Friday, March 26, 2010

Pretty In Ink - Karen E. Olson

Pretty In Ink
A Tattoo Shop Mystery
Karen E. Olson


“If your name is Britney Brassieres, being taken down by a tsunami of champagne might seem only fitting.” There’s no way to improve on that as a first line in a novel. The Britney in question happens to be a drag queen (real name Trevor) performing in Chez Tango’s Nylons and Tattoos show. Of course it’s Vegas, did you need to ask? The tsunami of champagne actually hit Brett Kavanaugh, tattoo artist and owner of The Painted Lady. What hit Britney was the cork, and who aimed it is a mystery. But Brett is certain of two things: that the perpetrator was aiming, and that he had a queen-of-hearts tattoo.

After the EMTs take Trevor to the hospital to make sure he doesn’t have a concussion, Brett and Charlotte, her intern and Trevor’s friend, go backstage to pack up Trevor’s stuff. In the makeup case, Brett finds a pin that looks like the queen of hearts. Apparently, Trevor is quite attached to the pin, although he occasionally pawns it when he runs short of cash. Depending on who you ask, it’s one of dozens like it, or it the decorative stones might be real and Trevor got it from an actor currently making a run for the Senate.

Either way, Trevor is released from the hospital the following morning. Hours later, he’s back, feeling ill. Before Brett can get there, Trevor dies. When he was admitted the second time, the only thing he had on him was that pin. Even if the stones are real, would someone kill to get it? And why?

Last seen in THE MISSING INK, Brett is an interesting and increasingly complex character. She runs a tattoo shop in an upscale hotel/casino. Her brother is a cop. Her staff is what might be called a motley group, but they’re all stand-up people. Personally, I’ve never wanted a tattoo, but I understand its value as an art form and as artistic expression. It’s interesting to note that Brett cautions first-timers to be very sure that this is what they want, since it is, for all intents and purposes, permanent.

The mystery this time around is a bit more involved, and the cast of characters is wider, spanning just about every layer of society. Although, in Vegas, maybe that’s not so unusual. The setting and Trevor’s line of work make for some very entertaining developments. Readers who are put off by body art or drag queens might have problems with this one, but the author does a great job of making everyone an individual and more than just what they do for a living. Mystery fans will be thrilled to find this series full of complex stories and fascinating characters.

Rating: 7 ½
March 2010
ISBN# 978-0-451-22962-5 (paperback)


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