystery books, I made myself finish them, but what a waste of my time. This was before my page 50 rule. >>> He is no longer on my Favorite Authors list. (Clearly, since he is such a very popular author, a lot of people disagree with me!)

    • Laurel, I know I have said this many times before but, the book cover is the one important thing that helps me to decide if I want to try a new-to-me author or not. Now that I am starting to read some of the books on my new Kindle that Santa Claus brought me in his big bag I miss the front cover. One thing though by using this blog I can check out the book cover on the Amazon web page. This has been a great help in me deciding if I even want to try the free or the 99 cents books.

  6. I agree completely – that’s why I stick primarily with the older writers – Richard and Frances Lockridge, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters, and of course, Agatha Christie. For more current writers, I do like Joanne Fluke (mainly because of the recipes).

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Marge, there’s something to be said about “older” writers. Although there are current authors who I enjoy, the “older” authors didn’t seem to have the same penchant for superfluous details. I can’t imagine Christie having Miss Marple talk about minutiae like – knit one, purl one, while drinking her tea, and then putting her tea cup on the saucer, only to pick up the cup to take another sip. Yikes!

  7. Yes, there are word lengths requirements by publishers. :>) They vary from publisher to publisher and it depends on the genre. Some publishers are more strict about it than others, but again, some of these rules are a result of legacy printing costs and storage. Not to mention a slim book sitting in a bookstore isn’t as easily seen and might not be as “valued” by some readers.

    Maybe the book in question will get soooo interesting you won’t be able to put it down next time!!!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Maria, “word lengths requirements by publishers” brings it all into focus!

      • Maybe though Danna, that is the problem with some of these publishers not really knowing what type of book their readers really want in their mysteries.. Except in some cases I don’t want a mystery to go on and on and on.
        Yes I love the John Grisham books and yes they seem to be quite thick. But John Grisham books are normally in larger print and the chapters are of the shorter variety. His books are page turners for me. I hate when I end one of his books then have to wait a while for the next one to come out.
        If a writer is such a good writer then I would think this writer would be able to fill in with something substantial instead of how many cigarettes someone is lighting up, how often that cup of coffee or tea gets picked up, what that person is wearing. Some of the short stories that Alfred Hitchcock produced into movies were some of the best stories that I have ever read. Length doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It’s the story and the mystery that counts with me.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list :

          Linda, you’re right. How many of us really needs to know how many times the sleuth picks up a cup of tea?

  8. I’m with you on this one! I’ve often felt that the author was getting paid by the word. Several books have used the exact same ‘fluffy’ sentences a number of times during the course of plodding. It is getting so bad that I am tending to buy my books on the basis of weight … the lighter ones being the ones bought!

  9. Danna, I agree with you. I enjoy a mystery that is short and sweet. It is a challenge for the author to develop plot, character, and story line in about 200 pages, but most good ones can do it. In one book by a well known author who will remain nameless, the book had 500 pages. I thought I would never reach the denouement. Another problem I have had lately is series of books. I recently read the complete series of Deborah Crombie and she managed to make each book different but somehow the same. The series I am reading at present is too repetitive. I am about to give up.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Regina, 500 pages for a mystery book? It must be a a mystery that takes a few generations to solve!

  10. Funny you should post this as I’ve been working on a similar post myself. Yes, publishers do require a certain word count, usually around 80,000 words, but I’m finding that readers are looking for shorter reads these days so you’re not alone. My last cozy mystery was around 160 pages and my next two will be about the same. As some people are reading on smaller devices, they want a shorter read. Now the world of self publishing has opened up, authors aren’t restricted by the word count that has been stipulated by publishers. I think we’ll see more of shorter books and hopefully less padding.
    Ann

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Ann, I wonder if Agatha Christie’s books would fill the word-count requirements current publishers demand.

    • How in the world would you even attempt to count all those words Ann? Do you start with word number 1 and then proceed to count each word or what? I guess your answer just might be a learning tool for some of us. Is there a system or method to counting words or is this just an estimate? For example, the publisher wants 80,000 words. How do you know when you have reached that 80,000th word? Are you allowed to go over that amount or do you have to stop at the 80,000th word? Just curious. Not trying to be smart or anything.

      • Most, if not all, word processing programs count words and even characters.

        • Okay, Thanks BB. I tend to forget about things like the word processor. When I think about writers actually writing I still get the image of authors sitting down to a regular manual typewriter. Maybe my imaginations need to get up with the times.

