My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Jenn McKinlay‘s Cloche and Dagger, the first in the “Hat Shop Mystery” series. I’m fond of the author’s other series (Library Lovers) and bought her first issues of all other series. The Hat Shop series has potential and I look forward to learning more as I travel through the remainder.
After a disastrous relationship awkwardly made public, Scarlett takes up her cousin’s offer and moves to London to help manage their jointly owned inheritance, a hat shop from their late grandmother. When she arrives, her cousin has disappeared and sent the business manager, a handsome Harrison, in her place. Scarlett later recalls meeting “Harry” over seventeen years ago, but their relationship has definitely changed this time around. When she delivers a hat to a difficult client, Scarlett finds the woman has been stabbed to death and is naked on the floor. What happened? Scarlett is later almost strangled and then the hat shop is robbed. She decides to investigate several customers who had a connection to the late woman and learns their is a lot of adultery going on in London! But she of course escapes with only a few bruises, eventually finding her cousin back from a trip to Africa on a mysterious mission. But how is it all connected to hats???
Scarlett is very likable, as are many of the other characters supporting her into the hat shop-owning foray. Characters are well drawn, quite humorous on many occasions.
The concept of a transplant from southern US to London, where she once visited, is a good one. You don’t want to know anything about her former life in Florida, which is a good achievement by the author as you are already completely absorbed into her new life in the hat shop.
The setting was good, but not extensive. I’d like more descriptions of the street where the hat shop resides, the parts of London they visit, etc. The actual hat shop is well-described but I want more!
The plot on this was a little too simple. It felt like it should have started sooner than it did, as the characters to suspect don’t show up until almost 2/3 into the novel. The wrap up was therefore too quick at the end.
While the book felt a little weak, it has the promise of good characters, strong relationships and interesting drama. Hopefully book two doubles down and brings on the depth!