Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Review: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson & A Word From the Author

In the parking garage elevator, I was sandwiched between an elderly woman in a bright pink velour sweatsuit--didn't anyone tell her it was a hundred degrees outside?--and a guy who looked like he was on his way to a Young Republicans meeting, complete with a three-piece navy pin-striped suit, red tie, and buzz cut. And they looked at me like I was the freak.

When I stepped out of the elevator, though, I started to freak. Quietly. To myself. Because the big, bald, tattooed guy in the sleeveless jean jacket was leaning against a concrete pillar about halfway to my car. [excerpt from The Missing Ink]

The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson
Obsidian Mystery, 2009 (ARC)
Crime Fiction (M); 299 pgs

My father used to tell me that when I turned 21, he would take me Reno, Nevada. It’s a good thing I did not hold my breath because it never happened. I still haven’t made it to Reno. I did, however, make it to Las Vegas. Only not with my father. My first visit there was with my boyfriend-now-husband for a friend’s wedding. We stayed at Circus Circus and had fun playing the arcade-like games (Skee-Ball was a favorite) and watching the free circus acts performed nonstop throughout our stay there.

Even though we have never been interested in gambling or spending hours on end in the smoke-filled casinos, there is something about Las Vegas that attracts us there still today. One of the best views of the city is driving up to it, seeing it rise out of the desert like a huge funky oasis. During our last trip to Las Vegas, my husband and I did not stick to the strip, the most famous part of the city. Rather we explored the back streets and other parts of town that are lesser known. It’s just a regular city like any other, really.

As much as I enjoy reading about places I have never been and may never go, I also take pleasure in reading books set in places I have traveled to. While I would have read The Missing Ink for the very reason that it is written by one of my favorite crime fiction authors, the Las Vegas setting made it all the more appealing.

Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist who owns her own tattoo parlor, The Painted Lady, a classy joint that is nestled in an upscale shopping center. I instantly took a liking to Brett. She’s smart and witty, not to mention a bit gutsy. She lives with her brother who is a homicide detective with the Las Vegas Police Department. Having both just come out of bad relationships, it is the perfect arrangement. I enjoyed the easy banter between the sister and brother. They make a good team, even if the detective doesn’t quite see them as such. It’s obvious they love and respect each other.

In the first installment of this tattoo shop mystery series, Brett becomes especially curious when a police officer asks her if she has seen a missing woman. Brett, valuing her client's confidentiality, at first does not admit to anything. The woman had, in fact, been to her shop and requested a devotional tattoo, only the name she wanted on the tattoo would turn out not to be that of her fiancĂ©’s. Brett decides to ask a few questions to see if she can find out more about this mysterious woman. To complicate matters further, she ends up in the middle of a murder investigation when a woman’s body is discovered and the police’s prime suspect takes her into his confidence.

Author Karen E. Olson’s latest novel is just a tad less gritty than her last series, but by no means less entertaining. She has created a cast of colorful characters who make the perfect sidekicks: from the gentle but tough looking Joel who can’t resist a doughnut to the small Bitsy who shouldn’t be underestimated despite her size. Then there is the elderly Sylvia, a pioneering female tattoo artist, who I hope to see more of in future books. And I dare not leave out the charming and ever sexy Simon Chase, to whom there is more there than meets the eye.

Just as interesting as the characters is the mystery itself. It was like being in a car chase, with quick turns and heart racing moments. This is one of those books where the obvious may be just that—obvious—while at other times, nothing is quite what it seems. What makes it works all the better is that, as the reader, I was never quite sure which was which.

The Missing Ink is a great start in a new series by author Karen E. Olson. It is fun and fast paced. It makes for great summer reading. And if ever I decided to get a tattoo in Las Vegas, I would head straight for The Painted Lady.

Rating: * (Very Good +)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, 2009 Pub Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge, & Cozy Mystery Challenge

It is my pleasure to welcome author Karen E. Olson back to Musings of a Bookish Kitty. The first time I read one of her books, it was love at first read, and I have yet to be disappointed. Karen was able to drop in for a visit to talk about her new character, Brett Kavanaugh. The first book in her new series, The Missing Ink, goes on sale in bookstores today.