  11. This sounds like an editing problem! I agree, I think a lot of authors seem to start scenes too early (so the protagonist is talking to all her/his friends, getting another cup of coffee, driving to the scene), or they let them drag on too long after the main purpose has been revealed. I’ve learned that every scene needs to drive the plot (or perhaps a subplot) forward, and should be cut or revised if it doesn’t. While book lengths vary by genre, 80-85000 words (around 300 pages) seems to be the expectation for most traditionally published mysteries, although cozies seem to be a little shorter 70-75000 words and procedurals/thrillers may be closer to 90-95K. Personally, I don’t think its the length, it’s how well the book is written! (speaking as someone whose books are about 330 pages :-)

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Susie, I don’t have a problem with longer mystery books IF they have enough to fill up their pages. Recently, I have been trying many new-to-me authors, and I find that a lot of them don’t have scenes that drive the plot forward. They are simply scenes that the author thinks we, the readers, might enjoy. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy a lot of those types of scenes. I think (as you put it) “every scene needs to drive the plot (or perhaps a subplot) forward”, which isn’t always the case.

      • You know Danna, Just maybe that is the problem with some writers as well as some publishers— they just “think” they know what we mystery readers really want in our mysteries. But then, maybe we readers can be a little fickle in our reading habits too. Sometimes, as some people have said before–we can tolerate a little more from our favorite writers than we will the newer-to-us writers and especially brand new writers.
        I wonder if just maybe someone, especially say a publisher, will think if one writer writes in a certain way then we readers want other books to be written in the same manner. Maybe some of us readers can get into a rutt as to what kind of book we want to read, also. I know some people personally who only read mysteries, where some people just read the Romance type books. I, myself, like to read whatever I am in the mood for at that time. My sister and brother who read quite a bit will also vary in their reading.
        It would sure be nice if a publisher would answer some of our questions as to what makes them decide to publish the books that they decide to publish. This would be a very interesting subject matter, to me anyway.

  12. I agree with you. I skip over the “fluff”. I also skip over graphic descriptions of the sexual act. That is so unnecessary and not germane to the plot at all. It can get disgusting too!

    Because of arthritis in my hands, I have trouble holding large books for any length of time.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Martha, I always feel like I want to skip over the padding, but then I worry that I’ll miss a few clues!

    • Martha, I am a skipper!
      Danna, I don’t think you will miss much. And–you can always go back if you think you missed something.

  13. I always had a problem with James Michner books in that he never seemed able to shut up. And he was an excellent writer. Some authors are just blabbermouths. There are so many good books to read, if the whole story can be told in 200 or so pages – why not?

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Susan, I totally agree with you. >>> “if the whole story can be told in 200 or so pages – why not?”

      • Susan and Danna, I too totally agree. Hope some publishers are reading some of our comments here. It would be nice if some of these publishers would get a “big clue” as to what we dedicated mystery readers want in our mysteries. It isn’t the size that counts; it’s the content. A big apple is good but a small apple can be very tasty also. And_– it doesn’t take sos long to eat.

    • Susan, I *completely* agree with you about James Michner. Years ago I subscribed to Reader’s Digest Books and one volume had a Michner book – I think “Texas.” Up to that point, I always finished reading a book, even if I didn’t like it (yes, Danna, my OCD at work again), but I just could NOT bring myself to finish Michner’s “epic saga” because it drug on f-o-r-e-v-e-r and was utterly boring. And, it was even condensed!

      • BB – That’s so funny. Why didn’t he quit when the story reached a logical conclusion? My own cozy mystery began as a 1K word short story. I only had to add 62K words to get it to novel form, but the essential elements of the story were all there from the get-go.

  14. Agree that sometimes an extended book length is often unneeded and can actually harm an author’s or publisher’s reputation. Several of my favorite authors series are consistent in length and quality of plot. However, the more popular an author becomes the book length often grows and the more I notice the need for some recommended editing.

    An interesting post. Maybe this is why some of the ebook publishing sites have been so popular. They allow authors independence to write AND publish shorter novels and short stories again.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Elizabeth, I guess publishers feel like they can’t charge +/-$8.00 for a 200 page book, so add some extra words, and make it a bargain.

