Brought to you by OBS reviewer Mary
Scarlett Parker and her British cousin, Vivian Tremont, are hard at work at Mim’s Whims—their ladies’ hat shop on London’s chic Portobello Road—to create hats for an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, a fund-raiser for a local children’s hospital. It seems like a wonderfully whimsical way to pass the hat, and Scarlett and Viv are delighted to outfit the Grisby family, the hosts who are hoping to raise enough money to name a new hospital wing after their patriarch.
Unfortunately, the Grisby heir will not live to see it—he’s been poisoned. When traces of the poison are found on the hat Scarlett and Viv made for him, the police become curiouser and curiouser about their involvement. Now the ladies need to don their thinking caps and find the tea party crasher who’s mad enough to kill at the drop of a hat…
Whimsy abounds in the second installment of the Hat Shop Mystery series when Scarlett Parker, Vivian Tremont, and shop assistant Fee Fenton are approached at their hat shop, Mim’s Whims, by Mrs. Dotty Grisby and her daughter-in-law Tina. The Alice in Wonderland themed hats will fit perfectly into their charity tea fundraiser to name a wing of a local hospital after Dotty’s deceased husband.
As Scarlett and Viv meet with various members of the family to discuss characters and fabric choices, it becomes clear that the Grisby family is not a happy clan. Scarlett overhears a discussion between members of the family that causes her some concern and later sees a family member in a less than stellar situation. Mrs. Grisby appears confused and her oldest daughter Daphne and son Geoffrey are difficult to please. Her daughter Rose is meek and martyr like and appears to be the peacemaker in the family. Several unpleasant scenes take place in the shop that cause Scarlett and Vivian to gnash their teeth. Dotty’s grandsons, Liam and George provide comic relief with their scintillating banter. Scarlett finds them and Dotty’s artistic daughter Lily the most likeable of the group. This dysfunctional family was described in wonderful detail; so much so that you feel like you want to reach out and slap a few of them.
I especially enjoyed hearing about the hats for the tea. They were so brilliantly described that I had not problem envisioning each creation. It was comical how Scarlett and Viv assigned the Alice characters to the family and the fracas it caused. The whole hat-making process is fascinating, but doesn’t eclipse the story.
Scarlett is again drawn into a murder mystery, when on the day of the tea party; she stumbles upon a body in the garden. When Detective Inspector Finchley appears at the hat shop suspecting them of murder, Scarlett again feels she has no choice but to investigate.
Harrison Wentworth, Viv’s business manager, again pushes Scarlett’s buttons when he forbids her to get involved. Though Scarlett won’t admit her attraction to Harry, the snarky remarks and chemistry between the two provide a touch of romance.
Andre and Nick, the gay couple who live near Scarlett and Viv, return to amuse us with their advice and worries.
When another attack takes place and another member of the family is threatened, Scarlett makes an unwise decision and finds herself in a perilous position. I was definitely surprised when the culprit was revealed. Quite a few other characters appeared to have sufficient reason for murder and I was duly distracted by their motives.
Overall, I loved this cozy mystery. The characters are witty, well-drawn, and felt like family. I wanted to invite them all to tea. The mystery was well written and kept me involved and guessing. The depiction of London and environs made me want to visit. I definitely recommend this book if you like an appealing mystery with familiar and comfortable characters.