Death of a Mad Hatter (A Hat Shop Mystery)

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Praise for
Cloche and Dagger

“A delicious romp through my favorite part of London with a delightful new heroine.”

—Deborah Crombie,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Brimming with McKinlay’s trademark wit and snappy one-liners . . . Anglophiles will love this thoroughly entertaining new murder mystery series. A hat trick of love, laughter, and suspense, and another feather in [Jenn McKinlay’s] cap.”

—Hannah Dennison, author of the Vicky Hill Exclusive! Mysteries

“Fancy hats and British aristocrats make this my sort of delicious cozy read.”

—Rhys Bowen,
USA Today
bestselling author of the Royal Spyness Mysteries

Praise for Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mysteries

Book, Line, and Sinker

“Entertaining . . . An outstanding cozy mystery . . . featuring engaging characters and an intriguing story.”


Lesa’s Book Critiques

“A great read . . . in this delightfully charming series.”


Dru’s Book Musings

“Quickly paced, tightly plotted, intricately crafted . . . Action-packed.”


The Season

Due or Die

“[A] terrific addition to an intelligent, fun, and lively series.”

—Miranda James,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries

“What a great read! . . . McKinlay has been a librarian, and her snappy story line, fun characters, and young library director with backbone make for a winning formula.”


Library Journal

“McKinlay’s writing is well paced, her dialogue feels very authentic, and I found
Due or Die
almost impossible to put down.”


CrimeSpree

Books Can Be Deceiving

“A sparkling setting, lovely characters, books, knitting, and chowder! What more could any reader ask?”

—Lorna Barrett,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries

“With a remote coastal setting as memorable as Manderley and a kindhearted, loyal librarian as the novel’s heroine,
Books Can Be Deceiving
is sure to charm cozy readers everywhere.”

—Ellery Adams,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Books by the Bay Mysteries

“Fast-paced and fun,
Books Can Be Deceiving
is the first in Jenn McKinlay’s appealing new mystery series featuring an endearing protagonist, delightful characters, a lovely New England setting, and a fascinating murder. Don’t miss this charming new addition to the world of traditional mysteries.”

—Kate Carlisle,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries

Praise for
Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery Mysteries

Red Velvet Revenge

“You’re in for a real treat with Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery Mystery. I gobbled it right up.”

—Julie Hyzy,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and White House Chef Mysteries

“Sure as shootin’,
Red Velvet Revenge
pops
with fun and great twists. Wrangle up some time to enjoy the atmosphere of a real rodeo as well as family drama. It’s better than icing on the tastiest cupcake.”

—Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries

Death by the Dozen


It’s the best yet, with great characters, and a terrific, tightly written plot.”


Lesa’s Book Critiques

“Like a great fairy tale, McKinlay transports readers into the world of cupcakes and all things sweet and frosted, minus the calories. Although . . . there are some pretty yummy recipes at the end.”

—AnnArbor.com

Buttercream Bump Off

“A charmingly entertaining story paired with a luscious assortment of cupcake recipes that, when combined, make for a deliciously thrilling mystery.”


Fresh Fiction

“Another tasty entry, complete with cupcake recipes, into what is sure to grow into a perennial favorite series.”


The Mystery Reader

Sprinkle with Murder

“A tender cozy full of warm and likable characters and a refreshingly sympathetic murder victim. Readers will look forward to more of McKinlay’s tasty concoctions.”


Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“McKinlay’s debut mystery flows as smoothly as Melanie Cooper’s buttercream frosting. Her characters are delicious, and the dash of romance is just the icing on the cake.”

—Sheila Connolly,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Scandal in Skibbereen

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Jenn McKinlay

Cupcake Bakery Mysteries

SPRINKLE WITH MURDER

BUTTERCREAM BUMP OFF

DEATH BY THE DOZEN

RED VELVET REVENGE

GOING, GOING, GANACHE

SUGAR AND ICED

Library Lover’s Mysteries

BOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING

DUE OR DIE

BOOK, LINE, AND SINKER

READ IT AND WEEP

Hat Shop Mysteries

CLOCHE AND DAGGER

DEATH OF A MAD HATTER

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

DEATH OF A MAD HATTER

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer McKinlay Orf.