* * *

When you spend more than five years with one character in your head, it’s not easy to toss her aside and start with someone completely different. But that’s what I had to do when I started writing THE MISSING INK, the first in my tattoo shop mysteries.

I first heard Annie Seymour’s voice way back in 2000. It came through loud and clear, all those f-words and the sarcasm and the vulnerability. I knew Annie, she was a little bit like me, a lot like a lot of people I’d worked with. She was easy.

But Brett Kavanaugh, the tattooist in my new series, is completely different. I wanted to create another strong female character, but she couldn’t be anything like Annie or I knew the reviewers and readers would skewer me. I couldn’t just rehash the same character. She had to be her own person, have her own world. Have her own voice.

So I decided she wouldn’t cuss.

At first it was sort of an experiment. Would readers stop sending me those emails complaining that even though they like my books they’re offended by Annie’s language if I gave them an option, a series that didn’t have those so-called offensive words? It was worth a shot.

But as I began writing, as I began developing Brett’s voice, I realized that it wasn’t a conscious effort to keep her from cussing. She just doesn’t. It’s not part of her character. She’s a tattooist, sure, but she’s a nice Catholic girl from Jersey who went to religious school. Her tone is lighter, more fun than Annie’s, although she also has a sense of humor, but in a little bit of a different way.

I’ll miss writing Annie, but I’ve had so much fun writing and getting to know Brett.

How do you feel about cussing in a book? Are you someone who’d be offended, or do you just accept it when it’s the character’s voice?

* * *
Karen E. Olson is the author of the crime fiction series featuring crime reporter Annie Seymour and a new series featuring Brett Kavanaugh, tattoo shop owner and artist.

Karen E. Olson has teamed up with several authors at the First Offenders blog, maintains her own blog at Amazon as well as her own website.

Thanks goes to the author for taking time out of her busy schedule to prepare a guest post for us here today and for sending me a copy of her book, The Missing Ink, for review.

© Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty 2009.


  1. I almost never get offended by cussing. But I do get irritated if I feel the cussing is not part of the character and is written just for the heck of it.

    This is the second good review I have read of this book Wendy. I'm glad you liked it too. This book is on my wishlist.

  2. This books sounds like so much fun! I have a love/hate relationship with Vegas. You can only take so much of it, but boy is it fun for a few days. I even got married there! We had about 40 friends and family that followed us out and celebrated with us. It is a city that is just bursting with material for a good book. As far as cussing, it generally doesn't bother me at all. I have a bit of a potty mouth myself, and have to restrain on my blog. But when it is just over the top gratuitous, it annoys me. It needs to add to the character, not distract.

  3. I can't wait to pick up this book and read it!

    Las Vegas sounds fun! One of my girlfriends visited there a few years back and she told me she enjoyed it immersely! I told my husband I must visit the US if there's a chance! ;)

    As for cussing, I don't mind it in books especially if it shows the character of the person or whenever any circumstances arises.

  4. Haha! I noticed that she didn't swear. Annie had a interesting vocabulary ;)

    Cussing doesn't bother me.

  5. I don't like cussing in real life, but I can overlook it in a book. There are times when it is almost necessary - say a couple of thugs are arguing. Do you really think one of them would say something like, "Well, gee, I think you're wrong, gosh darn it!"

  6. Thanks for such a great review, Wendy!

    The cussing question is really interesting. I did get quite a few emails lambasting me for using the language I did in my other series. It was a conscious effort not to use it in this book, also, I did not want to write a stereotyped character.

    I hope you all enjoy the book as much as Wendy did, and as much as I did writing it!

  7. Sounds like the beginning of a great series!

  8. Great review Wendy! I read the first book in her previous series and didn't love it, but am interested in trying this series out. I have read several good reviews so I will be on the lookout for it!

  9. I don't care if there is swearing in books (or in movies for that matter), but I do love swearing when it is used in a funny or creative way. Thanks for the great review -- this series sounds like fun!