  15. I agree with Susie, I don’t think it’s the book length as much as the content. Some books are just not well written and many things cause this, including adding fluff or they are in a rush.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Kath, I also agree with the editing problem Susie brought up, and you bring up a really good point about rushing. I don’t know a lot about the publishing world, but sometimes, when an author becomes popular, it seems like he/she might be rushing to put out as many books as he/she can. I’m guessing that the editors are also rushed, which would be a “Catch 22″

  16. It’s mainly due to the demands of publishers who insist on formulas over quality and rush their authors to produce books so they can make more money. I agree with Susie, too, that editing plays a big part in it. Plus, the writers want to make a living so they cave in to a lot of demands they would prefer to avoid (I’ve heard that story from a lot of published authors I’ve met over the years). Unfortunately, the readers are the ones who suffer the most. A well written book is a joy to read no matter the length, but a book I have to trudge through is one I’ll put down, and probably will avoid that author in future.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Donna, the more famous an author, the more books he/she seems to put out in one year.

    • Donna, It is a really nice thing that some of you who have had books published explain how books get published. It’s good to know how some of this stuff works. Thank you.

  17. Danna I am in your corner. I started reading the 3rd book in a series which I had like the 1st two books. I got to page 50 of the 3rd installment and said ugh and stored it back on the Nook thinking maybe I would read it at a later date (much later). I agree with Susie’s comment above. Pages don’t matter. It is what the author puts on the pages to hold the reader attention. Why is it some authors can write books after books and hold the readers interest on all of them; and then there are other authors who become over-confident and screw up the series?

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Sheila, I think a lot of authors make the mistake of staying with a series too long. I would rather have an author “wrap it up” than have an author who simply wants to continue a series by just “calling it in”.

      What a shame that you are already, in book #3, sensing “the end”!

  18. It’s interesting that you brought up this topic. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten frustrated with recent books by a couple of my favorites that have gone on way too long. I lose interest and either skip pages or even chapters and head toward the last chapter or two, or drop it altogether. The most recent book of one of my favorite authors got dropped after a couple of chapters because it was BORING. I’ve followed this author for many years in a long series and looked forward to her newest story. I did notice how much longer the book was this time when I purchased it, but never thought that it would be filled with useless words and description that were totally unnecessary. So sad!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Edie, I do exactly what you describe when I finally have had enough of an author. I also skip to the last chapter (or two>>> if the last chapter doesn’t have the “wrap up” of the case) and then drop the author altogether. I almost “agonize (I know this is an extremely strong word) about dropping an author from my Favorite Authors list. Both my husband and daughter must dread when I finally drop an author, since they hear about it a whole lot!

  19. I agree that some authors really stretch out a story. I have hit another problem. I have read a mystery series of a certain author since the first book, but the last two I didn’t even finish. Something in her writing is missing, it just doesn’t have the “catch” that her earlier ones did. They did not hold my attention at all. I have been trying to figure out why and all I can think of is that her writing has changed in some way. I am so disappointed!

  20. Thanks for saying that. I have been very frustrated with the new mysteries that are coming out. ‘Fluff’ is a nice way to put it. I think most of them are a huge waste of time. I bring a pile home from the library and take most of them back unfinished. Thankfully I can’t afford to buy books, I’d really be angry if I paid for those books I didn’t read. THANK GOD FOR LIBRARIES. And, what’s this with multiple authors of books lately? Confusion on top of frustration. Thanks for letting me vent.

    • What does ‘awaiting moderation’ mean. Too blunt and mean? If so….delete it. Writing it helped. I’m over it now. :-) Thanks.

      • Danna - cozy mystery list :

        Connie, you were neither blunt or mean!

        (The site gets many unsolicited, (rhymes with) “ham” comments. I don’t let the comments go up without checking to make sure they really are comments, and not just selling “services” of some sort. Also, I put up spoiler alerts when needed, and keep “trolls” from overtaking the comments. Oh, and I take off people’s last names.)

        • Danna, Thanks for your explanation about”awaiting moderation”. It has happened to me a few times and i wondered where I had erred. Now I realize it is a benefit for all of us.

          • Danna - cozy mystery list :

            Regina, I remember being a member (years ago) of an online crafting group. Occasionally, a few bad apples would get through and ruin it for the rest of us.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Connie, it sounds like you have a terrific library system, and that you have a sort of “fifty page rule” that works for you!

