Looking at a couple their of [pre]reviews (one for an Orbit published book and another for a Sphere) one would have to conclude that "yes" they probably are a Hatchette Group employee...and therefore the review is just marketing and useless...would be nice to see an indication of this somewhere in the review though.
I've just engaged in a long and boring argument with Keris Nine over a similar issue (see his/her review of the yet to be published 'The Hydrogen Sonata'). That debate is quickly becoming personal, so I'm discontinuing it.
I do wonder how someone can gain access to so many advance copies of unpublished novels...
Your suspicions are understandable, but your conclusions are not necessarily valid. Keris Nine is correct that it is relatively simple to obtain what are called ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) from publishers/publicists etc pre-publication if you can prove that you will review the book in some medium. There is absolutely no onus on the recipient to review these positively. You do need to show that you read a lot and review consistently (in quantity if not quality which is more subjective) though - if you just happen to like one writer and read the odd book, you are unlikely to be given access to these books.
You are both correct that there are the occasional shilled reviews - these tend to be from first time or less known authors as a general rule. Further, these tend to be poorly written and don't have a great deal of justification for the views and seldom exceed a single paragraph. Keris Nine is correct to point out that he/she has a track record of varied and plentiful reviews - which together with the, to my mind, intelligent analysis suggests that in this case it is wholly valid in my opinion. Keris Nine is also correct to resist too much in the way of plot spoilers - that's a sure fire way for the tap of ARCs to be unceremoniously turned off - and rightly so.
I can also understand why Keris Nine hasn't gone into specifics about sourcing, and can see why you are frustrated by this. To be more specific about how to gain ARCs, examples would be writing a book-based blog, reviewing for an on-line review site, top Amazon reviewers also get offered a lot of reviewing opportunities, or even working in book shops. All of these are regular recipients of ARCs and none of which have any axe to grind - positively or negatively. By contrast shill reviews are usually the only book reviewed by that particular reviewer and as I said, short, unsubstantiated drivel - but no less underhand for that. They are as odious to potential readers as they are to people who genuinely try to write helpful reviews.
In short - what you suggest does happen but in this instance I think Keris Nine is wholly innocent - just my view.
Thanks for your fair-minded response; it really does clarify the issue. The reason I commented on Keris Nine's review was because I was genuinely perplexed as to how another amazon reader could come to possess pre-published material. If Keris Nine had provided the kind of explanation that you have just given, which also suggests why the review is so vague (to my mind, at least), I would have refrained from further argument. So, I'll give Keris Nine the benefit of the doubt on the basis of your explanation. I'm sure he/she will be delighted...
"Looking at a couple their of [pre]reviews (one for an Orbit published book and another for a Sphere) one would have to conclude that "yes" they probably are a Hatchette Group employee.."
Oh, and would one of those happen to be the 1-star review for Val McDermid's Vanishing Point? Yes, I can see how you might come to the conclusion that I'm a Hachette employee. Presumably a disgruntled one. Ridiculous.
Alexis, do you have nothing better to do? Instead of badgering Keris Nine over his reviews, how about you go to your search engine of choice and type "advance reading copies?" , and then do a search on ebay, and then actually - maybe - go write your own review and contribute something, rather than continuing to make ridiculous posts.