Excerpt from
On Borrowed Time
by Jenn McKinlay copyright © 2014 by Jennifer McKinlay Orf.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY
®
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-14308-1

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / May 2014

Cover illustration by Robert Steele.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

For my mom, Susan N. McKinlay. From the moment I came to be, you have loved me unconditionally. It is the greatest gift a mother can give a child, and I am ever grateful that you’re my mom. All that I am, I owe to you. I love you heaps and heaps, Mom!

Contents

Praise for Jenn McKinlay’s Mysteries

Also by Jenn McKinlay

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

 

Special Excerpt from
On Borrowed Time

Acknowledgments

Not only do I judge books by their covers, I judge them by their titles as well. And so, a grateful tip of the brim is due to my brilliant agent, Jessica Faust, for coming up with this spectacular title. You are a genius! Also, I want to thank my editor, Kate Seaver, for her invaluable input during the idea stage of this book. Your wisdom and patience never run out. You amaze me!

Big smooches to my husband, Chris Hansen Orf, for his constant support and encouragement. You never doubt me, Hub, which is a gift beyond measure. Thank you!

Lastly, a crusher hug of thanks for my travel buddies, Wowa and the Hooligans Beckett and Wyatt. Traipsing around London with the three of you will be one of my most cherished memories—forever and ever. Mind the gap!

Chapter 1

“Take it off, Scarlett. You look like a corpse.”

My cousin Vivian Tremont stared at me in horror as if I had in fact just risen from the grave.

“Don’t hold back,” I said. “Tell me how you really feel.”

“Sorry, love, but pale redheads like you should avoid any color that has gray tones in it,” Viv said. Then because calling me a corpse wasn’t clear enough, she shuddered.

I crossed the floor of our hat shop to the nearest freestanding mirror. Our grandmother, Mim, had passed away five years ago and left her shop, Mim’s Whims, in London to the two of us. Viv was the creative genius behind the hats, having grown up in Notting Hill just down the street from the shop, while I was the people person—you know, the one who kept the clients from running away from Viv when she got that scary inspired look in her eye.

Having been raised in the States, I had chosen to go into the hospitality industry. Things had been going well until I discovered my rat-bastard boyfriend, whose family happened to own the hotel of which I was assistant manager, was still married. At Viv’s urging, I escaped that fiasco and came here to take up my share of the business. So far London had done quite a lot to take my mind off of my troubles. Viv in particular kept me on my toes, making sure I didn’t lose my people skills.

In fact, just the other day she’d gotten swept up in an artistic episode and tried to convince the very timid Mrs. Barker that wearing a hat with two enormous cherries the size of beach balls connected by the stems and with a leaf the size of a dinner plate would be brilliant. It was—just not on Mrs. Barker’s head.

It had taken me an afternoon of plying Mrs. Barker with tea and biscuits and yanking Viv into the back room and threatening to put her in a headlock to get them to an accord. Finally, Mrs. Barker had agreed to a black trilby with cherries the size of golf balls nestled on the side and Viv had been satisfied to work her magic on a smaller scale.

I ignored my dear cousin’s opinion of my complexion and stood in front of the mirror and tipped the lavender sun hat jauntily to one side. It was mid-May and summer was coming. I’d been looking for a hat to shade my fair skin from the sun and being a girly girl, I do love all things pink and purple.

“Oh, I can just see the headstone now,” a chipper voice said from behind me. “Here lies Scarlett Parker, mistakenly buried alive when she wore an unfortunate color of sun hat.”

I glared at the reflection of Fiona Fenton, Viv’s lovely young apprentice, glancing over my shoulder in the mirror.

Viv laughed and said, “I can dig it.”

“In spades,” Fee quipped back.

“Fine,” I said. I snatched the hat off of my head. “Obviously, the hat is a grave mistake.”

They stopped laughing.

“Oh, come on, that was a very good quip,” I said. They shook their heads in denial.

“You need to bury that one and back away,” Viv said. They both chortled.

“I still think you’re being a bit harsh,” I said. I replaced the pretty hat on its stand and shook out my long auburn hair.

