In Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay, Scarlett needs to be able to move past a meltdown that turned into a YouTube sensation. This leads her cousin Vivian to order Scarlett to move from her home in Florida to England and help with the hat boutique that the two cousins inherited from their grandmother and which Viv manages. But when Scarlett arrives in London, she gets surprised not to find Viv waiting for her, but instead the handsome Harrison, the shop’s business manager, is there. Scarlett notices that he seems to run hot and cold towards her and learns that when she was 10, she stood up Harrison when he asked her for ice cream to chase after an athlete of some sort. He still holds this against her to some degree.
No one but Scarlett has much concern about the disappearance of Viv, who has been known to take off from time to time. Trying to take care of the shop, Scarlett impresses Fiona, the apprentice, by selling a hat to a woman who has never bought a hat from them before, despite visiting to look often. Then Lady Ellis and her husband, an earl, come into the shop to pick up a specially ordered hat. Trying to locate the hat, to the increasing ire of Lady Ellis, Scarlett gets the idea of asking if the lady would model her special hat for a photo shoot. Fortunately, that night Scarlett meets a new arrival to her neighborhood, who is setting up a photography studio. So Scarlett arranges a photo shoot for later that week.
But when Scarlett shows up with Andre on Friday to do the photo shoot, the housekeeper discovers the body of Lady Ellis, wearing nothing but the hat made for her by Vivian and stabbed in the heart. And with Viv mysteriously missing, she becomes the main suspect. This throws Scarlett and Harrison into a case for their lives.
This book is nice, light reading, but it does not live up to the standards of Jenn McKinlay”s other works. The mystery plot does not have a lot of development to it, with few actual clues to it. Instead we just see a few events happen to Scarlett but no real detecting or hints to help the characters and readers determine the killer. The redeeming feature of this book is the delightful characters in it. The gay couple down the street from the hat shop are two of the liveliest people in mystery fiction. The romantic tension between Scarlett and Harrison adds to the plot.
I enjoyed the narration of Karyn O’Bryant in the audio edition of this book. She creates good, believable voices for the voices based upon the descriptions in the book. Further, ahe does a good job modulating between the different accents of the various characters.
Cloche and Dagger comes across as a fun book, but it has a fairly incredible conclusion to the mystery that felt strange to me. Will I get book two in this series? Probably. I wouldn’t if this were by an author unknown to me, but since I really appreciate the writing of McKinlay”s Cupcake series and Library series, I’ll give the second book another shot. But for this book, I give it only three stars.
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