Harrowing Hats (Renaissance Faire - Book 4) by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 304pp
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Joyce and Jim Lavene on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from Harrowing Hats
Hail ye, hail ye, and welcome to the Renaissance Village. Here, assistant professor Jesse Morton spends her summers honing her skills and finding the lady, lord, or serf whodunit. When the village chocolatier is murdered, Jesse finds herself in a very sticky situation indeed.
DARK, BITTER, UNSWEETENED... DEATH
Life in the Renaissance Faire Village is pretty sweet for Jessie Morton - until one of the Three Chocolatiers is found drowned in a vat of chocolate in his shop. When a hat pin is discovered sticking out of the dead man's eye, it seems someone is trying to pin the murder on hatmaker Andre Hariot.
But Andre is just one name on a long list of knaves, knights, and wenches. The dearly departed and double-dipped chocolatier, Cesar Rizzo, made many enemies in the Village due to his reckless romancing. As Andre's apprentice, Jessie feels a special obligation to clear his good name. Although they can't bring Cesar back, bringing swift justice to someone who messes with chocolate would at least be... semisweet.
The writing team of Joyce and Jim Levene bring readers the fourth book in the Renaissance Faire Mystery series, Harrowing Hats. Set in a permanent Renaissance Village in which actors and vendors stay in character almost all year round, this modern day whodunit is more than a little complex. With quirky characters and some real life drama thrown in, this a cozy readers won't want to miss!
When Jessie Morton takes a summer apprenticeship with the Renaissance Faire hat-maker, she doesn't envision murder being in her future. But, when chocolatier Cesar Rizzo is found drowned in a vat of his own chocolate with a hat pin in his eye, it's up to Jessie to figure out whodunit! Andre Hariot is obviously the chief suspect since he is the local hat-maker and has a suspect past. But Jessie is sure he didn't do it. Cesar appears to have had a checkered romantic past and their is more than one person who could have wanted him to dead. Jessie battles relationship woes of her own as she tries to figure who committed the crime. Death by chocolate, what a way to go!
Joyce and Jim Levene have created a series based on a Renaissance Faire that is basically a world unto itself. Actors and venders live in the village year round and are constantly in character, which leads to some interesting mix-ups and situations. It's almost as if they have forgotten they are acting and have become the characters they portray. I thought the authors did an amazing job of creating their own middle ages world, complete with King, Queen and castle. Their descriptions of life in the middle ages are well written and seem to flow naturally.
Jessie Morton is a great character. An assistant professor of history working as a summer apprentice in several different crafts as she works on her dissertation was an interesting profession for the aspiring amateur sleuth. In the previous books in the series Jessie has tried out other crafts including, glass blowing, sword smithing, and basket weaving. In Harrowing Hats she apprentice to the hat-maker. Jessie makes an interesting character for a lot of reasons. She is not only intelligent, but she has a great outlook on life except when it comes to commitment. I found her interactions with her boyfriend, the village bailiff, Chase realistic and believable. I think readers will be able to identify with Jessie and with Chase as they solve this crime and try to figure out their relationship.
The mystery aspect of the book is a little more complex than the previous plots in the series and I think readers will love this change. The authors give the reader a kind of two for one in this novel. Not only do they have the modern day murder of Cesar the chocolatier, but they also have the suspicious circumstances of Andre Hariot's late wife to contend with as well. Jessie uncovers the clues in a smooth progression that doesn't leave the reader feeling as if the mystery is stalled out or moving too fast. There are subtle hints as to who the killer may be through out the book, but not quite enough to pin it down before the authors are ready to reveal the answers.
I am always considering the plausibility of the storyline when it comes to cozies. If any of the readers have ever been to a real Renaissance Faire they will understand how realistic the setting is, and all the possibilities it could provide for a real life murder. I liked the idea of the chocolatier ending up in is own vat of chocolate. I thought that was ingenious, but I was a little unsure of what the hat pin had to do with anything. I realize that the authors were using it to cast blame toward Andre, but it did seem a little contrived, but as the story went on I began to see the greater significance of this and found that it did really work with the mystery.
Harrowing Hats is definitely my favorite of the series so far. Though it can be read as a stand alone I think readers should also consider reading the other books in the series for background and to see how much the characters have changed from book one to book four. I recommend this one to cozy fans who love Joyce and Jim Levene, to those readers interested in the middle ages and for those looking for something a little different.
Harrowing Hats is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Joyce and Jim Lavene are a married writing couple who live in North Carolina with their family. They get help from their cat, Quincy, and their big puppy, Rudi, who they rescued in 2010. They have been writing together since 1994 and published since 1999. Last year marked their 52nd book in print. They enjoy writing mysteries but are at home with fantasy, romance and non-fiction. The couple both work for their small, hometown newspaper, The Weekly Post. They are active in Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America.
The publisher is offering one copy of Harrowing Hats by Joyce and Jim Levene for giveaway to one lucky winner from Debbie's book bag!
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