Howard Murdoch, an absolute poster boy for geeks, gives writer-for-hire Jaine Austen a commission: write a letter for him which will get gorgeous aerobics instructor Stacy Lawrence to go out on a date with him. Taking pity on her hapless customer, Jaine embellishes the truth a little in the letter. As result, Howard gets his date. But the dream date turns into a total nightmare when Howard ends up being arrested for Stacy’s murder.
Jaine feels sure that Howard is incapable of even thinking of murder, much less committing one. But the detective in charge of the case isn’t willing to listen to her. This provokes Jaine and before you know it, she’s immersed neck-deep in the case. Jaine knows next to nothing about detecting, but she discovers in herself a hitherto undiscovered talent for lying and general impersonation which pays off in the most unexpected ways. Soon her bumbling efforts reveal a virtual plethora of possible suspects, ranging from the beautiful but deadly Jasmine, whose boyfriend Stacy stole, to Stacy’s neighbor, who was utterly obsessed with having Stacy’s apartment.
And then there is Stacy’s other neighbor, the handsome and charming Cameron Bannick (who may or may not be gay), and he proves to be a most unexpected ally. The police still don’t believe her, but Jaine must be doing something very right as the killer is getting awfully antsy, and soon she finds herself in deep danger.
This Pen for Hire is an absolutely delicious read and a total success for debut author Laura Levine. Bursting with humor, this book is one of the most outrageously witty ones I’ve read in recent times, and has a most down-to-earth and utterly entertaining amateur detective in the lead. From her name to her refreshingly candid and droll observations, Jaine Austen is a bundle of fun. Writing in a friendly, forthcoming style, the author gives the impression that Jaine is personally talking and narrating the events to each reader individually; as a result, readers soon bond with this quirky heroine and are immersed in her countless escapades. Whether it’s her newly discovered talent for impersonation or her indulgence in bubble baths, her varied dating experiences or her struggle with her diet, Jaine is real, she is funny and she is turning out to be a hell of a detective. Red herrings galore make the ending as an absolute shocker.
It’s to be hoped that Levine will keep the readers entertained with the further adventures of Jaine Austen.