In today’s increasingly online-oriented world, crime fiction fans very often look to the Internet to decide what they’re going to read next. That makes sense too when you think about it. The Internet gives the reader instant access to worldwide information about crime fiction from a whole variety of perspectives. But that’s part of the challenge. There are so many online sources of information about crime fiction that it’s impossible to read and absorb it all. Publishers’ websites can be sources to start with but let’s be honest; they’re not always objective. And sources such as Amazon and Goodreads aren’t always informative enough for the reader to make a reasoned choice. So a lot of crime fiction fans look to blogs they can trust to choose what they’re going to read.
But that doesn’t always narrow things down. There are thousands of crime fiction blogs out there and keeping up with each one of them would be pretty much impossible. That means that the crime fiction fan has to choose which blogs to follow and how avidly to follow them. So here’s the question I’ve been pondering: how does a crime fiction fan make that choice?
In some cases, the choice comes down to taste. Some crime fiction lovers prefer, say, cosy mysteries. So they follow blogs such as Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog Mystery Writing is Murder (Craig writes three cosy series) or Cozy Chicks. Those blogs focus on cosy series. There are a lot of other blogs out there too for readers who are looking for new cosies to try. Those blogs are quite clear about their focus, so readers know what they’re getting, if I can put it that way.
The same is true of classic and Golden-Age review/discussion blogs such as Les Blatt’s Classic Mysteries and Curtis Evans’ The Passing Tramp. Those blogs and other classic/Golden Age blogs are themed that way. They’re clearly identified by topic and it’s easy for the classic/Golden Age mystery fan to see that they might be a good resource.
Some blogs, such as Fair Dinkum Crime , Mack Lundy’s AfricaScreams and Barbara Fister’s Scandinavian Crime Fiction focus on crime fiction that comes from a particular place. That’s awfully helpful for the reader who wants to explore crime fiction that takes place in one (or one kind of) setting.
All this is to say that one way that crime fiction fans get new ideas for books to try is by checking out themes, titles, perhaps cover ‘photos and so on. Those can give very clear clues as to whether the blog is going to be of interest. One of my personal favourite titles is Rich Westwood’s Past Offences. I have a background in linguistics so I appreciate the play on words. And how can you not appreciate a blogger who refers to his children as The Minor Offences
But titles, cover ‘photos and so on only take you so far. They’re a bit like first dates. If the blog itself isn’t informative and interesting readers have to look elsewhere. I’ll bet you’ve had the experience of trying a blog for a few posts and being disappointed. I know I have.
That’s why the quality of what’s on the blog matters too. Everyone looks for something different in their crime fiction book review blogs. So what I look for may be quite different to what you look for when you’re searching for the right blogs to follow. But that’s what (I hope) will make for an interesting discussion. Here are some things that matter to me.
Crime fiction fans (well, as I said, at least this one) look for honesty. If a novel contains brutal violence or other things the reader should know about, a trustworthy blogger says so. Trustworthy bloggers also (I think) tell the truth about what works and what doesn’t work in a novel. It’s entirely possible to richly enjoy a novel but still, for instance, think that it’s a bit too long or that the writing style needs a bit of work. Trustworthy bloggers say so if that’s the case. If you’ve ever read a book based on a blog review and wished the blogger had mentioned _____, you know what I mean. Of course one doesn’t want to be nitpicking or simply mean on a review blog. Those blogs lose crime fiction fans too. On the other hand, reviews that are only raves make me wonder sometimes…
Crime fiction fans also I think look for review blogs that don’t give away spoilers. That ought to go without saying, and if you’ve ever had a book ruined for you by a complete plot giveaway, you know how annoying that is. But it’s hard to strike a balance sometimes between sharing enough about the story to be honest but not giving away everything. I have a lot of respect for bloggers who can do that well.
Of course you’ll have your own set of things you look for in a crime fiction review blog. When you find one there’s no better source of information on what to read next. What matters to you? When you’re looking for a new novel or author, what makes you decide to follow one or another blog?
On Another Note…
For those of you who enjoy detective radio, television and film as much as you do detective books, you can’t do better than Tipping My Fedora. It’s a blog that features well-written reviews of crime fiction movies (both forgotten and popular), radio dramas and novels among other things. There are also intelligent interviews and critiques too. If you’re not already following it, it’s well worth a place on your blog roll.
And that has nothing to do with the fact that Sergio of Tipping My Fedora has been kind enough to nominate me for this lovely Blog of the Year 2012 Award.
In all seriousness, thanks very much, Sergio. It means a lot to me coming from a distinguished blogger like yourself.
Now, I’m supposed to nominate other recipients, but here’s the thing. I’ve been lucky enough to discover a whole group of bloggers whose blogs more than meet my expectations. So instead of focusing on only a few, I’ll do this. Please look at the blog roll on my sidebar. Yes, that one. Now, choose three or four crime fiction blogs you’ve never visited, or haven’t in a while. Go there. Make a comment and say ‘Hello.” Tell ‘em Margot sent you. Thanks.
ps. The ‘photo is composed of cover and other images from just a few of the crime fiction blogs that are tops on my list. I don’t want to claim the creativity for those images. Check out my blog roll and you’ll see what I mean as you visit those blogs.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Get it Right the First Time.