Review Ratings: A Cross Examination (and a lot of counting!)

Last month a blog reader named Scott made the following comment, on my Top Ten Authors I’ve Read the Most By post:

“Data is fascinating of course. Another thing you could look at … over the five years you have been blogging, how many books in total have you read and of those, how many books have you scored above 4?

For all the GAD bloggers who score their reviews (e.g., you, Laurie, JJ, Dead Yesterday blog, etc.), I would move to see a filtered list of the highest rated books that each had read.”

Despite the envisaged lengthy time it would take to compile that information, I was intrigued. Now I must point out I have not gathered data for other blogs, as that really would take a lot of time for one person to do, (and you know I would like to have time for reading, sleeping, chicken falconry…) Fellow bloggers are more than welcome to share their own rating statistics so we can compare, (and naturally see who is the harshest in their ratings lol)

Inspired by Scott’s comment this post will be giving a breakdown for the ratings I have issued over 855 reviews, (discounting two guest posts and posts which only review a single short story). The 855 reviews are comprised of:

  • 758 Novels
  • 31 Short Story Collections
  • 1 Comic Book
  • 17 Films and TV Series
  • 3 Plays
  • 43 Non-fiction books about Crime Fiction
  • 2 True Crime Books

For the sake of simplicity I am just recording the date in a table. Graphs whilst aesthetically pleasing are not the easiest of things to read accurately with such fiddley numbers.

So as you can see the majority of my reviews are 3/5 or higher and those highlighted in blue are the five most frequent ratings to be given. I was quite surprised by how few really poor reads I have had. I know some people think I am quite a generous reviewer when it comes to ratings, but I think one of the reasons I have the fewer really low ratings is that blogging has helped me to identify more accurately the sort of mysteries and authors I am most likely to enjoy. Equally once I have found an author whose works I really like I then have the tendency to seek out their remaining works, which again will contribute to the greater number of 4+ ratings. Delano Ames and Conyth Little are two such examples and I have reviewed 10+ books by each of them.

But to answer one of Scott’s questions 63.16% of my reviews are 4/5 or higher, though I do have ratings in between 4 and 5, which needs to be taken into consideration. Again, I know some people think it mad to have a 4.25 or a 3.5 but looking at the titles which gained a 3.75/5 and those which obtained a 4.25/5 there is actually a significant difference in quality and how much I would recommend it. In retrospect a 1-10 rating system may have been more sensible, but the decimalised ratings are here to stay, for better or worse.

I can’t decide if I am surprised or not by my number of 5 star ratings, as I know I don’t tend to hand those out like sweets, (not that I go around randomly offering people sweets either, I must add). However, I thought it might be nice to share with you the titles that gained this highest accolade and who knows it may lead you to your next great read! It would have been pleasing if this total had been 50, so it could have been a Top 50, but we’ll just have to make do with a Top 39!


Produced by The Agatha Christie Theatre Company and Directed by Joe Hamson
I have not reviewed the novel on my blog yet.

Having now put the list together I realise how contentious a list this is. It might be my most divisive yet!

I may need to go incognito to the next Bodies from the Library conference…

To conclude on a less controversial note, (and to give me time to make my getaway into the nearby helicopter,) for my final bit of counting I decided to find out the number of authors I have read for each letter of the alphabet, (based on their surnames). To make my life easier I am just going to look at the novels I have reviewed. It was pleasing that I had nearly a full alphabet apart from X and Z.

The high number of “S” authors seemed quite likely, but I was not expecting quite so many “B” and “C” authors, or so few authors with a surname beginning with “T”.

Phew! That is all my counting done now. It just goes to show that you never know what an innocent blog comment may lead to!


  1. This is an interesting idea, and reminds me of the obsessive lists I kept for about 5 years in the early 2000s. I had an idea that it would be interesting to know all sorts of stats about my reading — how many miles of text I’d read, how high the stack of books would reach, etc — and worked out average text per page and page thickness, etc. precisely for those purposes. At the end of each year I’d run the appropriate numbers in my spreadsheet and go “Yeah, seems about right” and that was it. So I got out the habit after that.

    So, y’know, anyone wanting to know the above details about my blog will have to do it themself, I’m afraid 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It all makes sense once you know there are two Kates, the good one and the one who gives Akunin good ratings.

