When I joined the Dead Guy team a few years ago, one of the links in the idea-to-bookshelf chain was a reviewer. (Hi, Sharon; I’m guessing you still check in from time to time, even if it’s a while since we heard from you. Give me a call sometime.)
That role hasn’t been filled recently, so this week I thought I’d take the opportunity to plug the gap, if you’ll pardon the expression. I recently started reviewing a book a month for a website, and they’ve used everything I’ve submitted so far, so I think I’d qualify even if I wasn’t a voracious and reasonably discerning reader as well.
So far I’ve reviewed three books, sent one back because I couldn’t connect with it at all and am reading another at the moment. Of the three, one was in danger of becoming a well-kept secret: a beautifully written heart-tugger which explored the nature of grief as it moved through the puzzle which caused the grief. I would never have found it if it hadn’t been on the list available for review, but I’m very glad indeed that I did. It wasn’t an intellectually demanding read, but it made me wipe away a tear or two.
One was a kind of adventure-romp: lots of galloping around the world, a couple of feisty female characters and a sexy hero, one of the world’s enduring mysteries to solve and a rising body count along the way. It was fun, decently done tosh, and I read it in a couple of sittings.
I described the third as dense, chewy and ultimately satisfying, which is probably about right. It was historical, which isn’t always good news for me, and the author had done a lot of research, which can be very tricky to blend into a storyline without getting bogged down. But his characters drew me in and I think he pulled it off.
The one I couldn’t connect with was so badly written I simply couldn’t get past the first page. I have a feeling it was self-published. And it’s reappeared twice on the list available for review. Go figure.
The one I’m currently reading is... interesting. It’s set in the 1960s, and judging by the little stabs of nostalgia it’s giving me, not all of them entirely comfortable, the author has either done his homework or he’s been there, done that.
OK. Now for today’s question. Does any of the above affect in any way at all your desire to read any of these books? The brief of the website I’m reviewing for is to support crime and mystery fiction, which means reviewers are required to say what’s good about the books and not harp on about what doesn’t work. I think my three-line summaries above are a little more realistic; so far the only real turkey I’ve chosen is the one I didn’t even attempt to review, but nothing’s perfect.
I’m interested to know to what extent my single, untutored opinion is likely to make people buy or not buy the books I’m allowed to pontificate about. And not just me; do reviews actually count for anything?
And how about those best of... lists that proliferate at this time of year? I have a vested interest here, kind of: my good friend Chris Nickson was recently delighted and flabbergasted in equal measure to find the audio version of his first Richard Nottingham novel, The Broken Token (which was the one I spotted, folks; big buzz for me too), on a very short list of best audiobooks of 2012 alongside J K Rowling and Ian Fleming in one of the UK’s leading national newspapers! Does that make you want to read it? Or does it put you right off?
I ask because I’m interested. If I’d known the secret ingredient that makes people buy one book and not another when I was still in publishing, I might just possibly not have given it up. But I’m still interested.