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A revisit or a rehash?

The Blue Hammer - Ross Macdonald

How should one read an author's series? This is a question for which the answer would seem obvious: from beginning to end. Yet while this is certainly true for many series nowadays which are basically one story stretched over multiple volumes (e.g. Harry Potter), there are plenty in which authors use the same characters in a variety of separate tales. Must, for example, Arthur Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories be read in the order they were written, or can they be read and enjoyed in whatever order the reader encounters them?

To be honest, this is a question I hadn't considered until I finished Ross Macdonald's book. While the final novel in his Lew Archer series, it's only the second one that I haven't read. This didn't inhibit my enjoyment of his story in the least, but when I finished it I wondered if I had read enough of them to form an accurate assessment of its merits. Part of it is that its plot was similar in many ways to that of the first Lew Archer novel I read, The Goodbye Look, with an investigation into the theft of a personal item leading to an unraveling of a family's secrets dating back decades. Fortunately Macdonald was too good of a novelist to simply rehash his earlier book, as events go off in a very different direction and end up in a different place as a result. But was this the premise for all of his novels or just a coincidence that the first two I read just happened to contain a similar premise? It may be a trivial point, but it's one that I need to resolve whether Macdonald was revisiting one of his many premises or whether it was a tired regurgitation by a one-trick pony. I'd like to think that it was the former, and I enjoyed this book even in spite of the repetition of the premise, but I feel that I can't make a final judgment until I have the opportunity to read more of Macdonald's work.