Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery and good characters
Cons: Romantic sub-plot
The Bottom Line:
It's tea for one less
When this tea's mad hatter dies
Strong plot, weak romance

Tea Will Be Served After the Body is Removed

Since I am woefully behind on all of author Jenn McKinlay's many series, I decided to start catching up with her Hat Shop Mysteries.  No, it wasn't because hats are a natural fit for me (I hate ball caps, and here we're talking about fancy hats mainly for women).  It's because Death of a Mad Hatter, the most recent, is also the second.  See, I'm up to date on a series while hardly trying.

The series is set in London and features cousins Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont.  While Scarlett grew up in the States, she spent her summers with Vivian and their now deceased grandmother at Mim's Whims, the hat shop they've both inherited.  Of course, it's also turning out to be dangerous.  I sure wouldn't want to be a customer since Scarlett's only been there two months, and this is their second murder.

At first, Scarlett is thrilled when Mim's Whims is asked to provide hats for the Grisby family's upcoming tea party.  It will be the fund raising event of the season, and the Alice in Wonderland theme will be fun.

However, as the family comes in to the shop for fittings and design consultations, the cousins start to realize just how much hatred and animosity is just below the surface.  The day of the party, some of the family conflict comes to the surface before one of them winds up dead.  With the hat shop once again dragged into a murder investigation, can Scarlett figure out what happened?

While the murder takes place several chapters into the book, the plot starts out right away.  We get to meet the characters and learn potential motives, so when the body does drop, we already have clues to follow.  Naturally, more turn up before we reach the logical solution.

The characters are good as well.  The new characters are quite strong, which makes picking out the killer harder.  The returning cast are quite fun, I love these new friends that Scarlett has made in the two books.  Scarlett can be a bit over the top at times, but I do like her.  Some running gags and lines between the characters are fun, and I laughed quite a few times at the book.

However, the sub-plot involving the love interest can be pretty annoying.  Harrison is the business manager for the cousins, but he's had a crush on Scarlett for years.  Scarlett, meanwhile, has sworn off men for a year.  So far, so good.  However, the way this is executed leaves much to be desired.  They clash over almost everything, and it brings out the weaknesses in Scarlett's character with dramatic scenes.  Maybe because I don't care about the outcome, I also felt it slowed down the book.  Heck, one part of this sub-plot dragged on much longer than it needed to because Scarlett was being overly dramatic about it.  I hope that either they both mature soon or we get a new love interest in future books.

Now, if that makes it sound like I didn't like the book, let me correct you.  While a weakness, I still mostly enjoyed my time spent with Scarlett and Viv.  Anyone looking for a fun trip to London for a good mystery will also enjoy solving the Death of a Mad Hatter.

And you'll enjoy more trip to London with the rest of the Hat Shop Mysteries in order.


  1. This sounds like a book and series I would enjoy. I like romance but sub-plots based on overly dramatic behavior are not my favorite. But I could overlook it for a London-based Alice in Wonderland-themed mystery.

    1. The Alice in Wonderland part is only for the tea, so it doesn't carry through the entire book. Still, it was fun seeing how the theme was carried out and how creative the hats were.

  2. Nice review, Mark! I had to chuckle over your comment about the hat shop being a dangerous place. I've often thought that about the various villages and town some cozies are set in. Anyway, I love McKinlay's Library Lover's series, but haven't tried this or the cupcake series yet. Since I'm an Anglophile, I ought to give it a try!

    1. True, there are lots of dangerous places in the world, fortunately for us cozy fans.

      I read the first of McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery series last summer and have several more on my TBR pile. Haven't started the library series yet, so you are ahead of me in that series.


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