Wednesday, April 7, 2010

PRETTY IN INK - Karen Olson

FIRST LINE: "If your name is Britney Brassieres, being taken down by a tsunami of champagne might seem only fitting."

Tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh and team ink a group of drag queens, which is how they end up front and center for Britney Brassieres' stage show on opening night. The real show turns out to be a champagne attack on Britney who is shot with the cork from the champagne bottle in the middle of her act. Britney survives the cork assault, but when she and another drag queen are dead days later and Brett's intern is on the run, Brett is following the only clue she has, a queen of hearts tattoo. Brett quickly finds herself in hot water, alongside her business competition, Jeff Coleman, and her only way out is to find the man with that queen of hearts tattoo.

PRETTY IN INK is the follow-up to Olson's THE MISSING INK that I reviewed here last July, and Olson hasn't dropped a stroke with this series. PRETTY IN INK is as fun and entertaining as its predecessor. The eclectic mix of characters on the case in Sin City makes for sharp humor and exciting action scenes. Olson adds substantially to her cast with the drag queens. Her knack for giving the characters dimension seems especially acute with these men dressed as women. Each queen is unique and special. Olson crafts her characters in such a way that the reader can connect with them individually instead of seeing them as part of a stereotypical group. That is definitely one of the elements I enjoy most about this series.

I also really enjoy how she brings Las Vegas to life:

"I took the Strip rather than the back roads, because I knew the lights would keep me alert. The reflections of the neon flashed across my windshield, and I was reminded how someone once said that every movie and TV show filmed in Vegas had at least one scene with a car driving down the Strip, the lights cutting across the windows.

I was such a cliché."
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the dashing cover seems to reflect the brilliance of Vegas as well as the artistic angle of the characters: the custom tattoos, including Brett's reproduction of Monet's water lilies and Jeff's Day of the Dead, and the flamboyant make-up and clothing of the drag queens. Olson's writing style is one that paints broad strokes of life on her paper canvas.

The final element that should definitely not go unnoticed is Olson's dialogue. The voice of each unique character takes on a life of its own, from the fearless Bitsy to the uber-macho Jeff to the arrogant detective, DeBurra. The dialogue flows naturally. I especially appreciate the way Brett's spunk and humor takes shape through her conversations:

"'You're with Homeland Security; don't you know where everyone is at all times?" I asked, my exhaustion turning into sarcasm.

He sighed dramatically. 'That's what Miss Hendricks said, too. Do you have employee training in how to respond to a police officer's questions?'

'How did you guess?'"
The Tattoo Shop Mystery series is one I look forward to. PRETTY IN INK did not disappoint as Olson's sophomore addition to the series, and I look forward to book number three, DRIVEN TO INK, coming later this fall.

PRETTY IN INK is available from Obsidian in mass market paperback (ISBN: 978-0-451-22962-5).

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Christine April 7, 2010 at 8:32 AM  

I've got Missing Ink on my list of books to read. Question is, will reading her books make me more or less inclined to get a tattoo? ;)

Jen Forbus April 7, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

Chris, I actually think you'd end up MORE inclined to get a tattoo!

Christine April 7, 2010 at 8:45 AM  

Well, thanks to PCN's Craisie Town forum, I've already got just the tattoo in mind. Hmmmm...

Got yours picked-out yet? ;)

carolsnotebook April 7, 2010 at 2:49 PM  

And I still haven't gotten around to this series. I need to break down and order them so at least that way they'll be staring at me from the shelf.

le0pard13 April 7, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

This does sound like a fun series, Jen. Thanks.

Jen Forbus April 7, 2010 at 9:05 PM  

Kay, I have no tattoos, nor any desire to get tattoos...never been to Vegas and probably won't be headed there any time soon, but I LOVE this series. It's just fun. I think you'll like it!

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