So I'm reading the catalog info on Sue Grafton's upcoming Kinsey Millhone book, T is for Trespass (December), and...holy moly. After 19 first-person Millhone novels, Grafton is switching to multiple narrators on this one...and the other narrator is going to be the killer.

Obviously Sue Grafton can do whatever she wants (I think a less successful writer who was still building his career would be told by his editor Oh, hell to the no), but this shift in POV raises some questions for me...

- Do you think people read Sue Grafton for Kinsey Millhone's voice more than the plot? If so, do you think they'll feel confused or disappointed? (Or am I making too much of this?)

- Could this be a shot in the arm for a venerable series? I don't mean any disrespect; Grafton's books are still terrific, but the age gap between the author and the character has come through in a few of her last books. They were no less enjoyable or well-plotted, but the narration just didn't sound like a tough thirtyish woman in the mid-1980s.

- Can you think of any other successful author who has pulled such a switch at this point in his or her career?

My theory: Grafton works so organically, making journals and throwing away so much work along the way, that she absolutely knew the story she wanted to tell...and realized she couldn't tell it with the framework she'd used in the past. And she had the chops and the publishing power to make a major change that's sure to be talked about. (Well, among people like us, at least.)

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what some other folks thought.

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It happens all the time. Jan Burke did it in Bones - the first book where I encountered it. Robert Crais did it in L.A. Requiem. Both decided to use mixed first/third narration after long having a first person series narrative. In those two cases, it worked for me. It rarely does, and often seems like laziness (I can't figure out how to tell this story, but I want to use first person, so - ah, hell, who's gonna notice?) or a fashion trend (Crais did it, so I'd better get with the program), but everybody is doing it so I'd better just get used to it.
It's not only should an authors change to multiple points of view when they have been successful with the first person or third person tight point of view, but how well do they do it. For me, with Jan Burke and BONES, it worked. L.A. REQUIEM was my first Robert Crais, and so far, has been my last. I did not like the way he handled the multiple points of view. I didn't care to go back into the past of some of the characters. But saying that, I think the Craise fans loved it because it gave them a chance to learn more about some of their favorite characters.

Writers must make their own choices but recognize that with choices there are consequences. Sometimes, the consequence leads to a wider readership as in the case of Dennis Lehane in MYSTIC RIVER, which, I understand his agent and/or editors did not want him to do.

The question is not "should they," but "how well will they do it, and what are the consquences?"
The question is not "should they," but "how well will they do it, and what are the consquences?"

You're right. Well put.

I'm willing to go along with an author whom I like on the theory that he/she knows best...but it still feels like sitting down with an old friend who's undergone an unfamiliar metamorphosis.
You're right; I forgot about Crais. And that was my least favorite Crais book, too.
Will this really revitalize a series that has become too stale to stomach? Or is even the author becoming bored?
Will this really revitalize a series that has become too stale to stomach? Or is even the author becoming bored?

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but I'm wondering what you find stale about Grafton. I still think her method of using interested, descriptive observation that often hides important clues is...well, it wasn't completely original in the 1980s, but she showed how it could be done in a way that also revealed much more about her detective. I still admire her, but my beef is with each book's "check-ins" with her supporting cast (some of whom are too cute by half) and some of her language, which is a little bit AARP for a brash detective in her thirties.

Anyway, I'm curious about your 'stale' comment.
It's been a while since I read Grafton, but I essentially stopped because both characters and plots didn't seem to change or grow much. And by that time I was getting really tired of the girl detective reinventing the war against crime over and over again. She began a fine and imaginative series and never went any further than that.
Really, perhaps bestellerdom kills inventiveness. The publisher and the readers want her to follow the same recipe with every batch.
I've seen it done, and it's tricky. John Connolly has done it recently, and well. I haven;t read LA Requiem, but Crais also did it a bit at the end of Forgotten Man, and it worked quite well. I think switching points of view like that risks taking the reader out of the vivid fictional dream the author works so hard to create, but, if done well, can have benefits that are impossible to create in a straight first-person story.


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