While characters and plot are of extreme importance in a mystery series, its location can often play an important role as well. The vibe of a book may change if the setting is set in a small town rather than a big city or is urban instead of rural.
A series may be set in a real location. The White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy, for example, are set in Washington DC while Betty Hechtman has a setting in Los Angeles, California; Tarzana to be more precise. Writers must be careful when using real locations. Inaccuracies in the setting may be picked up by readers familiar with the area. Artistic license aside, nothing annoys me more when I see glaring errors in book.
Some cities are characters unto themselves; San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York City are iconic places that bring their own style to the story when mysteries are set there. Juliet Blackwell brings the magic of San Fransisco to her Witchcraft Series. The vibe of New Orleans can be felt in the Piece of Cake Mysteries by Jacklyn Brady and Laura Childs' Scrapbooking Mysteries. You can feel the rush of New York City in Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries.
Some authors create fictional towns. In this way they can set the stage exactly as they need it, creating the perfect town for them. Oftentimes they will set this fictional town near real places-to add verisimilitude and pull interest for readers attracted to those real locations. Lorraine Bartlett's Victoria Square mysteries are set in McKinley Mill, New York. While you won't find this town on a map, it is based on a real town, and the books sometimes talk about the nearby real cities of Rochester and Buffalo.
Some authors use a variety of locations in a single series.The Passport to Peril series by Maddy Hunter features a travel organization-so each book goes on a trip. Changing settings like this also makes all the murders a little more plausible as well. We don't have to willingly suspend our disbelief as much. It's a bit more likely to stumble across murders worldwide than to have them all occur in your own small town backyard.
I enjoy settings both fictional and real. I love to read about places I've been...or wish to go... and I especially love books set in towns I know and love. What about you? Do you enjoy reading mysteries is settings you know, or do you prefer to explore the unknown?