Friday, September 10, 2010

Earlier this week, author Karen E. Olson released the third installment of her Tattoo Shop Mystery series, Driven To Ink.

For those readers who may not be familiar with Ms. Olson's series, you can check out my reviews of the first two books, here (The Missing Ink) and here (Pretty in Ink).

The series features Brett Kavanaugh, a Las Vegas-based tattoo artist, and a cast of supporting characters, from her police officer brother Tim, to fellow artist and competitor Jeff Coleman, owner of the shop Murder Ink. Kavanaugh's staff at The Painted Lady, a high-end tattoo shop at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, also offers up some memorable characters, including Bitsy, the diminuitive shop manager.

Driven To Ink, like its predecessors, has an "only in Las Vegas" feel, with a well-crafted narrative that, this time around, revolves around a drive-thru wedding chapel called "That's Amore" that features a handful of Dean Martin doppelgängers crooning, you guessed it, "That's Amore".

Olson has once again spun a riveting tale, which finds Brett Kavanaugh discovering a dead Dean Martin imperspnator in her trunk, with a tattoo machine's clip cord around the victim's neck. She had just lent her car, a Mustang Bullitt, to Jeff Coleman's octogenarian mother, Sylvia, so she could get married in style at the That's Amore chapel.

What I love about Karen Olson's books is that tattoos are seen above and beyond base clues in a murder mystery. She treats the vocation with utter respect, explaining things to the reader as if they were new to a tattoo studio. Tattoos may serve as clues, but they are not regarded as these huge totems that define their owners.

Brett Kavanaugh is an enjoyable protagonist, not without faults, and the author let's the reader tag along on her adventures that start off innocently enough, but pull her into deeper and deeper water. It's no surprise that one of the recurring characters is an Emergency Room doctor, as medical attention seems to be needed from time to time, making this mystery series ring truer than one in which the hero (or heroine) dances through their adventure unscathed.

Olson's first book in the series was a novelty. A new mystery with tattoos at the center of the narrative. After three volumes, Brett Kavanaugh seems more real, more human, than ever before.

A word to the skeptics, those tattoo snobs who may scoff at the light-hearted appearance of these books: Karen Olsen has given a gift to the tattoo community in the form of Brett Kavanaugh. Driven To Ink is another great mystery, with a respectful and honest portrayal of one artist/sleuth who just happens to be a tattoo shop owner.

I have enjoyed every one of Ms. Olson's books and Driven To Ink is yet another chapter in the fascinating life of Brett Kavanaugh. I'm looking forward to her next installment which, I am led to believe, is tentatively called Ink Flamingos.

Check out Karen talking about her first Tattoo Shop Mystery here:

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