I have been told by someone on Amazon* that my reviews are plot summaries, not reviews. Having read a few of my old reviews with this comment in mind, there is some merit in this view. Therefore, from this point on, I’ll try to make my reviews less like plot summaries and more like reviews.
Yet what makes a useful review? I define “useful” here as helping the reader to determine whether to read the book. I checked the reviews of the person who made this remark, and note that his reviews are largely opinion of various aspects of the book in question. To me, this means one learns more about the reviewer than the book – I find it hard to judge whether to read a book if “random reviewer” states a view on the writing quality, the plot, etc, rather than giving the reader some degree of objective information (which I do not think is found in the official “blurb” of the book, as in crime fiction these blurbs tend to summarise key, late plot points and so remove suspense and even in some cases any point in reading the book). The person who criticised my reviewing style has a far higher ranking as an Amazon reviewer than I do, though admittedly this ranking comes from other readers checking a box to indicate that the review was helpful.
Previously, in writing a review, I have:
– provided a taste of the story, usually the start of it, so as not to give anything significant away.
– highlighted any strengths, for example in the writing style; conveying of location, emotion and atmosphere; characterisation; distinctiveness (ie lack of formula); pace
– commented on the success of the plot in the context of crime novels in general
– said if I think the author has succeeded in what he/she has set out to do, if I think I know
– compared the book to the author’s previous work, if relevant
– provided a few links to other reviews and relevant information, for example specific background about the topic of the book.
Now, I’m not sure what to do. Presumably I need to reduce the amount of time spent on the first item in my list and spend a correspondingly greater time on the other points. Based on this person’s reviews, I also need to make mine much shorter.
*Amazon UK, my review of The Lewis Man by Peter May.