Thursday, 23 July 2015

Book Review: Model for Murder

I love a good crime book, particularly one set in a charming English setting - a much beloved genre all of its own these days - so I was keen to review the third book by author D S Nelson in her Blake Hetherington crime series.  I ran through my checklist.  Small village?  Check.  Retirement-age investigator?  Check.  Dropping like flies?  Check.  Milliner?  Ooh, that's a new one!  As a lover of vintage fashion I do like hats, so I was very excited to read about a detective-milliner.  Here's the blurb about the book:

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?

Model for murder

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.


  1. Really interesting to see you review a self-published book! I feel like I have a LOT to say on the subject of self-publishing, with my 'I work at a publisher' hat on; and most of it isn't that positive because I want to keep my job :D But I think you really can tell with this cover!! I actually thought you were reviewing an old book from decades ago..! xx

  2. I'm a sucker for a great crime novel, show or movie, too. My mom is as well and I can't help but think that I picked it up from her. She had hard bound Sherlock Holmes books when I was a little and they were some of the first "big people" novels I remember tackling at a very young age. Needless to say, I've been hooked ever since! :)

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Here's hoping the wroter continues and manages to overcome the early glitches. I can think of at least a couple of pro crime writers whose earlier books are nowhere near as good as their later ones, so it does happen.

    Did you see Sky are making an Agatha Raisin series? They've just been filming at Lacock.


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