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Cloche and Dagger (A Hat Shop Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay
Cover Artist: Robert Steele
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425258897
Date: 06 August 2013 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Scarlett Parker is fired from her hotel executive position when she breaks into a private party and flings the cake at the host. Her boyfriend had told her he and his wife were divorcing, but instead he throws a lavish party topped by a twenty-five thousand dollar necklace for his loving wife. Unfortunately, the entire incident is videotaped and shown on YouTube. Humiliated and depressed, she agrees to go to London and take up her inheritance in a chic millinery shop. However, her cousin Viv has disappeared and Scarlett fears she may be dire danger.

Met on her arrival in England by Harrison Wentworth, her cousin's business manager and a childhood friend of Viv and Scarlett, he tries to reassure her Viv is fine, but Scarlett rejects his advice. She is plagued by doubts and wonders if the handsome hunk had somehow done away with her cousin. Meanwhile, she must keep the shop open with the help of Fiona, an apprentice.

When the glamorous Lady Ellis shows up with the smarmy man Scarlett thinks is Lord Ellis and demands her hat, she finds nothing about it in the shop records or invoices. Desperate, she looks in an old wardrobe and finds a teal cloche. Lady Ellis is so delighted she agrees to have her picture taken in the new hat.

Once the shop closes, Scarlett goes out for food, but is attracted to a new shop just opening. The owner, Andre Eisel is a photographer, just the person she needs to take Lady Ellis's picture. His partner, Nick Carroll is a dentist and they outdo Scarlett with puns that soon have them roaring with laughter. After a wonderful takeout Thai supper, they get drunk and the two men insist on escorting her home. On the way, they meet Harrison who scolds Scarlett for such public rowdiness.

When Andre and Scarlett arrive at Lady Ellis's, they are asked to wait. A loud scream from the housekeeper startles them when she stumbles upon Lady Ellis's corpse. Scarlett discovers the naked dead woman was wearing the teal cloche and fears the police will somehow suspect her or her cousin Viv. Lady Ellis and Viv disliked each other, and Lord Ellis is reputed to be in love with Viv. The police immediately seek her as a suspect.

Cloche and Dagger is similar to other Berkley Prime Crime career mysteries, and is the first in Jenn McKinley's Hat Shop Mysteries. At times, the puns get to be too much, but generally lighten the novel. The characters are interesting and the potential love interest between Harrison and Scarlett shows promise, but Scarlett's repetition of her doubts about him becomes annoying. While the murderer should be obvious well before the end, McKinley provides enough danger to keep the pages turning. The next title in the series is Death of a Mad Hatter.

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