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So, the Lack of a Blurb is a Criticism?

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Janet Maslin reviews John Leake’s Entering Hades: The Double Life of a Serial Killer in today’s New York Times. It’s a pretty critical review and since I haven’t read the book, I can’t agree or disagree with Maslin’s complaints.

But what caught my eye was her insinuation that a lack of a blurb equates to an indictment of the book. Here’s the paragraph in question.

“Only the toughest and smartest cops could police a city like Los Angeles, with its giant size, ethnic complexity, large amount of crime and chronic shortage of police manpower,” Mr. Leake continues robotically. (Michael Connelly, the Los Angeles police-work aficionado, writes admiring blurbs for many crime stories. Entering Hades is not one of them.)

So, the fact that Michael Connelly didn’t give the book a blurb is further proof that it’s no good? That’s like saying, “Mr. Smith is the easiest, most friendly teacher in school. He always praises students when they apply to colleges. The fact that he didn’t write you a letter of recommendation must mean you’re dumb.”

Maybe Leake and his people at Farrar, Straus & Giroux didn’t want a Connelly blurb. Maybe Connelly didn’t have time to read the book. Who knows what the situation was. But it’s unfair for a critic to insinuate that the lack of a blurb is somehow a revealing fact about the quality of a book.