Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book Review: This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Lots of laughs and a fast paced plot
Cons: Villain easy to spot
The Bottom Line:
Get ready to laugh
With funny series debut
You will read them all

Introducing the Funny Jaine Austen

This Pen For Hire is the first in the Jaine Austen mystery series. And no, that isn't a typo. Our heroine suffers the misfortune of a mom who can't spell. Jaine is a 30-something divorcee who lives in Hollywood and runs a (mostly) successful freelance writing business. She writes advertisements, brochures (toilet master is a big client) and resumes.

This book opens as Jaine gets an unusual job. Geeky Howard Murdoch has a crush on Stacy, one of the instructors at his fitness center. He hires Jaine to write a love letter that asks Stacy out on a date. Jaine figures Stacy will never agree to the date and is shocked to learn that her letter actual was successful.

But the biggest shock is when Howard arrives for their date to discover Stacy bludgeoned to death with her thigh master. The police are sure Howard did it, and Jaine feels responsible for getting him into this mess. So she starts digging into the case herself. She finds no shortage of suspects, but can she figure out what's happening before something happens to her?

This series debut was an absolute delight. Even while the initial events are unfolding, we get foreshadowing that hints at the trouble to come. Once the murder occurs, things progress quickly. I did see the ending coming before Jaine got there, but that didn't really dampen my enjoyment.

The main characters are fleshed out well. Jaine struggles with money, her weight, and men. Even her cat, Prozac, seems to get on her case. We also get to meet lots of people who will become series regulars. Jaine's best friend Kandi keeps dragging Jaine out to meet new men. Her neighbor Lance can hear a pin drop through the wall of their duplex. Of course, the book is filled with plenty of suspects who do seem real as well.

What sets this book apart, however, is the humor. Written in the first person, the pages drip with wit and sarcasm. I constantly had a grin on my face, and several times found myself laughing out loud. Jaine often shares what she wishes she could say. And her imagined conversations with Prozac are a hoot. That cat is a better conscience than any human could ever be. Yet, the book never looses sight of the fact that it's a murder mystery first; the humor never gets in the way of the story.

This Pen For Hire is a light book that's perfect to take on vacation or for a day on the beach.

Once you've read this book, you'll want to read the rest of the Jaine Austen Mysteries in order.

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