I just finished reading a best-seller that has received terrific reviews all over the place, "Stalin's Ghost" by Martin Cruz Smith. The writing is dry, taut and the plot is fairly compelling. I didn't absolutely love it but I must say there are some passages of dialogue that are achingly good, especially between Renko and his girlfriend. I haven't read every Renko book but one of my big problems was not being able to "catch up" with Renko's world. Smith, I would suggest, does little to bring the reader along. I would feel for any reader if this is their first Renko read. Just wondering about how much back story should be sprinkled into series books. With Lee Child and Reacher, it doesn't much matter -- each plot and situation is separate once you figure out the Reacher approach, the Reacher world, the Reacher myth. With Nevada Barr, I think she does a wonderful job of referencing other facts about her life without flashing a big marquee sign saying: "Caution, Back Story Ahead." I love a good thriller but when somebody suggests a new author to mine, should I have to start at book one? Or not?