Since 1987 when I published Under Cover of Daylight with W.W. Norton, I’ve been learning about book reviews. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in these years. For one thing, whether the review is good or bad, its impact on the sales of the book is one of the great imponderables of publishing. Does it help, does it hurt, or does it have any effect at all? I’ve not been able to see a great deal of correlation. I’ve gotten fabulous reviews, starred, boxed, with my photograph attached, a half page in the New York Times (that surely sold a few books), and I’ve gotten so-so reviews as well.
Of course, I prefer positive reviews, ones that seem to shine a light on some of the aspects of the book that were meaningful to me, or that I worked particularly hard on.
Reader reviews are another matter altogether. The reviews on Amazon or Goodreads are written by non-professional critics or average readers. Reader reviews that are negative or seem built on silly premises (“This isn’t at all the book I was expecting, so I didn’t like it.” or “There were too many profanities.”) can bother me for a few minutes. But over the years I’ve learned to disengage a bit more from that aspect as well. Now I’m more interested to see the kinds of things readers actually like and care about. This part of reader reviews is very very helpful to me. Not that I can automatically take a reader’s values and change the way I write accordingly. But I can learn what features of my novels click with readers and therefore be more likely to work on sharpening those points. Has there ever been a time in human history when writers had such great access to their readers’ mindset? Nope. It’s a great time to be a writer in that regard.
Anyway, all this is a prelim to including my first review on the new book, and the new series. It’s a very good one. “…thrilling series launch…” is wonderful praise for a novel I worked very very hard on. And I really love the last couple of sentences. Harper was great fun to write. It’s very heartening to find that a reviewer enjoyed her so much.
So away we go:
When They Come for You
James W. Hall. Thomas & Mercer, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4778-4867-8
Harper McDaniel, the heroine of this thrilling series launch from Edgar-winner Hall (The Big Finish and 11 other Thorn novels), has recently lost her celebrity photographer mother to suicide, but she takes comfort in her loving husband, Ross, an investigative reporter for the Miami News, and their baby son, Leo, with whom she lives in Coconut Grove, Fla. Then one evening Harper returns home from a charity event to find cops and firefighters outside the remains of her house, which has been destroyed by fire. Inside she finds Ross and Leo, who have both been shot dead. Assisted by her brother, Nick, a resettlement specialist for the World Bank, and her gangster grandfather, she sets off to track down the killer. Her quest leads her to Africa, Switzerland, and Spain, where she pieces together a mosaic of crimes linked to the deaths of scores of innocent people. A woman of action, Harper fights her own battles, takes her own risks, and sets her own traps. This intricately plotted novel delivers a protagonist to root for and villains worthy of the name. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency. (Sept.)