  21. As an avid mystery reader, I will read any book that has a good plot and keeps me wanting to know how it is all resolved. If I start reading a book no mater how many pages, and it doesn’t hold my interest, I will stop reading. I go to the library and try different mystery authors and see which ones I like. Then I may buy other books by that author. Keep up the good work.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Linda, I think you’re right about the length of a mystery not being important IF it’s a good book that holds your interest.

  22. For me it all depends on how the writer uses the bits and pieces that make up the story.
    Sometimes it takes 300 pages to develop the setting and in some cozies, I enjoy the “word pictures” that tell me where I am and where I am going.
    Some books in a series ASSUME that the reader has read the previous books and makes comments about things that occurred in the past but doesn’t explain them.
    I do get impatient with authors writing in the first person who stick in a lot of “touchy-feely” stuff or introspection that goes on for several paragraphs.
    On the other hand, I like descriptions of locales that I have never visited and the minutiae that tells me what the characters are doing and what they are handling, especially when there are unusual items that may or may not be critical to the story.
    They can keep the descriptions of sexual activity, unless it is integral to the action, but I love the descriptions of meals, foods, teas, coffees and etc. And books, descriptions of books the characters are handling, reading and book stores.
    From time to time I re-read Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop and I can actually “see” what the characters are seeing. Now that is writing!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      AndieP, Christopher Morley is to you like E. F. Benson is to me! Those Lucia novels are the only ones I (intentionally) read over and over. (With my mystery book memory, I’m sure I have reread some, at least the first 50+ pages.)

    • AndieP, Talk about “fluff ” or “filling in”, I am now reading a book that has some serial killer going around killing women who all look alike and one of the “look alike” women characters is looking at a guy’s buns! Talk about “fluff!!!” Someone is out to kill me, I just can’t see where sex would be on my brain!!

      • I can give you an example of what I mean about filling in the “bits and pieces” that make a book more interesting to me, although to some people it might seem like “fluff.”
        I’ve long been a fan of Margaret Maron and her earlier books in the Sigrid Harald series were shorter -close to 200 pages and there were passages that described her lack of attention to her appearance and an explanation why, which I think irritated some people but to me it explained much about her character.
        Her later books were longer, with more complex development of the other characters in both the Harald mysteries and in the Deborah Knott mysteries. I just read her latest “The Buzzard Table” that is 320 pages and to me, every word works. Perhaps part of the attractions is that I grew up in the south with similar traditions and family dynamics and I enjoy the parts that explain some of the reasons people do things, even though they might not directly relate to the story.
        I’m going to write a review for Amazon and am giving it 5 stars because it was one of those mysteries that I could not put down, once begun.
        The “crafty” mysteries were mentioned above and I too have a problem with too much running on about the patterns and such when it does not advance the story or have no point. In a few stories a particular piece counted significantly in the reason for the murder and the solving of it and that was fine – in another it was a seemingly minor “clue” about a particular type of knitting needle that was the crux of the case and that was okay. But when I have to read three pages of history about how and why certain quilt patterns were developed to tell a story that has NOTHING to do with the mystery, I get bored with it. Conversely, in another such mystery, it was a historically important quilt that figured in the mystery and I liked that.
        The crafty mysteries that have left me cold are the scrapbooking mysteries. Inane characters, unlikely reasons for the murders and obvious clues. I like twisty and convoluted but not contrived.

        • Danna - cozy mystery list :

          AndieP, the example you gave of the passages that described Sigrid Harald’s lack of attention to her appearance would not be “fluff” to me. I was talking about instance like giving a word-by-word conversation, sort of a ping-ponging of “and then she said, and then she replied, and then she responded, and then she answered” – you know, the sort of things that really weren’t needed to advance the story. This is not to say I don’t want conversations in my books! Sometimes I get the impression that the author is simply drawing things out, for no other reason other than either he/she really thinks this is good writing, or they simply don’t know what is important to the plot.

  23. Danna, I agree with everything you said in your post. I have read books that were under 200 pages; and I just flew through them and would have loved them to be longer. The fact the author was able to get a great mystery in under 200 pages was amazing.
    Most of the cozies I read are with in the 200 to 250 range and always seem just right. Of course there are a few of my favorites that, no matter how many pages, always seem so short. But, I have reluctantly read a few books that were far beyond the 300 pages and it seemed like I would never get to the end.
    There is one author that comes to mind. I enjoy her stories, plots, characters and settings; but the books seem to drone on and on endlessly with out point. There is so much useless writing (for lack of a better term) that I find my self getting lost out of sheer boredom.
    I don’t care how many pages a book has, but I want it to be relevant to the plot and character development. Some times I get the feeling some books just become “ego projects” for some authors and that’s when I stop reading them.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Margaret, some of my favorite authors write 300+ page mystery books that hold my attention to the very end, and as you say, when they do end, they “always seems so short.”

