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By Its Cover: Death on Demand series

How important is it for a book series to maintain the same look and feel?

Hart Don't Go HomeThe open gateway to a cemetery—with either a church or mausoleum beyond the visible graves—first drew my eye. This nighttime scene with its full moon creates a chilling tone suggestive of the supernatural or otherworldly. And then there’s the title: Don’t Go Home!

But then I noticed in the lower right the tagline: A Death on Demand Mystery. This surprised me somewhat. I’m familiar with Carolyn G. Hart’s work. I know she’s taken forays into the supernatural with her ghost sleuth Bailey Ruth, but this book features mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling and her husband, Max. The cover seems too dark for what’s been—based on my recollection—a traditionally cozy series.

In this 25th entry in the series, Annie is once again hosting a party (these never seem to turn out well) to celebrate the success of a local literary icon. Bestselling author Alex Griffith, described as “a literary Ryan Gosling”, “aims to reveal the real-life inspirations behind his characters…”

“If he went to the island, there would be turmoil and confrontations, but there would not be the depths of anguish he’d portrayed in his book. He could fashion a novel and the book would sell because best-selling authors have a market, but sour feelings, even gut-wrenching fear, didn’t offer the breadth and scope of the lives played out in Don’t Go Home.”

“He believed he could take what happened on his return and write both a tell-all and a sequel to Don’t Go Home.”

Naturally, Alex turns up dead.

The story starts off like the usual Death on Demand story. The same tone and feel. And though a cemetery might figure into the story later, it doesn’t seem to fit with the cursory look at the plot and first chapters.

Hart Death on DemandI know long-running series sometimes change publishers, or are acquired through publishing house mergers, which can lead to creative changes in design. Don’t Go Home was released in hardcover by Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Random House, in May 2015. The first book in the series, Death on Demand, was originally released in paperback by Bantam’s Crime Line imprint in February 1987. The cover art illustration (©1989 for the 16th printing) for this debut novel was credited to Cathy Deeter, who went on to create artwork for several subsequent books.

It’s unfortunate that as important as branding is for authors, that the authors themselves seldom have any say in what their cover art design would be. However, it’s not to say that the current cover art in this instance would turn me off of reading a book by a familiar author, but I do wonder what traction it would gain with newer readers to the series. Would it indeed attract the attention of the intended audience?

What are your thoughts about covers and changes in design tone for some of your favorite authors?

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Categorised in: Mystery, Reviews

2 Responses

  1. I absolutely agree. I definitely am drawn to a book by its cover. I’m one of those people. If it is of the cozy genre, I look for the cozy style book jackets. It helps to conjure up images for me of quaint and picturesque scenery – this new look for the Death on Demand series (which I’ve read many) doesn’t draw me and in many ways turns me off from grabbing the book.

    • I have to say this cover really doesn’t work for me either. If I hadn’t seen the author’s name, I probably wouldn’t have paid any closer attention. But the design/branding change made it an ideal topic for a By Its Cover feature.

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