Death By Pantyhose (Jaine Austen Mystery #6)

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Death By Pantyhose (Jaine Austen Mystery #6) by Laura Levine

“Freelance writer Jaine Austen is back! This time around she’s writing jokes for a female comic in order to make a buck. But when the comic’s male rival is found dead, strangled by a pair of pantyhose, and Jaine’s client is arrested, it’s once again up to her to figure out whodunit.

Jaine Austen has never been able to resist the siren call of an Eskimo Pie, just like she can’t resist renewing her romance with Andrew, an old crush. With her bank account hitting new lows, she’s also just agreed to write jokes for Dorcas, a stand-up comic who throws her pantyhose into the audience as a punch line.

Not only is Dorcas’s act a bomb, she is heckled by Vic, a gorgeous fellow comic who is equally good on stage and in the sack. Unfortunately Vic loves performing in both venues. He gets in bed with a sexy waitress, a pretty new lover, and a sweet girlfriend while professing his undying love for each. Worse, he is two-timing his aging agent. Pretty soon Vic has an enemy’s list a mile long, and when he needles Dorcas one time too many, she assaults him at a club’s open-mike night.

Naturally when Vic is murdered with Dorcas’s pantyhose and that same Dorcas is standing over his dead body, the police arrest…Dorcas. They figure it’s an open-and-shut case although Jaine figures no killer can be that dumb-even Dorcas. But when Jaine sets out to find the real culprit, she is distracted by one dating disaster after another with Andrew-and she may not see the dark side of comedy until she faces the business end of a gun and a cold, deadly grin…”

Another fast paced Jaine Austen mystery. Once again, I had no idea whodunit until Jaine figured it out herself. This is a fun series, perfect for the pool or beach this summer. But check out more than one from the library because you’ll soon find yourself at the end and wondering what on earth Jaine is going to get up to next!

256 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Kensington
ISBN13: 9780758207852

3 stars

The PMS Murder (Jaine Austen Mystery #5)

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The PMS Murder (A Jaine Austen Mystery #5) by Laura Levine

“On the frontlines of the battle of the bulge, otherwise known as trying on bathing suits in the communal dressing room at Loehmann’s, freelance writer Jaine Austen makes a new friend-a wannabe actress named Pam-and gets a new job: sprucing up Pam’s bare-bones resume. Their feeling of connection is mutual, so Pam invites Jaine to join The PMS Club-a women’s support group that meets once a week over guacamole and margaritas.

But joining the club proves to be more a curse than a blessing for Jaine. Though she is warned that Rochelle, the hostess, makes a guacamole to die for, Jaine never takes the warning literally. Until another PMS member, Marybeth, drops dead over a mouthful of the green stuff after confessing she is having an affair with Rochelle’s husband.

While Rochelle and her husband are the obvious suspects, everyone at that night’s meeting is under suspicion, including Jaine. So, instead of dishing dirt with The PMS Club, Jaine has to dig up dirt on the surviving members. And soon it becomes clear: someone in this club thinks getting away with murder should be a privilege of membership…”

A fast, fun read. As with the other Jaine Austen books, I had no idea who did it until Jaine did. I love that! Usually I figure out whodunit way before the hero/heroine so it’s kind of like, come on, catch up with me, so and so did it! But not with this series! Great beach/pool reads.

Mass Market Paperback
256 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Kensington Publishing Corporation (first published 2006)
ISBN13: 9780758207845

3 stars

Killer Blonde (Jaine Austen Mystery #3)

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Killer Blonde (Jaine Austen Mystery #3) by Laura Levine

“A gal with a serious Ben & jerry’s habit and credits including a tome entitled “I Was Henry Kissinger’s Sex Slave” can’t afford to be too picky about employment opportunities. So when Beverly Hills socialite Sue Ellen Kingsley offers Jaine megabucks to ghostwrite a book of hostess tips, it’s time to sharpen the #2s. So what if Jaine has to take dictation from a rail-thin lady of leisure in a bubble bath? Pride doesn’t feed the cat and the dubious side benefit of this particular job is an up-close, personal view of the amorous exploits of Hollywood’s ladies-who-lunch. The only bright spot is sixteen-year-old Heidi, a girl after Jaine’s own heart. Shy, overweight, and oppressed by her step-mother, Sue Ellen, Heidi could use a friend as much as Jaine could use an ally. But everything short circuits when Jaine finds Sue Ellen floating face down in her tub, fried by her own blow dryer. Peroxided suspects abound, including a very private masseuse, a jealous nurse, a former game show hostess… even a closet blonde with a surprising secret. One of them is hiding a murderous heart behind pricey highlights, and laine’s out to expose the killer’s dark roots. Because blondes have enough fun without getting away with murder…”

Jaine has pretty bad luck. She ends up with some not-so-great writing jobs and she has pretty bad luck in the romance department too. This time around she’s been hired to help ghostwrite a book. When her employer ends up dead she decides, once again, to investigate the crime in order to clear the number one suspect. I get the feeling that Jaine isn’t the best freelance writer around (Flushmasters anyone?), but apparently she’s not the best private investigator either. When she does figure out whodunit, it’s usually seconds before the killer pulls a gun on her and threatens to shoot her (but not before they brag about their entire plan first). Of course, I typically don’t figure out whodunit until Jaine does so I’m not picking on her or anything. She does tend to wrongly accuse a lot of people before she finally stumbles into the truth and she ends up in some funny, and often dire, situations, many of which, can be related to.

