I recently needed to track down the ISBN for September Fair. Amazon.com seemed the quickest route, so I logged on, searched for my book, scrolled down, highlighted the ISBN, pasted it where I needed it, and went on with my life.
If you’re an author, you’ve already caught the lie in the above paragraph. It’s in the last phrase: “went on with my life.” You’d have to be a superhero to leave your Amazon book page without at least skimming the reader reviews.
My self-involvement is not the point of this post, though. It’s the springboard. You see, in my skimming, I found six generous reviews and one slam. The slam was by a reviewer named Darian Ray. Stick with me. I’m going somewhere with this, and it’s not where you think.
I clicked on Darian Ray’s name to be brought to his/her other reviews. Curiosity, let’s call it, because we’re polite and don’t want to draw attention to my insecure defensiveness. What I found was that Darian is a self-proclaimed mystery author with no publications who has reviewed at least four mysteries a week since 2006 and not liked a one of them.
(Let’s take a break to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to post a critical review of a book, including one I’ve written. Now back to the interesting stuff.)
That’s over a thousand mysteries Darian Ray has reviewed, and apparently every one of them, from Laura Lippman’s bestseller to the little POD author trying to make a go of it, stunk to high heaven. And Ray went to Amazon.com to tell the world, sometimes daily.
I considered that maybe Ray really was a mystery author and, under a pseudonym, a mystery reviewer who thought the best way to raise his/her boat was by sinking everyone else’s. I quickly discarded that notion, though. If you’ve spent ten seconds in the mystery community, you know there is no match for its supportiveness (check out this recent article by Harlen Coben for a roundabout example of that: “Return of the Class of ‘80”).
But what explanation does that leave? Why would someone who apparently liked mysteries only slightly more than heart attacks spend so much time reading and reviewing them? (And I really think this person read them, based on the facts s/he dropped in her reviews.) And what does this say about reader reviews in general? I take them to heart when online shopping, but can they deliberately be used to harm a product or person? Are there similar stories out there, or was this an isolated case?
I appreciate your input on this because I really have spent some brain hours on it, and just can’t find a logical explanation. And as an update, I recently contacted Amazon.com to suss out the story on Darian Ray. They removed all of his/her reviews a week later, on what grounds I’m not sure.