Assault and Beret
A Hat Shop Mystery, Book #5
By Jenn McKinlay
Author’s website: www.Jennmckinlay.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
London milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, tip their caps to their beloved shop on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and set off for Paris, where Viv can’t wait to teach a hat-making class. But she has another reason to travel to the City of Light: to find the man she impulsively eloped with years ago and have their marriage annulled.
William Graham is not only handsome and charming, but he also has a glamorous job as an insurance investigator who works with priceless pieces of art, most recently a small Renoir that has been discovered in a junk shop. But when both Will and the masterpiece suddenly disappear, it’s up to the ladies from London to follow the trail of clues. They’ll need to hold on to their chapeaux, however, because someone is a master in the art of deception.
Assault and Beret is another stellar read from author Jenn McKinlay. With its spunky protagonists, Parisian setting, and lots of wit and intrigue, it is a fitting sendoff to one of my favorite cozy mystery series.
Milliner Vivian and her cousin/business partner Scarlett make their way from London to Paris in this fifth Hat Shop Mystery. Vivian is there to teach a hat making class while Scarlett is tasked with finding Vivian’s mystery husband and talk him into an annulment. Scarlett locates the charming Will quickly, but things do not go quite as planned when he and Vivian reconnect as Viv is tempted to rekindle things with Will. When Will is abducted and a recently discovered Renoir disappears, Scarlett decides she cannot solve this alone, and the shop’s business manager (and Scarlett’s love interest) Harrison rushes in to help. Together they unearth secrets and find the most unlikely of answers to the mystery.
I adore the Hat Shop Mystery series and am so sad that Assault and Beret is the final installment. I miss the usual London setting, but Paris makes for a fitting sendoff. I was concerned that the different setting would mean not getting to say goodbye to some of the recurring characters, but McKinlay manages to find reasons for all of them to make their way to Paris. Scarlett continues to be a plucky, straight forward protagonist who makes smart choices. Viv has never been my favorite character; she is just too flighty for me, and here is no exception. I understand that she has her teaching commitment, but she is annoying in her inability to help with the investigation. Of course, Harrison is my favorite character. His loyalty and English charm make him quite endearing, and I am so glad that his patience pays off in the end. Nick, Andre, and Alistair are such good examples of friendship. I will miss all of these characters so much.
The mystery surrounding Will’s disappearance and the Renoir painting is very well executed. There are lots of scenarios and suspects to provide plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings. I admit that I briefly suspected a certain person’s true nature early on, but, nonetheless, I felt like I had been punched in the gut when all was revealed. Lots of tension kept me reading well past my bedtime – I simply had to find out what happened. McKinlay’s writing is witty, and her characters and scenes jump right off the page, and I feel like I am part of the action.
I highly recommend Assault and Beret to fans of any of Jenn McKinlay’s three cozy series and to any reader who enjoys good characters, a bit of romance with their mystery, and smart writing.