Why is it that some books attract more attention than others? I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer. I’ve written at least one book – Take My Breath Away – that I thought was good but which made little impression on reviewers. But, thankfully, the Lake District Mysteries have done better. And, when you’ve been around for a long time, it is often hard to get attention for your work.
The Hanging Wood has now become one of my more successful books in terms of reviews. It’s attracted favourable attention in The Times and The Literary Review, a column in The Guardian, and pleasing comments elsewhere, here, in the US, and on Amazon. And now it’s been highlighted in Oxford Today, a glossy magazine with a big readership: “stylish writing and a gripping plot make the perfect crime thriller.”
I’m very gratified, since reviews do matter. And the merit of positive reviews is that they are good for morale and motivation. There’s no doubt that, this week-end, I’ll write with greater zest because of this latest review.
And this is something I bear in mind when reviewing the books of others, especially those of living writers. It’s not about offering constant praise without a single caveat, because that tends to devalue the review. But I do like to look for the positives, especially with writers who aren’t best-sellers, and who deserve to be better known. Above all, I think it’s right to try to review a book on the basis of what it is trying to achieve, rather than what it isn’t.