When a serial killer strikes at the heart of Tuesbury, Blake is soon on the case. Aided by enthusiastic archaeologist Delilah Delibes, and her Jack Russell Bertie, Blake is one more on the path of a murderer. In this tale of voodoo, paganism and deep-rooted traditions, fact and myth merge to blur the line between what is real and what is fiction. Can Blake solve the case or will he become the next victim?
I think I was expecting something along the lines of M C Beaton's Agatha Raisin series, but this series isn't quite as quirky, with the main character Blake being quite tame compared to Agatha. He wants a quiet life, and is perfectly content making hats in his shed on the allotment, and all these murders are a dashed inconvenience. He's quite a believable character though, as a lot of men in that age group do seem to want to retreat to some small man-cave and be left in peace to whatever hobby it is they have. The rest of the characters - with some super names like Persephone - are all believable too, and as with all these kind of village murder mysteries, it's all very white middle-class, someting that Nelson manages to make an in-joke about.
It's a fairly gentle read, easy to pick up and put down again, and falls into that 'cosy' crime category that goes down well with a Horlicks and isn't too scary to read before bed. I was a bit disappointed about the lack of millinery detail. I was expecting some raptures by Blake about the feel of wooden hat blocks, the smell of the glue he uses and the warmth on his face from steaming pieces of felt into shape. All we got was mention of stitching, which seemed a bit cursory. I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to hat-making than that!
Being self-published - an admirable thing - there are a few little issues that a big publishing house would have sorted out. Firstly, the cover isn't great. It's not done to a sharp enough resolution so I had to check I was wearing my contact lenses as I tried to focus on the text. It's also a bit uninspiring, I am not sure I would pick it out of a shelf full. That would be a pity as it's actually a worthwhile read, and if you're running out of books to follow in this genre, it's a new one to get your teeth into. It's not without typos, a few repetitions and clumsy turns of phrase, but on the whole it's well-written, in that sort of factual crime-novel kind of way rather than being prosaic. The first chapter was hard-going for me, I found it a bit stop-start, and don't feel Blake found his voice until a few chapters in.
But did I enjoy it? Yes I certainly did, and I whipped through it one day on the commute to work and back. I look forward to seeing how the series develops as Nelson hones her craft. And let's have some more millinery action please, I can never hear enough about cartwheel brim bonnets and '50s style cocktail hats. Hatpins would make a good murder weapon too, wouldn't they?
Model for Murder is available at D S Nelson's online shop here. I was provided with a copy for review. Opinions and words are my own.