The number of mysteries reviewed in various media reversed trends by increasing from 2008 to 2009, but in every category other than local newspapers, the percentage of mysteries by women reviewed slipped several percentage points from the previous year.
Though the good news is that the total number of reviews published increased in most publications, a smaller percentage of reviews in major newspapers went to mysteries by women, sliding from 36 percent to 31 percent. The New York Times Book Review reviewed more mysteries overall, but the share devoted to mysteries by women slid from 39 percent to 34 percent. The same was true for the Washington Post (sliding from 32 percent to 21 percent) and the Toronto Globe and Mail (from 37 percent to 33 percent). Local newspapers, which review far fewer mysteries than the national press, held fairly steady, giving books by women writers 30 percent of the mystery review space.
Prepublication review sources used by booksellers, librarians, and online bookselling platforms continued to give women writers a fairer share, with an overall 41 percent of mystery reviews covering books by women, down from 44 percent in 2008. Consistent with past years, Kirkus had the highest percentage of women’s mysteries reviewed (47%) and Booklist had the least (37%) with Library Journal (45%) and Publisher’s Weekly (41%) in between.
Among genre-focused review publications, women writers fared better than in newspapers, but not quite as well as in the prepublication sources. Overall, women’s mysteries received 37 percent of reviews, with Ellery Queen (24%) and Crimespree (30%) lagging behind Deadly Pleasures (38%) and Mystery Scene (47%). As usual, Romantic Times came out in the lead for covering mysteries written by women, with 78 percent of their mystery reviews being by women writers.
Three other influential sources that were monitored showed rather dismal percentages. Entertainment Weekly reviewed 21 mysteries by men and only 8 by women. NPR radio reviewed far more mysteries, but male authors had an edge, with 86 reviews of mysteries by men and 28 by women. Powell’s bookstore aggregated reviews from multiple sources at its website, mostly from mainstream media outlets. Among mysteries reviewed, those by women represented only 28 percent of the total.
In short, though women writers have made inroads since the founding of Sisters in Crime, the percentage of review space given to women’s mysteries is disproportionately low and is lower than it was in 2008.