Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tattoo Shop series by Karen E. Olson

I don't know why I'm devouring whole mystery series right now. I guess I'm just finding lots of good stuff out there. The Missing Ink is the first in this series, followed by Pretty in Ink and Driven to Ink. The fourth book is due out next summer.

In the first book, we meet tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh, who owns her own upscale tattoo parlor in Las Vegas. When a girl makes an appointment for a tattoo--a heart with the name "Matthew" in it--and then disappears, Brett can't stop herself from snooping around. It turns out the girl wasn't who she said she was, and her fiance's name wasn't Matthew, either. And suddenly a man with an eagle tattoo seems to be stalking Brett.

It would be easy to dismiss the books as yet another gimmick mystery series (at least there are no recipes or knitting patterns in the back), but the writing is good and the plots intricate. Brett is smart, strong, and practical without coming across as snide or street-smart. The mysteries kept me guessing and played fair with the clues. I especially appreciated that Brett is active in solving the mysteries without doing stupid stuff just for the sake of the plot.

Best of all are the relationships Brett has with her coworkers and her brother. Her coworkers are awesome, each of them fully realized characters as interesting as Brett herself. Brett lives with her brother--he broke up with his longtime girlfriend about the same time that Brett decided she didn't want to marry a man who expected her to put her career on hold for his. Her brother happens to be a cop. Their sibling relationship is depicted realistically, possibly better than any brother-sister relationship I've ever read. They fuss at each other, stick up for each other, and have a comfortable friendship. I really liked that.

I like also that Brett's relationships grow naturally from book to book. While the mysteries are fun and often funny, I'm at least as interested in what's going on in Brett's social life. That's a nice change from many mysteries, where the most a reader can expect is a drawn-out romance.

B&N link

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