Recent Publisher Weekly issue has a feature on nine "First-Time Whodunits." I found myself intrigued by the inclusion of "Body Count" as a review feature point. Not the first time it has been done, but I am curious. Do you think this information will draw readers to your work, is an important feature in a review or just a tantalizing teaser appealing to a certain sort such as ourselves perhaps?

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Interesting question. I think some people don't like serial killer books, and it might be more likely to deter them. But my real question is, would this not be a bit of a spoiler? People like me tend to remember seeing that '5 people die' and if we've had 5 then I'm not going to be in too much suspense over someone who seems to be in danger anymore, am I?

I don't know what to think there. Very curious to see what others think.
Good point! I hate spoilers too and wonder about that issue myself. In the mad race to draw audience shares, seems many industries including publishing are willing to "tip their cards" to hedge profits. Not happy about the trend but you do see it everywhere: film and tv top offenders but in politics too. (Kidding, well sort of!) I sometimes feel as though "they" worry that "we" are too weak minded to figure these things out ourselves so feel compelled to enable us along.
(Man, I hope I'm not stepping on toes by this remark--)

I've noticed that the newer and less experienced an author is, the higher the body count in their story, as if they haven't quite learned yet that suspense can be sustained without littering the field with bloody corpses. I think such a rating system would probably cause me to avoid the ones with the higher body counts, unless they were by authors I really liked.
Hmmm.... I don't know that it really tells you much about the book. I've read traditional/cozy books that rack up a huge body count - those titled house guests keep dropping like flies. But, as King Lear said (unless it was someone else in that play) "like flies to wanton boys are we to the gods - they kill us for their sport." All in good fun and good taste. No nastiness, please. Then I've read some deeply gruesome, disturbing dark books with far fewer dead folk.

Hmm... I just realized I have that PW issue on my desk. Body counts range from 2 to 250. Seems to average around 30. I would say adding body count is a turn-off for me since (as Sandra says) it's a spoiler when the numbers are low and frankly a turnoff when they're ridiculous.

So I'm not sure what it gets you, unless there's a "body to plausibility" ratio - which, come to think of it, there may well be.
I think Entertainment Weekly has done this a few times too.

I doubt I would buy a book based on a single review. However, if it was a good enough book for me to continue reading past the DNF point, I doubt I would remember much about the review anyway. However if I did remember the review and I'm not any more involved in the story that when the final fatality thudded to the carpet, I said "Oh well, might as well stop reading", then it wasn't much of a book.

I think counting bodies could become just as subjective too. If a story has a murder in it, and then they discover this person has killed twice before, is the body count one or three?

Learning about the "Body Count" inclusion reminded me of when Joe Bob Briggs used to rate the movies he hosted on his Drive-In Theatre cable show (Movie Channel) by the Three Bs -- breasts (naked, that is), beasts (monsters, zombies, etc.) and blood (exploding heads, dismemberment, etc.).

Seriously, the amount of bodies in a story would never influence my decision to read the story or not. I'm much more interested in how the bodies got that way and what's being done about it.
Ah yes, with Joe one always knew what to expect! Anybody read his book, "Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History?"
It's a trivial and stupid measure to base coverage of a book on, reflective of a lack of respect for crime fiction. Would they rate the latest crop of angst-filled bildungsromans based on how many times the protagonist masturbated?
Masturbation? In lit-fic? I guess that would be angsty.
Who knows what draws readers to a work. Some may like the high body count; some may not. There are far more things to consider with a read than body count.
Yes. Absolutely. Mainly it's about making each body count. I don't much like books that take a detached attitude toward murder or plots with expendable characters, i.e. people nobody cares about or even enjoys seeing done away with. I recall, Christie did this frequently. The victim ought to matter, and the fall-out from the crime should involve more than a puzzle to be solved by the reader.
A body count doesn't really signify very much does it.
I mean, you could have a plot where a bomb planted by a terrorist kills many and the plot follows the ensuing investigation.
Or it could be a mad, sick-puppy blood-soaked romp of a comedy (ala Charlie Williams' Deadfolk)

Equally a body count of one doesn't mean a cozy. It could be a serial killer with graphic descriptions of the violence done to one individual.

It's never going to be a criteria by which I pick my books.


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