I’ve just returned from a week in New York, and I’m rather amazed at the number of things I let slide while there. I need to catch up, desperately–so naturally I’m perusing the Internet.

I don’t know what authors obsessed over before Amazon.com and their customer review feature, I’m only imagining they led much more complete, fulfilled lives. I learned long ago to stop reading the things, because it turns out the last thing you really want to know is what everyone with internet access and a basic ability to spell thinks of your book. You may trust me on this. For my first novel, a friend left a positive customer review and another reviewer held up something he said as ridiculous because the book was so very bad. My friend chose to be offended, and I rather thought that this wasn’t about him.

But, as much as you really don’t want to read the customer reviews, you also really, really don’t want to use the review feature to castigate your rivals. Because it turns out that people pay attention, and that’s when things get embarrassing:

An extraordinary literary “whodunnit” over the identity of a mystery reviewer who savaged works by some of Britain’s leading academics on the Amazon website has culminated in a top historian admitting that the culprit was, in fact, his wife.

Prof Orlando Figes, 50, an expert on Russia and professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, made the startling revelation in a statement through lawyers following a week of intrigue, suspicion, legal threats and angry email exchanges over postings on the website’s UK book review pages…

It ended on late on Friday evening with the surprise unveiling of Figes’s wife, Dr Stephanie Palmer, a senior law lecturer at Cambridge University, barrister, and member of the top human rights specialists, Blackstone Chambers, as the reviewer calling herself “Historian”, and responsible for several anonymous online attacks on the works of her husband’s rivals.

There’s an uncomfortable dinner table conversation for you.