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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
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READING HERODOTUS:
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Olson, Karen E.: The Missing Ink

  Amazon  

4 stars

The Missing Ink is the first installment in a new series of mysteries by Karen E. Olson, author of the Annie Seymour mysteries. (See my reviews: Sacred Cows, Secondhand Smoke, Dead of the Day.) Brett Kavanaugh is the owner of The Painted Lady, a high-end tattoo parlor in Vegas whose lobby sports original art work and orchids rather than the neon we might expect. Brett lands in the middle of a missing persons case when she turns out to be the last person to have seen Elise Lyon before she disappeared. Elise is engaged to the son of a Trump-like Vegas hotel mogul, so the hunt for her quickly becomes national news, attracting the likes of 20/20. The case is far from straightforward, as Brett is the first to recognize: when Elise came to her shop she was using a pseudonym, and the name she wanted tattooed on her chest was not her fiancé's. Intrigued by the mystery, Brett decides to do some amateur sleuthing, and she unwisely elects to keep information from the police--despite that she lives with a representative of the Las Vegas department, her brother, Detective Tim Kavanaugh. (I did have trouble believing that Brett would keep information from the authorities and investigate on her own. Her motive to do so doesn't seem sufficiently strong. But I suppose there's not much of a story to be had from her providing a statement to the police and calling it a night.)

The Missing Ink is a fast read with a seriously intricate plot. You have to have your wits about you to keep the connections between the various characters straight. Brett is reluctantly allied with her competition on the strip, Jeff Coleman, who runs a more traditionally seedy tattoo establishment. And she is helped out by her employees--Bitsy, the efficient dwarf, Joel, who's obese and of indeterminate sexuality, and the self-absorbed Ace. We also encounter, among others, disappeared rich girl Elise and her numerous paramours; suave hotelier and potential love interest Simon Chase; and Kelly Martin, a tattooist with unexpected connections in Vegas.

Olson's previous series was set in New Haven, Connecticut--just down the road from me as well as the author (with whom I'm acquainted)--and the books were steeped in a sense of place. The Missing Ink, not surprisingly since it's not the author's home town, doesn't feel quite as wed to its setting, despite the principals' appearance at an Elvis karaoke bar. This isn't a bad thing; it's merely a noticeable difference between the two series. While I came away from the Annie Seymour books most struck by the series' connection to its setting, this first Tattoo Mystery leaves me most impressed by the complexity of its plot. I'm looking forward to more books in the series: Pretty in Ink is due out in April, 2010.

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