Anzac Day may not mean much to Brits, but it's a hugely important day for Dr Blake. After all, Anzac Day is a day of national Australian pride, celebrating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) and their exploits in Gallipoli and other major conflicts. It has special resonance for our sleuth - he's a war veteran himself, still recovering from the battlefield. There's also the little matter of the gruesome murder of a morgue attendant which coincides with Anzac Day. Add to that the reappearance of an old military comrade of Blake's, and this particular Anzac Day turns out like no other.
THE BEGONIA FESTIVAL
The Ballarat Begonia Festival has been a fixture on the Australian calendar for more than half a century. Before non-greenfingered people scoff, this festival is about far more than pretty flowers - it's a vast annual tourist attraction featuring parades, floats and flamboyant displays. Dr Blake has a rather unique festival experience, and not just because he's picked to be on the flower judging panel. No, there's also a shocking homicide to tackle, when a fellow judge is found dead in a greenhouse. Is it down to bitter rivalry among gardeners, or something even worse? Either way, someone is definitely not going to come out smelling of roses (or begonias).
GAME OF CHAMPIONS
Dr Blake happens to be living at the precise point in history when television becomes a major cultural "thing". For a mature man like him, stuck in his ways, the sudden rise in quiz shows and other garish entertainments takes some getting used to. But he's forced to become an instant expert when a winning contestant on one such show, Game of Champions, is found dead in his dressing room. At first it looks like a heart attack, but it's then revealed to have been caused by deliberate electrocution, and the prime suspect is the victim's rival on the show. But is the killing actually connected to rumours of the show being a fix?
WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
The 1950s aren't exactly renowned for gender equality, but small steps were being made even then, and the rise of women in the workplace is another thing Dr Blake gets to grips with. Unfortunately, one lady in Ballarat falls foul of something worse than mundane male chauvinist pigs. The area's only female doctor is discovered dead in the hospital, an apparent suicide. Dr Blake his doubts, and his investigation into the trailblazing woman's death uncovers some serious rivalries among the medics. One name in the frame belongs to the chief surgeon who may have had a very good reason for violating all the ethics he claims to hold dear...
THE DEVIL'S MUSIC
We've mentioned television, but there's another big cultural shift going on in Dr Blake's world. The rise of rock 'n' roll, which in Blake's more innocent times is lambasted as the "devil's music" by certain spittle-flecked preachers and prudes. Dr Blake himself is a bit of a sceptic, at least until the lead singer of one rock band is found stabbed in Ballarat. What unfolds is a suitably devilish tale of teenage obsessions and hidden agendas, but perhaps the most surprising thing is how Jean Beazley seems to develop a taste for the revolutionary new sound...
The Cold War may be a memory to us, but it's an everyday fact of life for Dr Blake. Straddling the 50s and 60s, he lives through the hottest point of the Cold War, a time of intense tension between the deadlocked ideologies of capitalism and communism. The conflict comes to a head in Ballarat, when communist students arrive in town to cause trouble at a government event, and one of them winds up very dead indeed. It's a case that's close to home for Dr Blake, since the dead person is a friend of young Mattie - whose father isn't very impressed when he realises his daughter counts the dreaded "reds" among her friends...
Dr Blake may be an enlightened sort of chap, but that's more than can be said for many other Australians of his time and place. Racial tension is a very real aspect of his world, and things threaten to flare up when a young social worker is shot dead during a Bonfire Night event. Police are quick to nab an Aboriginal boy on suspicion of murder, and at first it seems pretty clear cut. After all, he knew the victim and was found nearby with a gun in his hand. But is the case against him based on cold hard truth, or cold hard bigotry?