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When I saw the synopsis for this novel I felt reassured that, since it was set in London, this would not be the idea of British life as imagined by an American writer... (something I have frequently found cringeworthy). Now that I finished Michael Palin's "Erebus" and started reading this for a bit of light relief, it only took me a few pages to realise my mistake. It was not just that I found it impossible to suspend disbelief at the premise that a grey-haired, very elderly lady would persistently mistake a 29-year-old blonde young woman for the girl's own grandmother, "Oh Ginny [my friend], you haven't changed a bit!"... (what, in more than 30 years?!), or that a red-haired 27-year-old allegedly looks like a corpse because she tried on a lavender sun hat at a jaunty angle. Also this story appears to me to be aimed at an American audience, given some language use ("10 shillings and six pence" instead of "sixpence", that telling "color") and the precise explanation given for typically English details of life. However when I got to the point where it was "explained" that "the royal staff call Queen Elizabeth II 'Brenda'... " I decided enough was enough - that's not even the case, it was the irreverent (to put it mildly) nickname coined by the satyrical magazine 'Private Eye' in 1971. Life is too short while I have better books to read on my Kindle, and I fear this was a waste of £1.99. I was also puzzled by the fact that none of the 1-, 2- or 3-star reviews that were apparently posted are actually visible...
This is the second book in Jenn McKinlay’s Hat Shop Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone. A good summary of the plot can be found above, so I’ll just tell you what I liked (and didn’t like) about the book:
What I liked: Most of the characters are likable and relatable. They have their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but spending time with them is fun. Their competition about who could come up with the worst pun for a given situation had me smiling. You can really tell that the main characters care about each other, even when they’re fighting. I also enjoyed the setting - London is such a great city. The book certainly made me yearn for a visit. As usual with this author, the book is well written and entertaining. Time flies while you immerse yourself in the story.
What I didn’t like: I don’t enjoy Scarlett’s character. She comes across as very immature for someone who’s almost thirty. Banging doors, sulking in your room, refusing to even listen to your friends’ well-meant advice – she often acts more like a teenager than an adult. She’s disgruntled when her cousin wears high heels because they make her seem taller than Scarlett. True, there are people like this in real life, but she’s not exactly a person I’d enjoy hanging out with. There are a few issues with research. Just stopping by the Savoy for afternoon tea is rather optimistic, for example. If I remember correctly, they advise you to book at least several weeks in advance. Also, the instance of ‘male primogeniture’ in the book seems to bear very little resemblance to reality. The ending seemed a little rushed. I loved the whole setup of the mystery – a nice number of suspects (not too many, not too few) with interesting character traits and relationships. There were some characters you hated and some you loved. It was great fun, but suddenly the murderer basically confesses, and it’s over.
Conclusion: I liked the first book in the series a lot better than this one. Overall, this book is a solid but not a great mystery (at least in my opinion). I’ll probably buy the next book in the series, but that’s due more to the first book than this one.
I just l love this series - the characters are endearing how they are there for each other - I love the subplots with different characters bringing atmosphere into the story - I love that the story is set in modern day London with small tidbits of English culture, history, and a travel through the streets like a postcard - the plot is marvelously stimulating and keeps you on your toes trying to figure out who, what, and where the story is going - and I love the build up of the romance that is happening between Scarlett and Harry in each successive novel
(3.5 stars)This is the second book in the series. Vivian and Scarlett have been commissioned to create hats for an Alice in Wonderland fundraiser for a children’s hospital. The Grisby family is dedicating a wing to the late husband and the family ranges in their level of cooperation in the style of the hats. When the heir is found poisoned at the party, and traces are found in the mad hatter hat he was wearing, the ladies become involved in the investigation into the death. There are many potential killers, includes the mistress, the wife, and the various siblings. Harrison is involved and is worried about their safety as Scarlett goes to extraordinary lengths to find the true killer.
Scarlett Parker and her cousin Vivian Tremont face a daunting task when they agree to design hats with an Alice in Wonderland theme for a tea party. Not only do they have to design hats but they have to deal with the Grisby family who have more than their share of issues. Scarlett and Vivian can handle the Grisby family dynamics - that is until a Grisby family member is murdered and it looks like one of the hats they made for the tea party may be the weapon! Scarlett and Viv, over the objections of their good friend Harrison Wentworth, begin to investigate the murder but Harrison is right to be worried - the killer is not afraid to attack again!
“Death of a Mad Hatter” is the nicely done second book Jenn McKinlay’s Hat Shop cozy mystery series. While some cozy mystery series take a few books to completely develop the characters and setting, in this book they are already fully developed. Although I am not a hat person (just the opposite!), I like the hat shop setting and love the descriptions of the various hats worn in the book. As a change of pace from her other books McKinlay sets the series in London. I love the descriptions of various locations in London - I especially like the descriptions of the teas which made me hungry while reading the book. The characters (Scarlett, Viv, Fee, Harrison, Andre, and Nick) already feel like old friends (although I do hope McKinlay doesn't drag out the attraction between Scarlett and Harrison through too many books). The mystery itself is well plotted with plenty of suspects (you won't soon forget the Grisby family) and a few twists and turns. Scarlett does come perilously close to becoming A Too Stupid to Live Character - this does lend some tense moments to the book but is not my favorite plot device.
“Death of a Mad Hatter” is another good cozy mystery by Jenn McKinley.
This is the second book of this series. So far I am really enjoying this one (series). It takes place in England, so I find the setting fun. In this book a customer has asked them (the hat shop) to make hats representative of Alice in Wonderland, for a tea party they are hosting. And of course Scarlett stumbles upon a dead body at the tea party. Since she and her cousin are considered possible suspects in the murder, of course Scarlett has to investigate. I enjoy the characters (although I wish Scarlett wasn't quite so defensive and stubborn). The book is an easy read. I am looking forward to receiving the 3rd book in the series (which comes out in Feb. 2015). I've loaned the 2 books in this series to my sister and she has enjoyed them as well.