I recently discovered the Ellery Hathaway series by Joanna Schaffhausen thanks to Crime by the Book, I think. I’ve been on a crime fiction bender lately, and I’ve been getting all my recommendations from Abby at Crime by the Book, so if I’m recalling correctly, she had mentioned this author at some point as well.
And if you follow Crime by the Book, you know Abby knows what she’s talking about, and I found a new author to binge.
The Ellery Hathaway Series
Ellery Hathaway is the survivor of a serial killer’s abduction. Yeah, this whole series takes place after this other thing that happened. (!!!) She’s now a police officer in a small town in Massachusetts when she believes she stumbles upon another serial killer. Getting nowhere with her colleagues, she calls the one man who can help her, the same man who saved her from that serial killer so many years ago, FBI Special Agent Reed Markham.
That’s the premise for this as-of-this-writing 5 book crime fiction series. Each installment tackles a new mystery as Ellery and Reed are developed as the main characters.
Why This Series Works For Me
I will start by saying I almost gave up on this series before I started.
Ellery has a dog, y’all, and it’s a basset hound named Speed Bump. Look anywhere on this blog, and you’ll know why I almost put it down immediately.
NOTHING CAN HAPPEN TO THE DOG, AND IT ESPECIALLY CANNOT HAPPEN TO A BASSET HOUND.
But I had already devoured Schaffhausen’s latest, Gone for Good, the first book in the Detective Annalisa Vega series, and I knew her strength as a writer, so I didn’t want to give up.
I’m really glad I didn’t.
Something does happen to Bump in the first book. I’m telling you right now. But he is okay! I DM’ed the author on Instagram, and she assured me her own basset hound would not allow anything to happen to Bump. So let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Ellery and Reed
I’ve been reading more fiction with flat character arcs. This is when the character has little to no development over the course of a long series. I’ve found this more appealing as of late because quite honestly it’s more realistic to how, you know, humans work. We’re creatures of habits, and it’s difficult to learn new ones. I like seeing characters struggle to get out of their own way. You can feel for them when they slip up, and that just makes them more relatable.
Ellery is facing a lot. I mean A LOT. This is not a damsel in distress story, and Reed doesn’t come in to save her. That just leads to a heightened tension between the two main protagonists. It is a DELICIOUS tension.
Like the Dr. Ruth Galloway books, the mystery in any particular book serves to raise the stakes of the characters’ internal struggles. This is so beautifully done by Schaffhausen in this series, and I look forward to watching the characters continue to struggle. (Sorry, Ellery and Reed!)
Again, this is a women’s fiction mystery book, the term I coined to describe a mystery book that also delves into issues faced by women in today’s society. Ellery’s character has the added element of surviving a horrific crime, and this lends a different angle to the story that would not otherwise be seen.
This mystery book series is edgier than the Dr. Ruth Galloway novels, but I find them comparable. Most of the crime is not on the page, but there is more graphic descriptions of what happens. Still, if you’re not comfortable with all the gore but like the mystery, this is a great crime fiction series to check out.
You can really tell the progress in Schaffhausen’s writing from The Vanishing Season, her first book and the first mystery in the Ellery Hathaway series, to Gone for Good, her latest release, and I love the promise this shows. Schaffhausen is a writer who clearly enjoys building and improving her craft above and beyond her natural talent, and that just makes me look forward to her future novels.