  24. Great topic Danna. This is a question that I have asked myself for some time now. I have a previously favorite author and I am halfway through her series and actually got halfway through the next book in her series two times and chose not to finish it. I found the book too tedious and felt like I was going in circles with the descriptions. I’m considering skipping this book and going to the next one but don’t want to do that. For right now I’m putting this author on hold. I appreciate an author who leaves me wanting more. Makes me even more anxious to pick up the next one in the series.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Nancy, I hope putting your author on hold works. I also want to read authors who leave me wanting more >>> not less!

  25. Danna, Just a side note here about librarians since the last few people brought it up. I did get a Kindle for Christmas but I had no idea how to download the books onto my Kindle. My granddaughter was supposed to come help me with that and she did one day. But she works full time and is going to college full time, plus she is planning her wedding that will take place this coming June. I can’t take up any more of her time.
    While at one of my area libraries there was a sign offering help with this. So I took up that offer.
    I knew absolutely NOTHING about how to do this. One librarian helped me register my Kindle, set up my library account, set up my Amazon account. She also explained about the WIIFY, whatever that is. Evidently I don’t have wiify.
    I am not computer literate at all. I can get around the internet okay but when it comes to something like this Kindle I don’t know what to do. I am afraid I will mess something up big time. I have had to go back to each of the 3 libraries that I frequent and will have to go back again. I can buy the books that I want and I get a message saying that my books have been delivered but I cannot figure out how to get the books to appear on my Kindle so that I can read the book. I did it ONE TIME but CANNOT remember what I did to make that happen!!
    But these librarians in each of these libraries have been so patient and so kind to me. Long live these librarians and libraries. What a good group of people!! Love these people. What a rare breed of people these librarians are!! Oh just another little tid bit. My granddaughter suggested that if I didn’t want to risk putting my credit check card on the internet that I just go buy the gift cards and order my books from that. I do believe that is what I will do.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Linda, the next time you’re at your library, make sure you ask if they have books for the Kindle that you can borrow. (My library has that service.)

      • All 3 of the libraries that I frequent have that service, Danna. One of the librarians said that not all publishers will agree to offer their books that way. I can understand that. Their job is to sell the “Book.” Even though, I do now have a Kindle I am still wanting to hold a real book in my hand. I think if it gets to where more books are becoming available on the EBooks, those ebooks will become more expensive. These people are in the business to make money and I don’t have a problem with that. I worked because I wanted to earn a living, not just to provide a service to others. I needed to pay my bills, too. What’s the old saying” there is no such thing as a free lunch.??”

    • Congrats on your new Kindle, Linda! If you don’t have wifi at home, then you probably were only able to download the books while at the library since many/most have wireless internet available. BTW, I find it easier to navigate and purchase from Amazon via a computer. Oh, and you mentioned in another comment about missing seeing covers now. When opening a new book, you can Page Up until you see its cover. I’m a cover geek, too, and always like to do that.

      Yes, libraries and librarians are great resources and how wonderful that so many are embracing technology and new customer needs.

  26. This is a terrific discussion. I love reading about how other readers respond to the writing and issues like those being discussed here. I can imagine a retreat at some fabulous location (fill in the details you’re most attracted by — forest, ocean, urban setting) where we all get together to read separately and then chat like this over wonderful meals in delightful settings.
    In re. the discussion of fluff — the thing I hate MOST and that I find most tedious, offensive, and interminable is discussions of weight, fat, dieting, judgments of come characters by other characters about the bodies, the bellies, the numbers of chins, etc. and attaching to those descriptions character flaws, suggestions about relationship deservedness, etc. First of all, who cares? It never has anything to do with the plot. Second of all, it’s blatant bigotry. Third, altho perhaps it should be first, it’s BORING!!!!!
    Along with but not quite as awful is stuff about make-up, clothing, esp. obsessions about shoes, and muscles or the lack thereof on the bodies of every man who comes into sight.
    Obviously, (or I think it’s obvious) the books I’m talking about are books by women writers — which, for various reasons, I generally prefer.
    But I am wondering if this nonsense to which I object and which I am bored by is mandated by publishers. Why is it endlessly there?
    As for length, I don’t care so long as it keeps me involved.

