Review: ‘Death Nell’ by Mary Grace Murphy

‘Death Nell’ is another book requested that makes me scratch my head after reading it. The title is a play on the word ‘death knell’, a bell that rings whenever someone dies. I was given the request a while ago but have been busy until now to read it. At first, I was expecting a mildly amusing mystery story centered on a middle-aged blogger, but got something a little bit more in the end.

LaNell ‘Nell’ Bailey is a popular but unknown food critic that owns a blog named ‘Nell’s Noshes up North’. Most of the restaurants and grills she goes to are met with glowing reviews. However, after unfairly giving a well-liked local restaurant called ‘Sam’s Slam’ a bad review, Nell starts receiving awful messages from a troll on her blog regarding her critiquing skills and the review of Sam’s Slam. Not long afterward, the body of a woman also named ‘Nell’ scares her into thinking a killer is after her. With the help of her friends, Sam from the restaurant she gave a bad review to, and herself, Nell must try to solve the case and figure out who wants her dead.

Before, I go on with this review, I should probably state that this book is not meant for everyone. The demographics for this is obviously leaning toward older women, mainly either housewives in their late forties to early fifties and female foodies with too much time on their hands. I’m not saying this is exclusive to those types of people, but ‘Death Nell’ isn’t written for everyone’s interests in mind.

I myself was expecting a serious mystery book centered on a food blogger with dark themes and a big mystery, but instead got something else out of this. Not to say it didn’t have those sort of elements (the reveal of the murderer is surprising and the way the bodies were found shocked me), but oddly enough, the focus of the book was also on Nell’s interactions and daily life while going through this. We see her try to keep a positive attitude, keep her weight down while being a food critic, interact with her dogs named after ‘Seinfeld’ characters, and slowly forming a friendship with Sam. Granted she can be condescending and whiny at times, but Nell makes up for this with her trait of realizing her mistakes and trying to fix them.

One other thing I like about this book is the fact it brings up how influential blogging and reviews are on business, and that a critic should not let their emotions control what they write. So many authors and writers like myself need to take this into heart in order to succeed. I thought it was subtle the way it was brought up.

Much like ‘Sorceress Rising’, another book set in my lovely home state of Wisconsin, so many businesses and landmarks are incorporated in the pages and setting. I’m also not too sure if some of these locations and restaurants even exist, but I have to give the author credit for making these places seem real with real customers. That’s what I like about a book; when they make a place seem too real to be fiction.

So what’s my verdict on this? Honestly, this book isn’t for me. I give it credit for having its own charm and charisma for the characters and a lively setting of Wisconsin towns. However, this type of book isn’t meant for the readings I’m interested. If you like this type of literature, that’s fine. I may even read it once more in the future, but I personally would place it among my favorite novels.

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If you have any questions or already have an opinion on the novel, feel free to leave any comments. Thanks!

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