I read a lot of crap. After several years on a diet of books from the shelves of the local Goodwill stores I've run through most of the authors whose names I recognize. So I'm forced to experiment. There have been some wonderful surprises, many that were just OK, and several that made me wonder how such a book every made it to print. Lately I've had a string of the baddies. Two books in a row I was unable to finish. Both were abandoned half way through chapter four.
I have this rule, which I didn't realize I had till just this week. I can overlook just about any flaw for the first three chapters of a book, but if chapter four sucks, forget it. This rule became obvious to me with my current read. It's from the middle of a detective series I hadn't heard of, and the first three chapters were pretty bad. Endless tracks of exposition about back stories and settings and relationships. It was pretty dull and the setup for the crimes to come were obvious and cliched. I nearly didn't start chapter four, but I gave it one more chance and I'm glad I did. The whole tone and pacing of the book has changed for the better. It's as if the writers, a husband and wife team, took a collective deep breath after getting all the housekeeping out of the way and settled in to the meat of the writing.
So when you're spending about a buck a book, remember, there's a reason that book is on the thrift store shelf. Give it a break and wait at least three-and-a-half chapters before contributing it to your composter. You may be glad you did.