Cloche and Dagger
London Hat Shop Mystery, Book 1
By Jenn McKinlay
Author’s Website: https://www.goodreads.com/JennMcKinlay
Brought to you by guest reviewer Mary C
Not only is Scarlett Parker’s love life in the loo—as her British cousin Vivian Tremont would say—it’s also gone viral with an embarrassing video. So when Viv suggests Scarlett leave Florida to lay low in London, she hops on the next plane across the pond. Viv is the proprietor of Mims’s Whims, a ladies’ hat shop on Portobello Road bequeathed to both cousins by their beloved grandmother, and she wants Scarlett to finally join her in the millinery business.
But a few surprises await Scarlett in London. First, she is met at the airport not by Viv, but by her handsome business manager, Harrison Wentworth. Second, Viv—who has some whims of her own—seems to be missing. No one is too concerned about the unpredictable Viv until one of her posh clients is found dead wearing the cloche hat Viv made for her—and nothing else. Is Scarlett’s cousin in trouble? Or is she in hiding?
This is the first book in a new series by the author of the Cupcake Bakery and Library Lovers series. The story draws you in from the very first page as the characters come to life and beckon you into their world.
As Scarlett’s life becomes internet fodder, she decides to accept her cousin Vivian’s offer to come to London and help run Mim’s Whims hat shop which was left to them both by her grandmother. I liked that time is spent acquainting you with some of the characters before the mystery is sprung. This induces a warm, friendly setting that lets you feel at home.
Upon her arrival in London, Scarlett is met by a stranger who turns out to be her long-ago childhood friend, Harry, who’s also Viv’s business manager. Scarlett begins to wonder why Vivian hasn’t met her at the station. Though Viv may be a flake, Scarlett becomes more worried as each day passes and she fails to appear. Adding to her anxiety is the fact that she’s not entirely convinced that Harry isn’t involved with Viv’s disappearance. I loved the back and forth one-upmanship between Harry and Scarlett. Each tried to outdo the other and have the last word. You could feel the sparks smoldering beneath the surface.
To add to her stress, Scarlett’s troubles dog her across the pond. Reporters have gotten wind of her internet debacle in America and she’s accosted everywhere she goes. This makes for some funny moments as she dodges reporters in restaurants, on the street, and in the hat shop.
When a body is discovered that is tied to Scarlett’s missing cousin, both her and Viv become suspects. It was nice to see that the British police weren’t portrayed quite as badly as their American counterparts who are often seen as arrogant and rude. However, they did tend to make light of some clues Scarlett provided.
When someone tries to harm Scarlett, the quirky cast of characters she collects in her quest to find her cousin and the murderer only adds charm to the tale. Their amateur bumbling brings some light-hearted laughs. Nick and Andre are the requisite gay couple down the street who banter and worry. Fee, the shop apprentice, is helpful and timid but determined to do her part. Their characters are finely drawn with depth and imagination.
Because Scarlett suspects several society ladies, she decides to hold a tea party. In a bit of subterfuge, she tells them she has hats the victim didn’t want and she’ll let each of them pick one as remembrance of their friend. I couldn’t help but chuckle at how they fell over themselves to get the “best” hat. Their backstabbing, gossiping, and grappling for top dog position in their clique provides Scarlett with some valuable clues as to the why and wherefores of the murder.
Luck plays more in the solving of the murder than actual deductions. I guessed the killer, but not until close to the end. I do admit to wishing there was a little more meat to the mystery, but the characters, location, and overall tone of the book made up for this slight deficiency.
I definitely would recommend this book, along with a cuppa and a scone. You won’t be disappointed at this amusing mystery romp.