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Friday, December 13, 2013

Musings on the Reviewer's Responsibilities

Last week I received a review on my latest book, The Tempest Murders. The review was complimentary and positive and mentioned no negatives. I should be flattered, right? So what's the problem?

Well, the review was based on the reviewer reading only the first five pages of a 265-page book.

That's right. Five pages.

It prompted me to think of the first five pages I've read of other authors' works. Clive Cussler's book, Sahara, begins in April 1865 in Richmond, Virginia. Yet the bulk of the book takes place in the present day. Many of his writings are slip-stream, the same genre as The Tempest Murders. I can't imagine reviewing that book based on the one scene that took place in 1865.

Yet that's precisely what this reviewer did with The Tempest Murders. Though she praised the first chapter, she admitted in the review that she had no clue why the second chapter began in North Carolina nearly two hundred years later, or what it had to do with the scene from 1839 Ireland. She said the only physical description she had of Rian Kelly was that he had black hair - but she didn't read beyond the fifth page to see whether the character was fleshed out as the story progressed (which it was; I very rarely describe a character in his or her entirety all at once, which slows down the action). If she'd read the synopsis or the back cover of the book, she would have known more than what she admitted knowing in her review.

While I appreciate any and all reviews, it made me wonder: as a reader, what do you expect from a reviewer? Do you read the reviews anticipating or assuming that the reviewer read the entire book? That they've read enough to know if the book gets better, gets worse, wraps things up or falls apart at the seams? Or at least enough to know the plot?

How much of your own reading is based on the reviews of others? Or do you ignore reviews altogether and go strictly by the book's description? Or the author's reputation?

To read more about The Tempest Murders including the plot and reviews, visit this page. The book placed as one of four finalists in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards!