Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review: Death of a Trophy Wife by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #9)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Many funny scenes and sub-plots; a couple of good twists
Cons: Mystery could have been stronger overall
The Bottom Line:
Funny, funny scenes
Mystery's a little weak
Book still entertains





That's One Dead Bunny

When it comes to comedic mystery series, one that always pops into my mind is the Jaine Austen series by Laura Levine.  Jaine, a freelance writer, manages to find herself in some truly funny situations as she sleuths her way through some outrageous mysteries.  Death of A Trophy Wife is the ninth book in the series, and it's another good book.

When Jaine accepts an invitation to brunch from her neighbor Lance, she meets Bunny Cooper, the young, beautiful, and spoiled wife of the Mattress King, a local mattress chain.  When Bunny finds out that Jaine is a writer, she offers to recommend Jaine to her husband, who just happens to be looking for a new advertising campaign.  Desperate for cash, Jaine agrees, but her pitch meeting keeps getting postponed until Bunny dies at her own party.

Meanwhile, Jaine is fighting off the advances of Vladimir, her e-mail order groom from Uzbekistan, who shows up to win her hand in marriage.  And her dad has decided to start cooking everything.  Oh yeah, and the police zero in on Lance as their prime suspect.  With her neighbor sure he's going to be carted off any day, Jaine begins questioning suspects, hoping to find the killer.  Can she clear Lance?

In many ways, these books remind me of sitcoms.  You've got a stable of characters who appear from book to book and lots of wild antics.  The mystery plots are fairly light, just enough to hold the books together.  True, I was surprised by a couple twists along the way, but for the most part the mystery aspect seemed a bit more formulaic than in previous books.

But oh the comedy.  I don't know how Laura Levine keeps coming up with these funny sub-plots and scenes, but there were some great ones here.  Jaine stars in a rather embarrassing one early on that I loved.  The whole sub-plot with her dad and his new Turbomaster 3000 quick cooker (played out as always via e-mails from Jaine's parents) was absolutely priceless.  And Lance conspires to make Jaine's life more miserable, too.

Speaking of Lance, he gets upgraded from supporting character to main character here, and I liked how he was fleshed out.  Granted, most of the characters are types and caricatures here.  They are real enough for the story, but they are no stirring serious characters moments.  Frankly, that would be out of character.

The writing is smooth, making it a fast read.  Jaine narrates the story, often breaking the wall to talk directly to us between scenes.  Instead of pulling me out of the book, it adds humor to the events.  I especially love the way she interprets her cat's looks and actions.

Like the sitcoms of old, very little carries over from one book to another.  If there is something you need to know, it is explained enough for the story to make sense.  So if you are new to the series, you can jump in here or with any book that strikes your fancy and not miss a beat.

Yes, the mystery could have been better, but the humor still had me happily turning pages as quickly as I could.  Death of A Trophy Wife will please Jaine's many fans.

Looking for more laughs with your murder?  Look no further than the rest of the Jaine Austen Mysteries in order.

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