“No, harsh was that hat on your head,” Fee said. She smiled at me, her teeth very white against her cocoa-colored skin. Her corkscrew bob was streaked with blue, she was always changing the color, and one curl fell over her right eye. She blew it out of her face with a puff of her lower lip.

“But I need a sun hat,” I complained.

“Plain straw would look very nice,” Viv said. “Perhaps with a nice emerald-green ribbon around the crown.”

“I’m tired of plain and I’m sick of green.”

I knew I sounded a tad whiny, but I didn’t care. I was jealous of Fee and Viv. Fee’s dark coloring looked good with everything and so did Viv’s long blonde curls and big blue eyes, both of which she had inherited directly from Mim. I only got the eyes. So unfair!

The front door opened and I glanced up with my greet-the-customer smile firmly in place. It fell as soon as I recognized the man who walked into the shop.

“Oh, it’s you, Harry,” I said with a sigh.

Harrison Wentworth, our business manager, raised an eyebrow at my unenthusiastic greeting.

“Harrison,” he corrected me. “Pleasure to see you, too, Ginger.”

I felt my face get warm at the childhood nickname. Yes, Harry and I had a history, one in which I did not come out very well.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it,” I said. “I was just hoping you were a customer so everyone could stop telling me how gruesome I look in lavender.”

“I didn’t say you were gruesome,” Viv corrected me as she rearranged the hats on one of the display shelves. “I said you looked like a corpse. Good morning, Harrison.”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.

“Now that’s a proper greeting,” Harrison said, giving me a meaningful look.

“Hello, Harrison,” Fee said. She also kissed his cheek and smiled at him. He returned the grin. I glanced between them. They seemed awfully happy to see each other.

Harrison was Viv’s age, two years older than my modest twenty-seven, but Fee was only twenty, entirely too young to be considering a man in his advanced years, in my opinion. And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that Harry and I had a history, if you consider me standing him up for an ice-cream date when I was ten and he was twelve and breaking his adolescent heart a history. I did mention that I didn’t come out very well in it, didn’t I?

As Fee stepped back, Harrison looked at me expectantly. Before I could stop myself, I found myself looking at him from beneath my lashes and giving him my very practiced, secretive half smile. Sure enough, the man looked as riveted as if I had just propositioned him.

Ugh! Honestly, I am a dreadful flirt. It’s like breathing to me and I don’t discriminate. I flirt with everyone—kids, pets, old ladies, men, you name it. Probably, that’s why the hospitality industry was such a natural fit for me. I am very good at managing people.

I blame my mother. After thirty years of marriage, she still has my dad wrapped around her pinky, and it’s not just because of her charming British accent either. My mother is an incorrigible flirt and my dad a complete sucker.

After my last relationship disaster, I made a promise to myself that I would go one whole year without a boyfriend. So far it had been two months. Prior to that the longest I’d gone was two weeks. Shameful, I know.

I shook my head and forced myself to give Harrison my most bland expression. He looked confused. I really couldn’t blame him. I was probably giving him emotional whiplash.

Mercifully, the front door opened again and this time two ladies entered. I charged forward, relieved to escape the awkward moment.

“Good afternoon, how may I help you?” I asked.

“You’re not Ginny.” The older of the two women frowned at me.

“No, I’m Scarlett, and this is my cousin Vi—”

“Ginny!” The older lady shot forward with surprising speed and hugged my cousin close.

Viv looked startled, but she hugged the woman back, obviously not wanting to offend her.

I quickly examined the two ladies. The older one had gray hair and wore a conservative print dress that had Marks & Spencer all over it, while the younger woman, a pretty brunette who looked to be somewhere in her twenties, was much more fashion forward, wearing a tailored Alexander McQueen chemise.

“You haven’t aged a day,” the older woman exclaimed. She cupped Vivian’s face and examined her closely. “How have you managed that?”

Viv gave an awkward laugh as if she was quite sure the woman was teasing her, but the woman frowned. “No, really, how have you managed it?”

“Um, my name is Vivian,” she said. “I think you might be confusing me with my grandmother Eugenia; everyone called her Ginny.”

