3 out of 5 stars to At the Drop of a Hat, the third book in the “Hat Shop” cozy mystery series, written in 2015 by Jenn McKinlay. Another good book by this lovely author… serves as a model cozy with light humor, romance and mystery.
Why This Book
I’d purchased a few of these paperbacks on Amazon earlier this year, wanting to have a few cozy mysteries to include in between my NetGalley Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) books. Jenn McKinlay is a fun writer and the books take place in my favorite place, England. I had just finished the second book in this series last week and wasn’t ready to give up the characters, so I read this one back-to-back.
Plot, Characters & Setting
Cousins Scarlett (American) and Vivian (British) are at it again in this whodunit caper set in London. A young bride-to-be, Ariana, wanders into their hat store, asking for her mother’s hat to be repaired so that she can wear it on her own wedding day. Vivian recognizes the hat as one their late grandmother made years ago, suddenly feeling nostalgic and eager to help Ariana. Once she has the repair costs, Scarlett tries to contact Ariana, but she can’t reach her. Scarlett heads to Ariana’s office, where she is an assistant to a difficult and womanizing barrister (attorney). When she arrives, Scarlett finds Ariana screaming while standing over the dead body of the attorney, who either fell or was pushed off the roof of his building. Scarlett and Vivian want to help Ariana, as they don’t believe she is guilty. Harrison, Scarlett’s pseudo love-interest tries to stop her, but agrees to help find the real culprit. Scarlett and gang (including her assistant hat maker Fee, and her best friends, gay couple Andre and Nick) try to avoid being caught by the cops while checking out the attorney’s background. Between former girlfriends and models who hated him and the shady men he was in debt to, the attorney had no chance! But which one off’d him? Scarlett figures it out and uses herself as bait to catch the criminal, and this time, the answers are a layer deeper than she realizes. Add in some romance with Harrison, some questions about Vivian’s lack of a boyfriend and a bet between all the friends, this book has its normal dose of humor.
Approach & Style
I read the paperback version, which was about 280 pages, broken up into 27 chapters. Each one is short and a quick-read. The book is told from Scarlett’s point of view in the first-person perspective. She’s funny and direct, which is a good contrast against her reserved British friends.
Scarlett is a great character. Her personality is spunky. Her dialogue with Harrison is on point. She has a lot of charm. You care about what happens to her. I like the supporting cast with the best friends Nick and Andre, and learning about their life together as a couple is fun. The references to Scarlett’s grandmother Mim are always enjoyable, too. The plot in this book had lots of potential. The police are often helpful and open to Scarlet’s help, rather than the usual angry and pushy when the main character tries to get involved. I look forward to seeing this series grow stronger.
While its intended to be a light and fun cozy with some humor and romance, the point is that it’s a mystery… and I would expect a certain amount of complexity in the plot with multiple suspects. This one was very simple and had a short list of suspects. Several potential people were considered, but it was over 50% into the book before Scarlet even did any research. And when she did, she only looked at two people. It needed at least another 50 pages with some investigation and research into the victim’s past and the people he spent most of his time with. It makes me a little concerned to continue with the series, but I do enjoy the characters and the setting. So if you think of it more as a light romance and humor book with some mystery thrown in, then you might be totally fine with it.
McKinlay is my new Evanovich. She’s a great character-writer, and I love all the antics and banter. It’s worth sampling one of her books, purely from that perspective. The series focus on the hat industry is kinda cool and provides a lot of backdrop to meet new characters and people to kill off for the mysteries. Hope you enjoy them.
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