Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Botox, Martinis And Murder

I've never been afraid to admit that I adore reading fluff, and contrary to popular opinion, the romance genre isn't churning out an endless parade of it. I can't subsist on an endless diet of it, but when I do crave a little mindless fun, I tend to look for cozy mysteries with a dash of chick lit sass thrown in on the side. Heck, Janet Evanovich receives very nice royalty checks based on this formula. People need a nice, mindless diversion every now and then. A girl cannot live on angst alone. Which is why I'm head over heels in love with Laura Levine's Jaine Austen cozy mystery series. It's all about the fluff.

Death Of A Trophy Wife, the 9th book in the series, once again finds freelance writer Jaine fretting over her checkbook, which is on life support. She needs a job, and fast. It's while dining out with her fabulous neighbor, Lance, that they run into one of his best customers from the Neiman Marcus shoe department, Bunny Cooper. Bunny is the trophy wife of "Marvelous" Marvin Cooper, mattress king of Los Angeles. She invites Jaine and Lance over to their house for an impromptu pool party and suggests Jaine can pitch her ad slogan ideas to Marvin. Oh happy day!

However, it all goes south rather quickly. Bunny is a vile human being who treats everyone around her like dirt. Hired help, family, friends - Bunny is an equal opportunity bitch. So it's not exactly a shock when the woman ends up dead. However, what is a surprise is that the cops have zeroed in on Lance as their prime suspect. When it comes to Jaine's diet and wardrobe, Lance does get that murderous gleam in his eye, but killing off one of his best customers? Not likely.

Levine's books follow a fairly strict formula. They're written in a very chatty style, that does tend to employ "tell" over "show." Jaine's bank account is always near death, her love life continues to be dead on arrival, there are the wacky e-mails she gets from her parents, and enough murder suspects to populate a story twice their size (these books tend to clock in around 250 pages...max). There's, once again, a long list of potential bad guys here. There's the Bitter First Wife, the weaselly son-in-law, the mousy step-daughter, the professional stylist, the clumsy maid that Bunny enjoyed brow-beating, not to mention Marvelous Marvin himself.

Readers looking for a spine-tingling mystery with a lot of cloak-and-dagger sleuthing aren't going to find it here. Jaine's idea of sleuthing is talking to people, and the occasional eavesdropping on conversations. She's also a walking disaster area, the sort of person that tends to attract loonies and wacky hijinks where ever she goes. In this entry, it's a would-be suitor, Vladimir, from Uzbekistan, who wants to sweep Jaine off her feet, and back to the his home country, where they'll have their wedding, with his pet goat, Svetlana, serving as maid of honor.

No, I'm not making this up.

Yes, it's all very silly - but it's silly all in the name of good fun. I've stuck with this series from the beginning for a lot of the same reasons people stick with Janet Evanovich. They're fun, they're light, and I can count on the fact that I'll be amused. However, unlike Evanovich, I think Levine does a way better job with her mystery plots. Namely, in the suspect department. I have yet to "solve" any of her mysteries before the final curtain because the author does such a good job of offering me up a multitude of viable suspects with solid motives. Even in the case of this story, when I thought I had it figured out? Yeah. I didn't.

In the end though, it's voice. I like Jaine. Much to the horror of Lance, she likes her elastic waist-band pants and her Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs t-shirt. She eats so much junk food that, if this were the real world, she'd weigh at least 639 pounds. She's still the slave in residence to her chow-hound kitty, Prozac. Her parents are downright certifiable, and she's destined to never find a "normal" guy. But God bless the girl, I love her to bits, because she says the things that all of us, at one time or another, have at least thought.
Kandi was waiting for me in the lobby of the cineplex with two tickets to one of those romantic comedies she's so fond of. You know the kind, where the size 0 heroine who in real life could have her pick of any guy in the world sits home alone Saturday nights in impossibly adorable pajamas, eating ice cream straight from the carton and never gains an ounce. Then she meets Mr. Cutie Pie, and after a few funny misunderstandings the two of them wind up in a liplock with Nat King Cole crooning in the background.
Another book in the series that didn't change my life, but dang, I had a great time reading it. And at the end of the day, that's all I really care about.

Grade = B

Laydown date for this book is April 27, 2010.


JamiSings said...

It almost sounds like Jaine is a younger version of MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin.

I love Agatha, but I'm more into Hammish MacBeth. A little heavier then Agatha though.

A Library Girl said...

As if my TBR pile wasn't big enough already, I think you just added another author to it.

nath said...

Great review, Wendy :D Glad you enjoyed it, since you've been anticipating it so much!!

Wendy said...

Jami: I've read exactly one Agatha Raisin, and it was a while ago. I really liked it, just never totally plugged into the series. Anywho, I seem to recall her character being a touch...cantankerous? Am I remembering that right? Jaine falls more on the sweet and bubbly end of the spectrum. But yeah - very, very, very light mysteries.

Library Girl: Total brain candy books. Grade A #1 Fluff.

Nath: I'm glad I liked it too! And now I'm back to waiting a whole year for the next installment. Bah!

nath said...

LOL, there'll be lots of books in between the keep you occupied!

JamiSings said...

Yeah, Agatha is always very - verbal. She's also desperate for a man and obsessed with her post-menopausal facial hair.

Janet W. said...

This book -- or is it your review -- great! I bet my local library has this. Snaps to the movie description. Size zero ice cream and dream boat guy: yep, Hooray for Hollywood! P.S. How did a nonny mouse Gucci creep through? Was it the word trophy wife? LOL

Wendy said...

Janet: My Gucci spammer hit several posts - and I've since gone through and deleted all of them. One of the downsides to allowing anonymous comments I'm afraid....

JamiSings said...

I just get the run of the mill Asian spammers. Especially since I blogged about how I miss Woolworth's. But I have to approve comments before they're posted so I get to reject them the second I get the e-mail.