Levine has created a great character in Jaine as well as a great cast of supporting characters. The emails Jaine receives from her parents who have moved to a retirement community in Florida are hilarious. (Personally I’m hoping for a visit from Mom and Pop Austen in a future book.) Her best friend Kandi is forever searching for Mr. Right. And she’s pretty sure she’s met him in every book. And then there is Jaine’s roommate, her cat Prozac, one of the funniest pets in fiction I think.

256 pages
Published July 1st 2004 by Kensington Publishing (first published 2004)
ISBN13: 9780758201621

3 stars

Last Writes (Jaine Austen Mystery #2)

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Last Writes (Jaine Austen Mystery #2) by Laura Levine

“Wisecracking pen-for-hire Jaine Austen is back and she’s about to discover that working on the set of a Hollywood sitcom is no laughing matter.

Jaine still hasn’t found a good man or a way to keep all those sugary snacks from going straight to her hips. But with a little help from her best friend Kandi she’s finally landed a gig as a sitcom writer! True, Muffy’n Me (aka Bewitched with Tits ) isn’t going to win any Emmys. And her office at Miracle Studios needs a little sprucing up, and a few dozen rat traps. But it sure beats writing boring brochures and bad resumes, so Jaine’s not complaining. Until the plot thickens with murder.

Jaine figures the trouble all started when Muffy’n Me’s hottest star, gorgeous Quinn Kirkland, seduced the head writer whose husband also works on the show. But when Quinn is caught in bed with the barely-legal actress who plays his niece, things really heat up and his many jealous girlfriends start to figure things out.

So when the no-good heartthrob drops dead after nibbling a poisoned doughnut, Jaine isn’t terribly surprised. But who could have done it? A competitive co-star and a couple of scorned lovers top Jaine s list of suspects, but the police have zeroed in on her man-crazy pal Kandi. She fell hard for Quinn and nearly fell apart when she learned of all his other women. Now Jaine has to figure out who finally stopped Quinn’s cheatin’ heart before her best friend ends up behind bars.”

The second installment in the chick-lit Jaine Austen mystery series, this book was fast paced and funny. I love Jaine’s sarcastic sense of humor, the way she talks to the readers, and the way she lets her cat (Prozac is the best cat name ever!) run her life. When I figured out whodunit, I was completely shocked. Levine writes a good mystery. They are funny, fast paced, and have enough suspects that you’ll never know who’s guilty until the very end. This is a series that I would re-read. I got them all from the library this go around, but I’ll probably end up owning them so I can read them again.

240 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Kensington Publishing (first published 2003)
ISBN13: 9780758201607

3 stars

This Pen For Hire (Jaine Austen Mystery #1)

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This Pen For Hire (Jaine Austen Mystery #1) by Laura Levine

“Jaine Austen is a hip, jack-of-all-trades writer who spends her days penning steamy personal ads. No one needs her help more than geeky Howard Murdoch, whom Jaine successfully sets up on a date. All goes well until Valentine’s Day, when Howard finds his new love has been bludgeoned to death.”

This is the first installment in the Jaine Austen mystery series by Laura Levine. When we first meet Jaine she’s doing some freelance personal ads. Howard hires Jaine to write a letter to his crush, a women he knows from his gym. She agrees to a date with Howard but when he arrives to pick her up he finds her dead instead.

Next thing Jaine knows, Howard has been arrested for the murder. Jaine knows there is no way timid and shy Howard could have done such a thing and she feels guilty for writing the letter that put him in Stacy’s apartment so she decides to help Howard out.

Jaine’s first outing as a private investigator is full of twists and turns. She has to think fast on her feet and try to keep herself out of trouble. And, keep herself alive!

This book had me totally hooked on the series. I accidentally read the third book first, not realizing it was part of a series, so I requested “This Pen…” from the library. Levine has created a wonderful character with Jaine, the possibilities of adventures for her are endless and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

203 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Kensington
ISBN13: 9780758201584

3 stars

Shoes to Die For (A Jaine Austen Mystery #4)

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Shoes To Die For (A Jaine Austen Mystery #4) by Laura Levine

Freelance writer Jaine Austen is not your typical Los Angelino. She’s not rich, she’s not thin, and she’s definitely not starstruck. She is a sarcastic, sometime-sleuth who’s never met a carb she didn’t like…or a mystery she couldn’t solve…

If clothes make the man, then what do Jaine’s elastic-waist pants and T-shirts make her? A fashion nightmare, according to her neighbour, Lance. She doesn’t expect Lance – who works in the designer shoe department at Nieman Marcus – to understand…which is how she ends up visiting his favourite boutique, Passions. While the couture is definitely not for Jaine, the staff’s gossip is. Tiny orange-haired clerk Becky starts complaining about her co-worker Giselle – a.k.a. “Frenchie” – a brittle blonde who, when she’s not making fun of customers behind their backs, adds extra-marital notches to her Chanel belt.

Though Jaine doesn’t land a new look, she does land a new job when Passions’ owner gives her a chance to write their new magazine ads. But when Jaine arrives the next morning to pitch her ideas, she finds Frenchie pitched over, stabbed in the neck by one of her own stilettos. Now all Jaine has to do is figure out who hated Frenchie the most, in a case of death by designer knock-off…

Levine’s Jaine Austen series just gets better with each new book. Jaine becomes more and more developed. And who doesn’t love a heroine that has never met a cheeseburger she didn’t love. Her life is run by Prozac, her cat, and the two men in her life, Ben & Jerry, as in ice cream.

The books are fast, easy reads with fun, snarky plots. I love to read something fun and light and this series definitely fits the bill.

288 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Kensington (first published 2005)
ISBN 0758207824

3 stars