I’ve loved mysteries since I was a kid reading Miss Marple paperbacks, trying to unravel the clever crimes and identify the killer; so obviously I jumped at the chance to review D.S. Nelson’s Blake Hetherington mysteries, Hats Off to Murder (e-book, 65 pages) and One For the Rook (e-book, 117 pages). You can find both of these mysteries on Amazon for $1.59 apiece (£0.99 for you Brits).
In Hats Off to Murder, we’re introduced to the milliner Hetherington, a slightly older gentleman who owns a hat shop and as such finds himself making observations on his customers based on their choice of headwear. Whether a customer is wearing a Stetson or a bowler, he deduces something of their character and lifestyle based on their taste in hats. When two of his customers die, Hetherington becomes suspicious that their deaths may in fact be fowl play, and takes it upon himself to snoop about in search of clues.
What immediately hooked me is D.S. Nelson’s writing style. Her prose is very reminiscent of Agatha Christie and she’s got a talent for clever turns of phrase and the sort of sly British humor I so love. What ultimately made this story less than stellar for me was the length; things felt a little too pat, almost rushed even, as the plot wrapped up quite quickly. I felt like the author spent a lot of time setting up the premise of the story and then the quick climax and payoff was a bit disappointing. (Two stars out of five–it was okay.)
The second Hetherington novella, One For the Rook, featured the same wit and warm prose but was a much more satisfying 117 pages. I felt like the extra length really gave the plot time to develop. (Though, being the book hound that I am, I could honestly have done with an even longer book!) This time around, Hetherington stumbles over that most classic of murder mystery head-scratchers: a body in the garden, bludgeoned with Hetherington’s own prize pumpkin, no less. Who killed the man, and why? Was it a crime of passion arising from a local quarrel, or is a dangerous criminal operating in the neighborhood? And will they kill again?
Through a series of careful deductions, Hetherington once again sets out to succeed where the police have failed and catch the murderer before they can wreak more havoc. This book made me think of the various British mystery TV miniseries I’ve enjoyed over the year; you can almost see yourself standing in the allotments and uneasily eyeballing the neighbors, wondering if any of them are trustworthy! The influence of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are very apparent in Hetherington’s careful, logical deductions from the tiniest of details. (Three stars out of five–I liked it!)
Overall I enjoyed reading these stories and I’m eager to see what mysteries Hetherington will uncover in the third book in the series, slated to be released sometime this year. He’s a unique character and I really enjoy the overall color of Nelson’s writing; her novelettes a perfect little addition to the “cozy crime” section of my library.
- You can find Hats Off to Murder on Amazon here or on Amazon UK here.
- You can find One For the Rook on Amazon here or on Amazon UK here.
- Follow D.S. Nelson on Twitter or check out her website!