I came late to the game falling in love with Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll when I was a grown up. I was working the final hours of an outdoor festival for the Phoenix Public Library and the crowd had thinned, and I had no more summer reading programs to hand out but I couldn’t leave the booth until the event actually ended.
I started to play with my smartphone, yes, I’ve become one of those people, but I wasn’t watching videos, playing games or putting up pithy posts on social media sites. Instead, I was doing what I always do when I have free time, I was looking at books. I had just discovered that Google Play had loaded books automatically onto my phone when I bought it, so naturally I wanted to investigate the titles more thoroughly. I had read all of them, the Austen, the Dickens, the Dumas and the Stevenson, but then there was Alice. Hmm, I thought, I’ve never read Lewis Carroll.
I checked the time. I had forty five minutes to endure until the festival was over. I tapped the link and just like opening the cover of a book I was transported down the rabbit hole with Alice to Wonderland. And so began some of the best forty-five minutes of my life, but then isn’t that always the way when you find a good book?
There were several things I immediately loved about Alice in Wonderland, the word play, the wittiness, the absurdity, oh yeah; it was right up my reading alley. Now at the same time that I was devouring my new book on my tiny phone, I was also cogitating on a proposal that was due to my publisher. I had submitted two very lengthy proposals but for a variety of reasons, valid ones, they didn’t quite fit what we were trying to do with the next hat shop mystery.
It was an hour and fifteen minutes later, when I realized that the rest of the festival people had packed up and gone, and that I was now sitting alone in a park in the middle of Phoenix, that the idea hit me. A tea party set around Alice in Wonderland would make the perfect back drop for my next London hat shop mystery. I went home that night and wrote my proposal which my editor loved and so DEATH OF A MAD HATTER was born.
Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:
“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat. “Or you wouldn’t have come here.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Madness. As a writer, I can absolutely relate. I think one of the reasons I love Alice’s adventure so much is because what she feels while she is in Wonderland, that bemused confusion, is exactly what I feel when I’m writing. On my best writing days, I am barely conscious of anything around me because I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am merely the vehicle for the words to get onto the paper. After reading the novel, I wondered if Lewis Carroll felt the same way when he wrote the book, or if all authors feel that way when they write. Curiouser and curiouser, isn’t it?
DEATH OF A MAD HATTER comes out on May 6th. Here’s a little description so you can decide if you’d like to join us for tea. Scarlett Parker and her British cousin, Vivian Tremont, are hard at work at Mim’s Whims—their ladies’ hat shop on London’s chic Portobello Road—to create hats for an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, a fund-raiser for a local children’s hospital. It seems like a wonderfully whimsical way to pass the hat, and Scarlett and Viv are delighted to outfit the Grisby family, the hosts who are hoping to raise enough money to name a new hospital wing after their patriarch.
Unfortunately, the Grisby heir will not live to see it—he’s been poisoned. When traces of the poison are found on the hat Scarlett and Viv made for him, the police become curiouser and curiouser about their involvement. Now the ladies need to don their thinking caps and find the tea party crasher who’s mad enough to kill at the drop of a hat.
Death of a Mad Hatter (London Hat Shop - Book 2) by Jenn McKinlay
Publication Date: 05/06/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Jenn McKinlay on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
London Hat Shop
1. Cloche and Dagger
2. Death of a Mad Hatter
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Excerpt from, Death of a Mad Hatter, courtesy of the author's website.
ONE IN A MILLINER
Scarlett Parker and her British cousin, Vivian Tremont, are hard at work at Mim’s Whims—their ladies’ hat shop on London’s chic Portobello Road—to create hats for an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, a fund-raiser for a local children’s hospital. It seems like a wonderfully whimsical way to pass the hat, and Scarlett and Viv are delighted to outfit the Grisby family, the hosts who are hoping to raise enough money to name a new hospital wing after their patriarch.
Unfortunately, the Grisby heir will not live to see it—he’s been poisoned. When traces of the poison are found on the hat Scarlett and Viv made for him, the police become curiouser and curiouser about their involvement. Now the ladies need to don their thinking caps and find the tea party crasher who’s mad enough to kill at the drop of a hat…
Author Jenn McKinlay is at it again. This time she brings readers the second book in her Hat Shop Mystery series, Death of a Mad Hatter. What is one of the things that London is famous for?... You guessed it, TEA! McKinlay not only takes on a London tradition, but also the great Lewis Carroll with an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party that ends up deadly. Readers will love McKinlay's latest offering with it's clever dialogue and multi-layered characters. A great series for first time cozy readers and mega cozy enthusiasts alike.
What I liked:
As always with a Jenn McKinlay book, readers know they are going to get a well researched, witty and clever mystery. It won't be too gory, it won't have too much vulgarity or too much of anything. It will be just right. And that's always the case. She has this cozy mystery thing down to a science. I like the fact that she writes so many different kinds of cozy mysteries. It proves how versatile she is a as a writer. She can write about cupcakes as well as she writes about libraries and she understands hats, as well as bargains. McKinlay is a very skilled writer, who knows what it takes to keep readers coming back book after book.
It's no secret... I love hats. Being from Kentucky, it's traditional to wear a hat to the Kentucky Derby and a cozy mystery series about a hat shop is right up my alley. I even wore a very stylish hat when I got married. Though the hat lasted longer than the I do's did, I love them even more now than I did then. That's why this particular series from Jenn McKinlay is quickly becoming my new favorite from her.
Not only is it about an unusual profession... millinery shops are not that popular in the US but it has an overseas setting. In London hats are still the norm. I love all the information about the city that creeps into McKinlay's writing, as well as, the wonderful details of making hats and what is popular and what's not. Add to that Alice and Wonderland and tea and McKinlay certainly has a winner on her hands.
Lewis Carroll has touched many lives through his writing. I'm sure when he first started writing about Alice falling down the rabbit hole, he never imagined how far she would go. I love the fact that McKinlay gives a nod to one of Carroll's most beloved characters in the Mad Hatter. The Alice in Wonderland tea was a fantastic plot idea and it worked so well with the mystery and how the victim was actually poisoned. I know there was some research to this one, as well as some very snappy dialogue writing which is a trademark of McKinlay's.
What I didn't like:
I didn't like it when this one ended. I wanted to keep reading about Mim's Whim's and Scarlett and her friends. I think McKinlay is really on to something with this series... keep'em coming!
One of my favorite mysteries of the year so far. And if you know me, you know that's a big statement, cause I read a ton of them. Give this series a try. I think you'll find it's sophisticated, elegant and really fun to read. Loved the nod to Alice and Lewis and thought this was an all around fantastic book.
Death of a Mad Hatter will be available on May 6th from your favorite bookseller. It is available for pre-order NOW!
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
A true Anglophile, New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay loves all things British. In her idea of a perfect world, every day would include high tea or wearing a fabulous hat or both. This adoration of all things U.K. inspired her to write the Hat Shop Mysteries, set in London, one of her most favorite cities in the world, which she now gets to visit regularly—for research purposes, of course. Jenn is also the author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mysteries.
The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Death of a Mad Hatter by Jenn McKinlay.
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