  27. I guess I’m in the minority here, because I’ve always loved long books. I used to read a lot of historical fiction, and the best ones immersed you totally in the life and times of the characters and the place. Now the plots are thin and there’s way too much sexual description. (I loved many of Michener’s books – I even changed careers after reading his The Source.) And the longer the Harry Potter books got, the better as far as I’m concerned! The 5th one came out when I was recuperating from open heart surgery, and my husband had to buy me a bookstand so I could read it without having to lift it!
    I haven’t found this in the longer mysteries such as Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache and Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series.
    What I have found is a lot of fluff in what I consider the shorter mysteries – about 200-300 pages. I have the same problem as Connie; I bring home a pile of mysteries from the library and take many back unread. I think the proliferation of craft mysteries has contributed to the fluff problem. Sometimes publishers seem to think that if a series is based on a craft or hobby (including the collecting of clothes and shoes), it doesn’t matter if the books are well plotted and well written. That’s not to say there aren’t wonderful ones out there, because we all know who they are!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Deb, I am so glad you posted the other side of the coin.

      AND, you’re right. >>> We do know who the “wonderful ones out there” are!

      • Deb, The “Harry Potter” series is an excellent example of me not wanting a book to end. I knew there would probably not be anymore books from that series and I just didn’t want it to end. But I guess this is a good day for old sayings but——- all good things come to end, huh?? The “Fannie Flagg” series seems to have come to an end and I really miss that series.
        Speaking of “Harry Potter”, I watched “Downton Abbey” last night on “Think TV” just because Dame Maggie Smith starred in it. I had never watched the series before but will now look for it each week. Love Maggie Smith. She was just as feisty in this movie as she was in “Harry Potter.” Loved the show. Never knew this series was even on until I saw it on one of the early morning shows last week. Wonderful series. Can’t hardly wait for the next episode!! Funny– I watched this movie while DH watched “Jesse Stone.”

  28. I tend to prefer longer books, because I am very detail-oriented (that’s what I like best about mysteries to begin with). What bothers me, though, is when a writer writes several longer books and then starts writing shorter books. I feel cheated somehow, particularly if this is a writer I buy in hardcover (because the price of the book rarely changes commensurate with the size of the book).

    I try to keep an open mind and judge the book by whether or not the writer still manages to tell a full story in a shorter format, but I have noticed on several occasions that there do seem to be unjustified leaps in logic and clues falling out of the sky when a writer suddenly shortens their normal story length.

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Julia, I hadn’t thought about the price of hardcover book. What a shame publishers feel the need to charge the same for a long VS. a short hardcover. I wonder if that will change now that e-books look like they are definitely a new animal they are going to have to deal with…

  29. Danna, I just finished reading “Tumbleweed” by Leila Meacham. This is a very new-to-me author. But the front cover and the inside cover are what drew me to this book.
    What a wonderful book! The story was great. And with the college football season coming to an end for this season to have read this book now was, I can’t think of the word that I want to use, To have read this book at this time was fitting(??).
    This book wasn’t really classified as a murder mystery, although there is a murder, as well as a suspicious death involved in the story.

    The story was about 3 people who, orphaned for various reasons, grew up together in a Texas town where highschool football was the highlight of the town’s residents’ lives.
    This book was 466 pages long. The story really was a saga of sorts that spanned several years of these 3 people’s lives, most of it situated around what went on during the football/highschool years of these three people as well as of others in the town.
    As the story went along and the murder happened I thought I knew who did the deed and why it was done. But at the end of the book when the murderer was revealed I thought how dumb I was not to have picked up on who the person was and why he/she did it. I mean, I read murder mysteries all the time!! I should have picked up on who it was a lot earlier.
    I didn’t like the way the book ended but given the circumstances in the story, I realize the ending had to end the way it did.
    Very good, long book. The only reason I wanted this book to end was because I wanted to know who did the murder!!

    • Danna - cozy mystery list :

      Yow, Linda! 466 pages? The book would have to be EXCELLENT for me to even consider reading a book that long! (Of course, if you add up all the pages of books in a favorite author’s list, 466 pages doesn’t sound like anything!)

      • Danna, this was a good book. This was another book that got me interested from the very first page. Love that kind of book!!!

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