"Heath makes very few missteps"
Updated: Sep 19
The Kirkus Review of Where You Will Die pulls no punches.
One week away from publication of my debut novel, Where You Will Die, the first of what I hope to be many reviews is in.
Aaaaaand - well, they have a point there.
People like me who subject themselves to public criticism - writers, performers, artists - are advised to take the good with the bad. We are also flattered with the idea that a critic is not to be taken seriously, whether their opinion praises or denigrates.
“Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, The people said, a weed.” ― Alfred Lord Tennyson
And yet, in the world of publishing, reviews are king. Editorial reviews, like my first from Kirkus, are still seen by many as the gold standard for separating the literary wheat from the pulp fiction chaff. Today, the most sought after review is that of the individual reader, and for good reason: we are not interested in a literary or academic opinion as much as the word from someone like us who says, "it's great!" or, "it stinks!"
But as is often said, any publicity is good publicity, and the most important factor for the author is that the reviews are published and draw attention to the book.
“Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” ― Andy Warhol
Don't get me wrong, this first review is solidly positive, and for that I'm grateful. It gave me some great pull quotes to use in my publicity:
"This philosophical mystery will captivate readers thanks to a winning cast and setting." - Kirkus Reviews
"... the narrative flies along, and the author will successfully keep readers guessing about upcoming surprises." - Kirkus Reviews
"Even the former Gold Rush town of Eden Ridge becomes a character." - Kirkus Reviews
But I couldn't help cringing, then laughing, like the reaction after a drop of iodine lands on a paper cut, when I read this:
"In this series opener, Heath makes very few missteps." - Kirkus Reviews
Not meaning to compare fiction writing to brain surgery, but the former can be forgiven "very few missteps", the latter cannot.
So I guess the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief that I didn't go into medicine.
Full disclosure: I paid for this review. Kirkus acts as a broker, splitting a fee paid by the author with a selected freelance reviewer. If this sounds a bit dodgy, the company is well respected because of it's policy of neutrality: it makes no guarantees of a positive review, and does not influence the reviewer in any way. When the review is completed, it is sent to the author and kept private. If I don't want it to see the light of day, I can choose to keep it unpublished. Otherwise, with my permission, Kirkus publishes the review on their site and sends it to book retailers like Barnes & Noble. They can also elect to include it in a future issue of the Kirkus Review Magazine.
It's like that old saw: "You buys your ticket, and you takes your chances."
For what it's worth, the Kirkus reviewer named two of my "few missteps", and they are both fair:
"Heath’s villains are too obvious, but the reveal is enjoyable nevertheless." - Kirkus Reviews
Yeah, it's true. Some early readers said they mostly figured out the who, but not the how, at some point before the climax. But all said the same as Kirkus - the reveal was surprising and fun.
Whew! (*wipes forehead*), dodged THAT bullet.
There may be more - the reviewer said "very few", which has to mean more than two - but the only other sort-of-but-not-quite complaint was embedded in a compliment:
"Despite the book’s 376 pages, the narrative flies along, and the author will successfully keep readers guessing about upcoming surprises." - Kirkus Reviews
Actually, the paperback is 330 pages, but who's counting?
And nobody cares about a book's length if it keeps their attention, so I won't let that particular arrow of outrageous fortune find it's mark.
So please give it a read when you can, and pass it along to those you think might like a murder mystery with "likable characters" featuring "Alan, a man of mystery seeking to overcome his personal tragedy while standing up for people in his adopted hometown" and his "Greek chorus … the Little Red Hens, some of whom fancy themselves as the town’s version of Jessica Fletcher", by a debut author whose "villains are too obvious" but in which "the narrative flies along" toward a reveal that is "enjoyable nevertheless".
After all, says the anonymous reviewer:
This well-handled introduction of Heath’s reluctant hero Alan and his sidekicks bodes well for future volumes. - Kirkus Reviews
And future volumes there will be.
Thanks for reading.