Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Comedy, mystery, and comedy
Cons: All cons have lost their ninth life
The Bottom Line:
Prozac, TV star?
Cat’s big break leads to murder
And big laughs for us
Diet Cat Food is Murder
After thirteen books, I’ve come to rely on Jaine Austen. The books in this series are always light, funny, and a pleasure to read. Murder Has Nine Lives is the fourteenth book, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
If you’ve missed the series, Jaine is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is owned by a very demanding cat name Prozac. Her life seems to be filled with murder and mayhem since these books are just as heavy on the laughs as they are on murder. While I am a firm read in order person, these books really do stand alone, so you can pick them up in any order. Trust me, once you start, you’ll want to read them all.
This book opens in the vet’s office. Jaine has brought Prozac in for her annual checkup, but before they even get to the appointment, an animal agent spots Prozac and is convinced that Jaine’s cat is perfect for a new commercial for diet cat food. All Prozac has to do is eat and sleep – the two activity she excels at. The trick is she has to do it on command, but Prozac behaves well enough at the audition to land the part.
The day of the shoot, things are going along well until it comes time to shoot Prozac’s final scene, when she starts becoming her usual temperamental self. The creator of Skinny Kitty, Dean Oliver, calls for a half hour break. When everyone returns, Dean films his big scene, where he announces the cat food is so good he will eat it himself and takes a big bite. Only after he does, he keels over dead.
Jaine had already witnessed that Dean wasn’t a very nice man, but it seems that just about everyone on set had a motive for murder. The police include Jaine in that number, and tell her not to leave town. But with a vacation to Hawaii on the horizon, Jaine needs to make sure she is cleared of suspicion, so she begins digging into the suspects and motives. Can she find the killer in time to go on her trip?
The mysteries in these books are always good. We’ve got a nice collection of suspects, and as Jaine talks to them, we learn more about motives and opportunity. It always seems like the top suspect is changing as Jaine talks to everyone until we reach the logical solution.
The books are filled with sub-plots as well. In one, Jaine agrees to go on a blind date with the nephew of her biggest client. It’s fun to finally actually see the owner of Toiletmaster since we’ve heard lots about him over the course of the series. As always, we are also treated to the latest in her parent’s retirement community in Florida thanks to a string of e-mail exchanges. This time around, her father has decided to enter the annual Scrabble tournament and defeat the reigning champion Lydia Pinkus, his arch nemesis and Jaine’s mother’s best friend. The results are completely hilarious, which was no surprise to me.
At times, these sub-plots take over the story, especially Jaine’s blind date. However, I really don’t mind because they are so much fun. While there are plenty of laughs in this book, some of the best come from these two stories. Trust me, you won’t begrudge a page spent on either of them.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, these books are a little over the top, which is much of their fun. The characters are likewise outrageous in a fun way. They are real enough for us to care about the outcome, but they are not the complex people I might praise in another series. Still they fit the series perfectly and anything different would feel odd.
Author Laura Levine has a background in comedy writing, and it really shows. In fact, I often describe these books as sitcoms with murder, and the description really does fit. Don’t pick them up when you want anything dark or serious, but if you are in the mood for laughs with your murder, this is the perfect series for you.
Fans of Jaine’s adventures have nothing to worry about, she is still going strong in Murder Has Nine Lives. And if you have yet to start the series, I’ll say it again – drop everything and do so today. You’ll be binge reading these books and laughing through them all.
Need to catch up on Jaine’s other adventures? Here are the Jaine Austen Mysteries in order.