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"This Pen For Hire" could just as easily be called "This Pun For Hire" because it's a rollicking, laugh-filled mystery by Laura Levine, an L.A. based comedy writer with many hit television programs to her credit. In this, her first novel, she introduces witty and wary Jaine Austin who views life, love, lust and Los Angeles with a practiced albeit jaundiced eye.
Jaine is a writer for hire who has authored everything from libido laced personal ads to ardent vows of true love. This is her daytime job. At night she's out and about searching for her one-and-only in Hollywood's bistros.
Enter a gawking geek, Howard Murdoch, who retains Jaine to write a love letter to Stacy Lawrence, a heart-stopping aerobics instructor whom Howard has never met. Crime comes quickly when Howard discovers Stacy beaten to death with a Thigh Master. The hapless Howard is, of course, fingered for the killing. Jaime is determined to prove his innocence.
Wielding her Bloomies card like a press pass and totally disregarding all obstacles Jaine is hot on the trail of the killer who wants to make a real ghost writer out of her.
"This Pen For Hire" is a fun beach read, and Jaine a likeable heroine. Hope Laura Levine is back at the computer coming up with a second adventure for this dauntless dame.
0Comment8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 February 2011
Jaine Austen (no relation) is a freelance writer who spends most of her time writing promotional mailers and leaflets for various companies. When geeky Howard Murdoch approaches her to write a love letter, and then admits he's never even spoken to the object of his affections, Jaine relucantantly agrees to help. To Jaine's surprise her letter works and wins Howard a date with the gorgeous aerobics instructor Stacy Lawrence. But the next thing she knows Stacy is found bludgeoned to death with a Thigh Master, and Howard is arrested. Jaine is sure he didn't do it and, with the police sure he did, she decides to investigate.

I'd noticed a story by Laura Levine in an anthology (Candy Cane Murder) but as I brought the book for the Joanne Fluke story I'd never bothered reading it. After hearing Laura's praises sung I decided to give her writing a shot with the first in the Jaine Austen series. I'm really glad I did.

The plot is great - full of twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in. It isn't as cozy as most cozy mysteries as it's more self-aware and sex is mentioned quite frequently, but I loved it. The mystery was well thought out, with loads of possible suspects and a killer I didn't manage to figure out in advance. Having the book set in L.A. also meant that this wasn't a small-town setting so Jaine had to go out to a variety of places to snoop.

I liked Jaine and her snarky sense of humour, and she was also believable in how and why she investigated Stacy's death. The possible romantic interest Cameron was well developed without taking over the storyline, although Detective Rea was a little underdeveloped. I loved the wider cast of characters, from the residents at the Shalom Retirement Home where Jaine teaches a memoir class to the potential suspects she investigates.

All in all this was a great read, and I'll be looking to pick up a copy of Last Writes (the second book in the series).

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Cover: 8/10

Overall: 46/50
0Comment6 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Jaine Austen runs a (mostly) successful freelance writing business. In between promo material for commercial companies, she gets a request to write a love letter. Geeky Howard Murdoch has a crush on Stacy, one of the instructors at his fitness center. Jaine figures Stacy will never agree to the date and is shocked to learn that her letter actual was successful. But the biggest shock is when Howard arrives for their date to discover Stacy bludgeoned to death with her thigh master. The police are sure Howard did it, and Jaine feels responsible for getting him in this mess. So she starts digging into the case herself. She finds no shortage of suspects, but can she figure out what's happening before something happens to her?
This series debut was an absolute delight. The story is well plotted, and the pace never lets up. The main characters are fleshed out well. What sets this book apart, however, is the humor. Written in the first person, the pages drip with wit and sarcasm in all the right places. I constantly had a grin on my face, and several times found myself laughing out loud. Yet, it never looses sight of the fact that it's a murder mystery first; the humor never gets in the way of the story.
Anyone looking for a light, fun mystery for a relaxing weekend or trip need look no further. I've already added this series to my favorites and look forward to Jaine's further adventures.
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on 12 September 2013
Any of Laura Levine's Jaine Austen books are worth a look, her style is always very readable. As a rule I avoid American books and bought the first as a holiday-read without realising it was American, but went on to read her others as I like her characters. This one is good with plot twists and red-herrings and her usual quirky characters. And of course, Jaine with her feline side-kick, guilt-trips and weight issues.
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on 18 August 2014
Fantastic read! Funny, easy and cosy! I read all the other books in the series afterwards and would highly recommend them all!
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on 1 March 2013
i enjoyed this book very much and this author ke3eps your attention so you keep reading till it is finished
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on 26 April 2015
It was a gift thet haven't complained
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