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Scarlett Parker and Vivian have kept their hat shop going for two months since the first book, Cloche and Dagger when the wealthy Grisby family walks in to get hats made for their Alice in Wonderland party in Death of a Mad Hatter. The family has recently lost the patriarch, Jeffery, who left his family 30 years earlier to live with his mistress in Italy, leaving a son and three daughters and a wife who has never been right in her mind since being abandoned by her husband. In fact, Dottie thinks that Vivian is really Vivian's grandmother, Dottie's friend. Most of the family is unhappy because Jeffery left his entire estate to his only son, Jeffery Jr. But then at the party, Kara Whittles, the mistress of Jeffery Sr., shows up yelling that the family is trying to steal her property, since everything that she had owned with the elder Jeffery has been left to the younger Jeffrey. Shortly after the police deal with Kara, Scarlett finds the body of the younger Jeffery.
Scarlett, ever nosy, gets involved in the case, particularly befriending Tina, the widow of the younger Jeffery. Scarlett earlier overheard Jeffery berating Tina for not getting pregnant (as if infertility is all the woman's fault!) and giving him a male heir, making her want to help the woman. But when Scarlett and Vivian go to the Savoy to see the Grisby family, the whole family erupts in drama, especially when Tina makes the announcement that she is pregnant, which, if she has a boy, will change the family heir to the new baby.
In the meantime, Scarlett gets pressure from her circle of friends to avoid the Grisby family, ultimately leading to Harrison, the hat shop's business manager and the man with whom Scarlett has a developing romantic relationship, to forbid her to go near that family. That creates a major blow-up that sets Andre and Nick, their gay friends who live down the street, all abuzz. But when they make up, Scarlett finds it hard to keep her personal goal not to date for a full year because of her growing, and potential mutual, attraction to Harrison.
This book was a big improvement over the previous. I didn't care for Cloche and Daggers much, but Death of a Mad Hatter made up for that disappointment. The Jenn McKinlay I have come to love in her Library series and Fairy Tale Cupcake series, has come back. Her particular strength is the way she makes her characters seem so real that you expect to look up and see them standing next to you. Scarlett comes across as a woman with a real heart that gets her into trouble because she will race to the rescue without considering danger to herself. Harrison is the stolid one always thinking of the good of the business, but his attraction to Scarlett makes him override that need to be responsible in order to protect her. And Andre and Nick are just a delightful couple who keep you smiling as you go through the book. The mystery plot also is much better than in the previous book, with more twists and clues than before.
I enjoyed the audio performance of Karyn O'Bryant. She seems well suited to talking about the whimsical setting of an upscale hat shop and uses good voices for each character. Her pacing, too, contributes to the overall enjoyment of listening to this book.
I am very glad that I chose to give Death of a Mad Hatter a try because I had a fun trip to England with it. Because the British readership does not in general like cozy mysteries, not many cozy mysteries get set in England, since writers generally write what they know. Do it was a pleasure to get to read a book based in England as seen through the eyes of an American who has just moved there. I give this book four stars!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This will be the last book for me in this series. Scarlett, the main character, is incredibly immature and annoying. She is constantly going on and on about how attractive her friend Harrison is. But, instead of acting on the attraction, she finds small petty reasons to push him away. This goes on throughout the book and distracts from the mystery. The minors are interesting and likable. If it had not been for them, I would have given up on the book. The narrator doesn't help either. She tries too hard to make the story interesting.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful