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Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay

September 24, 2014

hatterDeath of a Mad Hatter is the second in Jenn Mckinlay’s Hat Shop Mysteries. Book One, Cloche and Dagger, was a fun read, so I was happy to see that McKinlay had continued the series. A quick bit of background:
Scarlett Parker was in the hospitality business at a prestigious hotel in Florida until she found out that her boyfriend, and boss, was engaged to another woman. Overnight Scarlett went from a well paid professional to an internet sensation because, of course, someone who witnessed the confrontation had their cell phone out. Also, the creep’s family, who happened to own the hotel Scarlett worked for, made it very clear that she would never be able to find another job in the industry. Luckily, Scarlett had the perfect escape route.
Her English grandmother had left her Portobello Road hat shop, Mim’s Whims, equally between her two granddaughters. Vivian, the fully English partner, had been managing everything while Scarlett thought she was setting up a successful life in Florida. Now, there was a ready made home and career waiting for her just across the Atlantic.
Unfortunately, things in Merry Olde England aren’t looking much better than they were back in Florida. Vivian is missing, Harrison-the-business-manager is drop dead gorgeous, but gets right under her skin, and then one of Viv’s clients actually does drop dead wearing nothing but a hat from Mim’s Whims.

In Death of a Mad Hatter Scarlett and Vivian have settled into a good partnership at the hat shop and business is brisk. Dotty Grisby,  an old friend of Mim’s, has commissioned them to make hats for an Alice in Wonderland themed charity event. The theme is right up their alley, but all is not wonderful in the Grisby family. First, Dotty seems to have blocked out the fact that her late husband left her thirty years ago and moved to Italy with his mistress. The oldest daughter is enraged that the beastly only son gets everything, cutting off her, her two sisters, and her children. Said beastly only son is possibly abusing, and certainly cheating on his delicate wife. The situation couldn’t be any worse.
Until the beastly heir ends up dead in the garden with traces of the poison on the Mad Hatter hat made by Vivian.
Scarlett feels an overwhelming need to look into the situation between her worry that the police suspect her and Viv and her genuine sympathy for the not-quite grieving widow. But someone who has killed once won’t balk at doing it again.

I read this fairly quickly, over two days, which is typical for cozy mysteries. It isn’t terribly deep, but it is fun. If you have an interest in fashion, I would say that this is right up there with Annette Blair’s Vintage Magic Mysteries. Scarlett has some very nice clothes and notices them in others. I don’t actually know what most of the clothes look like, but I do like the descriptions of the hats.
My one quibble with this book is that Scarlett spends a great deal of time discussing how plain she feels next to Viv or Fee, their apprentice. But I didn’t feel like this was anything more than skin deep. And that’s ok too. We all have ugly days. But there seemed to be the desire on McKinlay’s part to really make the reader sympathize with Scarlett over this insecurity, but it came across as petulant rather than sincere.
However, that’s just a few pages in what was, otherwise, a very entertaining mystery.

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