    Some very interesting tiles on the 5 star list. I have been tempted by Lahlum a couple times, but never read one, so at some point I will take the plunge. The Milne too, since Red House was such fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Four Days Wonder is a very read, though it is more of a comic thriller than a detective novel like Red House. The earlier Lahlum books are more classically structured detective novels. Later titles like The Anthill Murders are more noir/thriller. It has been quite a few years since there have been any new English translations. They seemed to be releasing them once a year and then they stopped which is a shame, as despite the stylistic changes I was intrigued to see where the main characters ended up.


  3. I don’t give ratings on my website but I do grade on Goodreads when I remember to. I suspect that, like you, my average score would be quite high but that would reflect that I don’t often finish books I am not enjoying at all and I only rate books I have read cover to cover. For instance, if you were to look at my Gladys Mitchell scores you would think I am a fan but actually I have failed to finish at least six or seven of her novels. Similarly my Michael Innes reviews recently have been quite glowing but that reflects I am choosing to read his inverted stories – not his Appleby miseries which I have struggled to enjoy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I feel like you are a mind reader because last night I was going through your archive looking for your reviews rated at 5 or close to it and then today, bang! Now, I can prepare my next few reads based on the above. Thank you for your blog, always an enjoyable addition to my day. Roberta

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Kate – thank you. This is exactly what I was seeking and appreciate the significant effort that this must have taken. Your blog and that of your peers (e.g., JJ, Ben, Puzzle Doctor, TomCat, Laurie, Dead Yesterday, etc.) has opened a whole world of GAD that I otherwise may not have experienced.

    I started reading Agatha Christie as a young teen and amazingly had no knowledge of Carr, Brand, Gilbert, McCloy, White, Boucher, Bruce, Talbot, Crispin, Penny and so many more since I found your blog (and then the others) a couple years ago. There is a certain joy for me to learn of, hunt down and read a book that has existed for decades but that I otherwise may never have known. It is like discovering hidden treasure.

    Now I can go through your list of 39 top picks and find additional books to enjoy as about half the list are brand new titles to me. So well done as you provide information that I value.

    P.S. Can I be greedy to ask what were the two titles with a 4.75 rating and out of curiosity, what was the lone book that sadly earned a 1.0 rating?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thankfully it is quite easy to remember the three titles you were interesting in hearing about. (If you had asked for all of the 4.5/5 books I may have cried lol Though those titles are equally worth seeking out). Fear Stalks the Village by Ethel Lina White and Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making: Stories and Secrets from her Archive by John Curran were the two titles which gained 4.75/5. Sins for Knox, a short story collection, gained the 1/5.
      Glad the post was what you were looking for and I hope it helps you find some new great reads.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe when I’ve been blogging for a few more years—and I have a larger n (less than 200 is a little sad compared to giants like you, JJ, Dead Yesterday, Ben, TomCat, etc) —I’ll take a shot at it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is fair enough. I wouldn’t have wanted to have done it in my first year or two either. I think the ratings would have been drastically different in their percentages, as I was trying lots of new authors, not all of whom I liked. Downside though will be once you’ve clocked in 600+ posts (probably by the end of this year knowing you lol), it will take a lot longer to compile the data!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this post, which very conveniently compiles the best of best recommendations. Now, let’s wait for someone to suggest a similar post for 4.5/5? 🥴

    My miserly claim to fame on your blog is that one out of the thirty nine 5/5 titles was recommended to you by me! 🥴 🥴

    ‘I know some people think I am quite a generous reviewer when it comes to ratings…’ Time to name and shame! 🥴 🥴 🥴

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kate: Interesting stats. I do think by this point we know what we like and tend to try and stay away from those we don’t think we will–thus making our ratings lean high. For instance, from 2012- present (when I really kept good track of my ratings, etc), I have rated 1354 books of various genres. I haven’t crunched the numbers on specific genres. But of those rated 1139 (84%) received a 3 star or better. Only 464 (34%) received a 4 star or better. And 70 (5%) received a full 5 stars–and most mystery winners were old friends like Christie and Sayers, though there are quite a number of newer books and some surprises like John le Carré (me not being a big spy/thriller kind of girl). Thanks for getting me thinking about my numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

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