The older woman stared at her for a moment and then she laughed and said, “Oh, Ginny, always such a joker. Didn’t I tell you, Tina?”

“You did at that, Dotty,” the other woman said as she stood watching.

“Oh heavens, where are my manners?” Dotty said. “Ginny, this is my daughter-in-law Tina Grisby. Tina, this is my friend the owner of Mim’s Whims, Gi—”

“Everyone calls me Viv,” Vivian interrupted as she extended her hand to Tina. “This is my cousin Scarlett; our apprentice, Fiona; and our man of business, Harrison.”

“You changed your name?” Dotty asked Viv. “How extraordinary.”

Viv stared at her for a second and then clearly decided that it did no good to insist she wasn’t Mim.

“Yes, I feel more like a Viv than a Ginny,” she said.

“Huh.” Dotty patted an errant gray curl by her temple. “Maybe I’ll change my name. I always fancied myself a Catriona.”

Tina gave her mother-in-law an alarmed look. “Dotty, we really should explain our purpose so that we don’t keep these kind ladies from their business.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Dotty said. “But I do love the idea of a new name.”

“Are you in need of a hat for a specific occasion?” I asked, thinking to get the conversation on track. “Fee, would you bring us some tea?”

“Right away,” she agreed.

“I’ll just go and attend the books,” Harrison said. “If you’ll excuse me, ladies.”

I watched as he and Fee shared a laugh as they left the room and wondered what they could be discussing that was so amusing. I suspected it was me in my lavender hat.

“Don’t you agree, Scarlett?” Viv asked. She was seated in our cozy sitting area with the Grisbys and all three of them were watching me.

“Um,” I stalled and when I glanced at my cousin, she had her lips pressed together as if she was trying not to smile. I quickly sat down.

“The Grisby family is hosting a tea in honor of Dotty’s late husband and they are planning to have an
Alice in Wonderland
theme,” Viv said.

“Oh, I like that idea,” I said. “How can we help?”

“Well, it’s to be a fund-raiser so that we can name a wing of the hospital after my husband,” Dotty said. “Each family member will host a table, and we’d like them to wear hats that can be tied to characters from the book.”

I glanced at Viv. Being the creative quotient in the business, this was really her call.

“When would you need these by?” she asked.

“We’re hoping to have the tea in late June,” Tina said. She gave us an apologetic look. “I know it is short notice.”

“Ginny doesn’t mind, do you, dear?” Dotty asked. She patted Viv’s hand as if they were old friends.

I tried to remember Mim mentioning Dotty Grisby, but I couldn’t bring the name up in any of my memories. Of course, given that I was only here on school holidays, I wouldn’t have as broad a frame of reference as Viv would. Judging by Viv’s surprised expression when Dotty had hugged her, however, I was betting Viv didn’t remember her either.

Fee came out with a tray loaded with tea, biscuits, cheese, and fruits. The Grisby ladies enjoyed a cup each and nibbled some of the food. It was agreed that Viv would work up some sketches and they would come in to see them next week.

Dotty took Viv’s arm as we walked them to the door. The older lady looked so happy to see her dear friend that I was glad Viv had decided to go along with Dotty’s faulty memory. I fell into step beside Tina.

“Your cousin is being very kind,” Tina said. “Please tell her that I appreciate it.”

“I will,” I said. “It must be hard to watch Dotty struggle with her memory.”

“Honestly, she’s been like this since her husband left her thirty years ago. Her reality is different from everyone else’s and, as my husband explained it to me, it is just better if we go along with her.”

“Thirty years ago?” I asked. “I’m sorry, but did I understand that she wants the wing of a hospital named after him?”

“Yes, well,” Tina lowered her voice. “They never divorced. He lived in Tuscany with his mistress until he died a month ago. She always told everyone that he was away on business, and I think she managed to convince herself that was the truth. One does wonder, though . . .”

“What?” I asked.

“If that’s why she is slightly addled,” Tina said. “She never got over him leaving her.”

A driver was outside waiting for them and Viv and I waved as they drove away.

Harrison came out from the back room. “The books are done for this week and I’m pleased to announce you’re still in business. How did it go with the madames Grisby?”

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