Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Can You Guess the Murder Mystery Based on Its 1-Star Reviews?

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

K.W. Colyard


Kristian Wilson Colyard grew up weird in a one-caution-light town in the Appalachian foothills. She now lives in an old textile city with her husband and their clowder of cats. She’s on Twitter @kristianwriting, and you can find more of her work online at

Readers love a good murder mystery…until they don’t. For every lauded novel that wins the hearts of millions, there are a handful of readers who just couldn’t stand it. I’ve compiled some of the best bad reviews of your favorite thrillers and cozies below. Can you guess the murder mystery, based on its 1-star reviews?

We’ve all read that book. You know the one. Everyone else seemed to love it, but you just couldn’t understand the hype. Maybe you didn’t vibe with the writer’s style. It happens. Sometimes a book just doesn’t grab you, and that’s OK!

Writing a 1-star review for a book you intensely disliked — or DNF’d — is OK too. I personally love reading eviscerations of books, movies, video games…you name it. A thoughtful bad review can reveal a new perspective on a piece of media I enjoyed.

Of course, a lot of bad reviews don’t do that. Instead, they take issue with the writer’s decision to include LGBTQIA+ characters, talk about race, or address misogyny. They get offended at the use of words they don’t understand, or characters who speak “improperly.”

It’s this latter kind of review — mostly — that I’ve focused on here. They’re a little infuriating, but they definitely keep this little game interesting. Without further ado, it’s time to see if you can guess the murder mystery based on its 1-star reviews.

a photo of a city at night with a police caution tape in the foreground
image via Canva

Can You Guess the Murder Mystery Based on Its 1-Star Reviews?

1. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“It seems more geared to 5th grade mystery readers [sic]. I found the simplicity of the characters and the predictable plot very elementary.”

“I could not finish reading this book. After a few pages, language used showed casual racism….I question our perpetually using sources like this to inspire our thoughts and stories moving forward.”

“It disgusts me that the pinheads who demand ‘political correctness’ have tampered with this classic. Yes, I know that the original was even more politically incorrect and was changed by the author. This was not sanctioned by the author, but by clowns…. [D]on’t put a diaper on Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and tell me it’s for my own good.”

2. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“[I]t’s a 1st person rant, told in the voice of thoroughly unpleasant young woman who comes off as so unlikable that the only thing worse than having to read her mean-girl takes on everything and everyone would be to find yourself in real life stuck next to her on a long bus ride. [sic]”

“The pornographic language added nothing to the plot and got more annoying as the book went on….By almost mid book I couldn’t determine whether there had really been a murder, didn’t like [REDACTED] at all, and decided to give up.”

“If this is how she speaks I would say she needs to increase her vocabulary and stop cussing. It shows lack of intelligents [sic].”

3. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“This sloppy writing (and editing) includes everything from fragmented (in many cases, severely fragmented) sentences, to dangling prepositions, to diction problems (e.g., misusing words as verbs or adjectives when they are not — not even in the Oxford dictionary — and I checked!), to straight-up grammatical errors….[B]y the time I finished, the margins of this book were bleeding red from my proofreading marks far worse than the author’s victim at the end of the story.”

“In the end I thought this a pretty trashy book. Too much unnecessary sadism.”

“I mean, if you’re going to wait 10 years to avenge your brother’s death, wouldn’t a gun be more effective?”

4. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“My biggest complaint about this book is the main character…. There is so much self doubt and second guessing going on in this character’s head that we get only occasional mentions of the crimes [he] is ostensibly investigating. If I were one of the fictional victims I’d feel neglected. [sic]”

“The entire first two chapters are so completely filled with writing about race that I couldn’t even get into the story. I have been an East Texan my entire life… and I’m sorry but life just isn’t that way where I live as a so called ‘cracker’ [sic].”

Soap opera in a book.”

a deerstalker hat, an old key, and a magnifying glass on a wooden table
image via Canva

5. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“This is a rather boring rehash of yet another way that [REDACTED] departs this earthly realm. LIke many villains, he is, unfortunately, more interesting than the people he comes in contact with. The solution to the his death is far-fetched. [sic]”

“Making the [REDACTED] son out to be on the spectrum was…a turn off.”

“Not a very compelling story but also includes the mention a gay relationship [sic]. Why? Very disappointed I spent money on this book.”

6. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“The story is told in first person, why would the narrator spend pages and pages every chapter talking/thinking about food instead of her surroundings, the people around her, or THE MURDER SHE’S TRYING TO SOLVE. [sic]”

The dog is on the cover and mentioned in the blurb, but is only spoken of or seen a handful of times.”

Assume this was self published for a YA audience [sic].”

7. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“Unfortunately if you are an avid mystery reader this book will not satisfy. Very predictable from the beginning. However, if you enjoy reading teen girls complain about boys this book is perfect….This book would be best for middle schoolers.”

“This book is mentally unhealthy to anyone with a non-corrupt brain. It has things that no one should read, and if anyone it shouldn’t kids/teens. [sic] This should be an adult book. The plot isn’t too bad but details are extremely disturbing. I suggest you don’t get this book if you care about your brain.”

“If you want your teen reading about ‘dicks’, sex, alcohol abuse and a weird dare game then maybe you won’t think this book is as horrible as I did [sic].”

8. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“This is probably the weirdest book I have read in a long long time. Since I don’t care for science fiction, dark fairy tales, and the like, I was thoroughly disguested [sic] with myself for spending the time to read [it] in its entirety.”

“I do not and cannot believe anyone who says they understood or enjoyed this book. The author refuses to lay any foundation, the sentence structures are impenetrable at times, and the story barely exists under the completely unintelligible rule set that this society follows. This is a book that has lived and thrived on unearned hype from pretentious critics and readers too embarrassed to say they don’t understand it. I’m angry at the author for having written this book, but I am irate with the people who said it was worth reading.”

“Well if you’re feeling nostalgic for the good old days of those happy Cold War years and long for a divided Berlin, then you might take heart in this novel. Otherwise steer clear of this mess where the object is to beat around the bush plot-wise for as long as possible. The cool kids might like this writer, but that’s only cuz they’ve been told he is cool to like. [sic]”

black and white photo of a man in a fedora holding a trench coat at the bottom of a staircase in a wallpapered room
image via Pexels

9. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“Having read several of her books, I was disappointed to find out she’s anti-Christ, uses language that isnt necessary, and seems to write a lot about things that dont matter. Im more into quality than quantity. [sic]”

“The language is downright filthy, and some of the scenes in the book are just plain out pornographic. Maybe I’m just the only one left with any standards, but it doesn’t matter how good the story is, there is no reason for it to be slutty, smutty, and provocative.”

“Very low class and way to trusting for someone who is a private detective and a former cop….She hates dogs and kids and men, which is why she is divorced twice and she even sucks at her job. I think this was supposed to be a strong female lead but I don’t see it. I weep for the children who would follow after this role model. [sic]”

10. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“[W]e just get vague possibilities arise and a lot of backstory [sic]. And we’re not sure why we care. A woman died. Happens all the time in New York. He saw her a few weeks prior to her death. OK, so what? She has a weird family. Don’t we all? Why care to follow up??!”

“It reads like a bad video game that is only concerned with getting you to the next puzzle to solve or situation in which to involve new characters. Maybe that was the intent. But if it was, it was annoying and seemed like something an author would use in a YA novel.”

“Italics. Everywhere. Everything needs an italics [sic]. It’s inexplicable. It’s bizarre….Much-loathed example: at one point the author feels the need to italicize the words *cloud pajamas.* If the narrative were voicing this in a sarcastic way it might make sense, but there’s a dreadfully earnest undertone to all these italics — like the fact that after having once italicized *cloud pajamas*, [the author] has to dive in and do it *all over again* less than a paragraph later. You don’t deserve regular cloud pajamas, reader. You deserve *cloud pajamas.*”

11. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“[I]f you can tolerate cannibalism of children in your literature and not be bothered by it, go ahead and read this book.”

“The author may be a good historian, but he is a lousy storyteller.”

“Hard to believe this is considered a modern classic.”

12. Click Here to Reveal the Book

“The tone, above all else, is its downfall. It is shrill, didactic, and hateful, with every female character hating every man in sight, and every ‘decent’ man hating himself. It’s the kind of hate screed that bores and infuriates at the same time, unless of course the reader shares the author’s bigotry.”

“If you like to read graphic images of people mutilating other people while they are alive and bound, then this is a good choice.”

The TV show is better.”

For more fantastic crime-related content, check out this list of — some of — the best murder mystery books of all time, these lesser-known murder mysteries, and this primer on global murder mystery genres.

Want more fun book quizzes? Try these on for size: