Friday, July 22, 2011

Harrowing Hats by Joyce & Jim Lavene

book cover

Harrowing Hats
by Joyce and Jim Lavene

ISBN-13: 9780425242773
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: August 2, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
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...and it'll also help her boyfriend, the Bailiff, wrap up the case so that he'll have more time for her.

My Review:
Harrowing Hats is a cozy mystery set in a permanent Renaissance Faire attraction. The vivid setting details take you into daily life as a worker/actor at a Renaissance Faire. The varied, memorable characters were engaging. Jessie and her boyfriend dealt with realistic relationship uncertainties and problems, especially considering the general bed-hopping behavior of the other characters and in their own past.

Suspense was created by physical danger to Jessie and by wondering how her relationship troubles with her boyfriend (the Bailiff) were going to work out. One of the mysteries could be solved through clues before the "reveal." Jessie solved the main mystery as quickly as the clues were uncovered, and it was a well-developed mystery.

My only problem was with the "prank" done near the end. I've been to several Renaissance Faires and had friends who worked at them. I've never seen a sharpened sword allowed on a worker/demonstrator. It's not something I think could have gone unnoticed in those circumstances, either. It makes for a great scene, but it's not realistic. Not to mention that knowledge of how to use a sword doesn't make a heavy sword any lighter for a woman to use.

There was a minor amount (8 words) of explicit bad language. (Unmarried) sex was implied and was mentioned in a "she's sleeping with him" fashion, but there were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable, engaging mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"How many frogs do I get for a dollar?" The boy asking was about ten years old. He had a buzz cut that almost made his blond hair invisible in the sun. His attitude was exactly what one might expect from a young male of noble blood.

I plastered a smile on my face and shifted my corset under my low-cut blouse for the hundredth time in the last hour. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to make all the women in Renaissance Faire Village and Market Place look like floozy tavern wenches needed to be out here doing it instead of me.

"You get five frogs for five dollars, young sir." I managed to keep my tone civil. It wasn't easy.

"That's not many frogs for a lot of money," he said.

"I do not make the rules. I only take the money and give you the frogs to put on the catapult. Dost thou wish to throw frogs or not?"

He looked at the targets that could net him some of the prizes above them.

No comments: