Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters pull you into the book
Cons: Mystery aspect unevenly paced
The Bottom Line:
Uneven pacing
In otherwise fun debut
Will visit again

Scarlett’s Off to England and Danger

Among the names of cozy authors I really need to spend more time reading is Jenn McKinlay.  Yes, I read one of her cupcake books last year, but she has so many series out, catching up is a bit overwhelming.  That’s why I latched on to Cloche and Dagger, the first in her new hat shop series.  I can see why she is so popular, although I did have an issue with the book.

When Scarlett’s break up with her jerk of a boyfriend goes viral and she loses her job, even she has to agree her life is in the loo.  So when her cousin Vivian suggests that she move to London and help run the hat shop they inherited from their grandmother, she agrees.

Just a few days later, Scarlett arrives only to be met by a stranger instead of Vivian.  Seems Vivian has up and disappeared, and most everyone else that Scarlett talks to about it chalks it up to Vivian’s flighty artistic nature.  Scarlett has a bad feeling about it, however, a feeling that only grows when one of their clients is murdered.  With few friends and resources in London, can Scarlett figure out what is going on?

This may be a debut, but the author obviously knows how to create her characters.  Scarlett is a very strong lead I identified with right away.  The other characters she meets along the way are just as well developed, and I loved spending time with them.

I enjoyed spending time with them so much that it took me a while to realize the story was progressing rather slowly.  Yes, things were happening, but Scarlett was much more of a reactionary character much of the time than I like in a lead.  Eventually, she does start trying to figure out what is happening, and I enjoyed that, but I wish the pacing had been better overall.

Of course, one reason I was drawn to the book despite the slow mystery was the other things happening.  There’s Scarlett trying to get her bearings in an area she hasn’t visited for years, make new friends, figure out the business on her own, etc.  Those made for interesting reading, again because I really liked the characters.

The writing is polished and assured.  The pages flew by, and I was always reluctant to put the book down when I had to get back to my real life.

I liked the characters so much I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to Cloche and Dagger.  If the pacing had been better, I would have given this book a very enthusiastic 5 stars.

You'll want to move on to the rest of the Hat Shop Mysteries in order.


  1. Not that I want to add to your towering TBR pile, Mark, but sometime you'll want to try Jenn's Library Lover's mysteries, beginning with Books Can Be Deceiving. Great characters, again, but a little faster pace.

    1. I've got that series on my list already, so you aren't adding to my TBR pile. I just figured I'd jump in with the shortest series first so I can at least be up to date on one of her series.

      With everything she writes, how does this woman sleep?

  2. Thanks for this, Mark. From DorothyL I know your tastes and mine overlap in many ways, so I'll check out this author.

    1. I hope this is another place where our tastes overlap. I suspect they will because this was a fun book overall.

  3. I enjoy character-driven stories, I like McKinlay's Library Lovers series, and I love mysteries set in Britain, so this sounds very much "up my alley". Good review, and thanks for reminding me that this book is out there!

    1. Based on what you've said, I think you'll really enjoy this one as well. I'll keep my eyes out for your review.

  4. I was going to check this one out..I haven't gotten to it yet. I have enjoyed other books by her, though I haven't liked ...certain developments.

    1. Well, don't spoil that developments for me since I am way behind on her books and plan to catch up.