Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Tattoosday Book Review: Pretty In Ink

Last year, when Karen E. Olson released The Missing Ink, I didn't know what to expect.

Here was a mystery writer presenting us with a novel in which the main character was a female tattoo artist who owns her own shop, The Painted Lady, in Las Vegas' famous Venetian Hotel and Casino.

Brett Cavanaugh, the creation at the center of Ms. Olson's universe, is certainly a compelling character. She is a business owner, living with her police officer brother, and working with several memorable characters.

I wanted to like the first book and I wasn't disappointed. It's a fun read and does a nice job of keeping the reader interested. The fact that it is tattoo-centered only made it that much more enjoyable. For those of you who missed it, my review of the first book is here.

So it was with much anticipation that I awaited the arrival of the second volume of the "Tattoo Shop Mystery," Pretty in Ink. As a punster, I appreciate the titles as well.

The sophomore effort in the series finds our heroine, several months after the first book concludes, at a performance of drag queens. The comic potential in the performers' names alone makes the opening scene memorable, with the chaos of an unknown assailant popping a champagne cork directly into the chest of one Miss Britney Brassieres

What ensues is a murder mystery in which a tattoo, this time of a Queen of Hearts playing card, plays an integral role.

I love it, of course, because the book explores the tattoo beyond the symbol - there is a whole reality spinning out from behind the symbolic nature of the piece.

Olson's Brett Cavanaugh is surrounded by the supporting cast we met in the first book. Back is Bitsy, the diminutive "little person" who is the shop manager, as well as Tim, Brett's cop brother, who is also her roommate. Also back are Jeff and Sylvia Coleman, the "old-school" mother-and-son artists on the Strip, and the robust Joel Sloane, a shop artist who is weight-challenged and a confidante of our heroine.

Of course, there is more, with sexual ambiguity, Las Vegas politics, homeland security issues, a new potential love interest, and lots of tattoo talk.

I must admit I liked Ms. Olsen's second book in the series more than the first. Perhaps it is the familiarity of the characters, but I feel it is more than that. Olsen has hit a groove and is running at full speed.

If you're looking for a quick, fun read and want to be entertained by a cast of fictional characters in the tattoo industry, you should certainly give this series a try. Olsen knows her stuff, and has created a clever literary world at The Painted Lady with Brett Kavanaugh. She's certainly my first choice in the world of fictional tattoo artists.

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