Thursday, November 11, 2010

BOOKS: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

Chicklit has been a bit of a sore point for me of late. First, Janet Evanovich hits a downslide that she finally managed to end with this year's sixteenth volume in the Stephanie Plum series, only to return to the dreck side with the first volume in the new Diesel series. Then, I find out I'm unlikely to ever see another Bubbles Yablonsky book from Sarah Strohmeyer or a new Sierra Lavotini tome from Nancy Bartholomew. I'd already given up hope of ever seeing a new Robin Hudson book from Sparkle Hayter.

But luckily, Karen E. Olson seems to have stepped up to the plate with her brand new Tattoo Shop mysteries starring Brett Kavanaugh, the first of which is The Missing Ink. Brett is a Las Vegas-based tattooist who happens to live with her brother Tim, a detective in the Las Vegas Police Department. And truth be told, I think Brett has the detecting genes in the family. Mind you, those genes go back to the family's ancestral home in Jersey (Hey, that's where Stephanie Plum comes from!), as their father was a cop.

Basic plot description includes a missing client of Brett's, who books an appointment to get a tattoo. She wants her fiance's name, which isn't that unusual. Apparently. But what IS unusual is that when her disappearance becomes known, it turns out the name is NOT that of her fiance's! So, you have two enigmas to resolve. Where's Kelly Masters aka Elise Lyon? And, who the heck is Matthew?

As with all things chicklit, the answer to those questions isn't as important as the lurching back and forth by the pack of supporting characters in getting there. Kavanaugh's crew at her shop, The Painted Lady, includes a 300-pound full-time eater, part-time tattooist and bodyguard, a little person named Bitsy who also is an office manager to be feared, and a couple of supporting tattooist who have quirks but are closer to being generic. Olson obviously loves Las Vegas and makes the city a major character too.

The other main recurring characters happen to work out of a competing tattoo shop in the seedier part of town doing little in the way of original work. Murder Ink's owner and possibly future love interest for Brett is Jeff Coleman. He always calls Brett by her last name and she finds him mostly infuriating. If this was a Stephanie Plum book, Coleman would be have the Ranger role, but without the out-there sexual tension. Yet. And Coleman's mother Sylvia would be played by Grandma Mazur. She's just about as crazy as Evanovich's craziest character.

I don't have a tattoo and, as a card-carrying certified coward, won't ever be getting one. But the rationale and artistry of tattooing has been enough to foster a couple of popular TV programs and this series, which I think has some legs. (I've already read the second book, a review is forthcoming) There are fewer outright laughs than most chicklit books, but the gentle humour still pervades this mystery enough for me to recommend it.

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