I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
Usually I save my 5 star ratings for cozies that are a joy to read *and* offer something a bit different - unique (or not often used) plot devices, a deeper level of writing, really creative twists or settings. Cloche and Dagger didn't really offer any of these pluses, but it was such an outstandingly fun read with such likeable characters, I couldn't possibly have given it anything less.
For me, Ms. McKinlay wasn't going to go wrong with a setting in Notting Hill, London. Consider that box ticked. The characters were each written so well, that they immediately presented themselves in my minds eye so I almost never struggled keeping characters/suspects straight in my mind (about 10 seconds asking 'which one's Andre and which one's Nick' was about it).
I am already crushing on Harrison - if Scarlett doesn't want him, I'll take him. We don't get much time with Viv, but it's clear she'll be quirky and fun and I really like Fee. And thank you, thank you, thank you, for NOT introducing some awful, hateful caricature of some nasty cow put there to make everyone's lives miserable.
The plot was nicely done - the first mystery presents itself on page 3(?) with Viv's disappearance. The actual murder doesn't come along until about 1/3 of the way through the book, which allows the author to introduce the setting, the people, etc. with the backdrop of Viv's absence keeping things interesting. Once the murder does occur, it's a good one. I had a suspicion throughout, but was never sure, until the end.
Ms. McKinlay has yet to write a series I don't love (we won't bring Josie Bell into this) and I think my rankings are going to need a reshuffling - Hat Shop, Library, Cupcakes. I was genuinely disappointed to have come to the end of this book and I can't wait to read more (especially with the hint of paranormal at the very end - ooooh!).