Book: Cloche and Dagger, A Hat Shop Mystery by Jenn McKinlay (NEW August 6, 2013)
Arizona author Jenn McKinlay juggles not one but three series of mysteries in her writing life. In June, we talked here about Going, Going, Ganache, the latest of her Cupcake Mysteries, which are set in fashionable downtown Scottsdale. Her Library Lover’s mysteries are set in New England. But she’s gone abroad for her newest series, debuting this week with Cloche and Dagger. A hat shop in Notting Hill, London, is the focus of her usual wit, puns, romance, gal-pals, and, oh, yes–murder.
The author admits to being a bit nervous about setting her new series in a foreign country, but she can relax. Her light-as-a-feather novel tickles the reader’s fancy with more concentration on the neurotic worries of heroine Scarlett than on any gruesome scenes of havoc.
Scarlett was born in England and spent summers with her cousin Viv at their grandmother’s hat shop, Mim’s Whims. When she becomes the subject of an embarassing viral video, she flees for England to visit Viv, only to find that her cousin as gone missing. Although Scarlett inherited half-ownership of the shop, it is Viv with her creativity that has run the shop for five years. When Scarlett arrives she contributes her people skills to the business in lieu of chapeau artistry. Harrison, the shop’s financial manager takes her under his protection and tempts her to renege on her resolution to stay away from men.
Other characters that sound like the kind of people you’d like to have a cup of tea and a pub meal with include the intern in the shop, a gay couple down the street whose conversations are guaranteed to have everyone laughing out loud, and a couple of policemen. The customers are a varied bunch, tending toward the rich and titled. And one of them (the rich and titled) gets dead. Things spiral downhilll for Scarlett from there.
Although Scarlett and Harrison and the others don’t wander far beyond Portobello Road in Notting Hill near Kensington Gardens, we get a good sense of the neighborhoods of Notting Hill. Travelers may be tempted to wander around the area looking for the sites described in the book, and attend the Portobello Road market on a Saturday. That strong sense of place makes this a good book for travelers.
McKinlay is skilled at building characters we want to know more about and as you can tell from the titles of her books–Book, Line, and Sinker; Sprinkle with Murder; Buttercream Bump Off; Due or Die–she can’t resist word play, which makes her books lively and endearing to lovers of words.
Cloche and Dagger is a fast, fun read–I read straight through in a couple of days–and perfect for your summer reading, perhaps on an airplane to England?
Note: A review copy of Cloche and Dagger was provided by the author. The photos here are from Flickr.com, used with a Creative Commons license. You can learn more and see more photos of the same subject, by clicking on a photo. It is the policy of A Traveler’s Library to reveal affiliate links. When you shop through the Amazon links on this page, you help us pay the bills. Thank you so much for your support.