  10. Wow...sounds like I've really been missing out! I love the sound of The Missing Ink. Not to mention the cover. But the "Annie" series sounds pretty darn interesting, too.

    Swearing doesn't bother me at all in a book, movie, etc. as long as it fits the character. I know people in real life whose every other word is a cuss word. Why wouldn't there be characters in books who speak that way too, right?

  11. Sounds like a great book! I love series. And no, swearing doesn't bother me at all. Even when it's excessive.

  12. I'm a huge fan of Karen's books and cannot wait to read this one! Thanks for giving us a sneak peek!

  13. I can't wait to read this - it sounds like a fun read. Thanks for the sneak preview.

  14. I'll have to check out Missing in Ink.

    Speaking of cussing, my word verification is "bluefoc".

  15. This book sounds like a riot!! I like the main character already...being a tattoo artist and all!! Sounds like a fun read and one that I'm going to have to check out!!

  16. I love this book, Wendy! And HELLO to Karen!

    I don't mind cussing in books at all, but to be honest it took me a while to get used to it...

    I'm glad to be a part of this blog tour too. It's great!

  17. This book sounds really great. I love mysteries and especially those that have a bit of humour in them. Thanks for the great review and interview!

  18. Thank you for the Wonderful Review! I just heard about this book this week! I can't wait to read it! And...I absolutely LOVE the cover!

    It's SO great to be back~ BTW, your blog looks awesome!

    xoxo Amy (Park-Avenue Princess)

  19. LOVE ski ball.... lol

    This books sounds fun - a great summer read.

  20. This sounds great. Thanks for the review. I'm adding it to the ridiculously mammoth wish list.

  21. It sound like a fun series! Great well done on review!

    I never been to Las Vegas, but it one of the many places I would love to visit someday :) And I really don't mind the cussing words, if it stay true to the characters personality :)

  22. Hi Karen (and Wendy!) - I was really curious to see how Brett would differ from Annie and I think you really pulled it off! I like that both are independent women, strong women but have different personalities for sure. Great start to the series :)

  23. I read Sacred Cows thanks to you and will likely continue with that series. Good to know about this new series. Sounds good!

  24. Violet - Cursing in books tends to not bother me. In fact, I hardly notice it unless it seems excessive. I imagine if it was out of chracter, I would notice that too.

    I hope you enjoy the book if you read it!

    Sandy - Las Vegas does seem like it would be the perfect setting for a book, doesn't it? I've enjoyed by visits there, but I think the heat would get to me if I had to live there.

    Yes, too much or out of place cursing can be distracting, I agree!

    Melody - I have a hunch you'll enjoy The Missing Ink, Melody. :-)

    Las Vegas is a city that everyone should visit at least once just for the experience. The city really is like any other, except for the strip. To me, the strip has a bit of flash and glamour, but there's also the seedier side. It's an interesting place.

    Chris - I hadn't even realized Annie was cursing at first, I admit. Sometimes those things, unless it's excessive, slip right by me.

    Kathy - LOL I can just picture the scenario you mentioned--yes, that's not very realistic and if I was reading it, I'd probably be laughing.

    I have a confession to make. I actually do use words like "gosh" and "golly" in normal conversation.

  25. Karen - Thank you for stopping by, Karen! I cannot thank you enough for your guest post and allowing me a sneak peek at your new book.

    Brett and Annie are definitely different characters, and as you pointed out, Brett does seem more confident in her skin then Annie does. They both have the Olson trademark strength and independence though. :-)

  26. Stacy - It really is, Stacy. Not that I expected anything different. :-)

    Kristie - Thank you! Definitely give this one a try. It's different enough from the author's first series that I think those who may not have cared for the first, could very well like this one.

    Jess - Your comment reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in the TV show The Wire. Talk about creative cursing! Two police detectives are checking out the scene of a crime and their entire conversation is made up of variations of a popular curse word. It could easily have been excessive, but I thought it was well done.

    Debi - You definitely should try both series. :-)

    When I was growing up, just about every other word out of my father's mouth was a curse word. His language is much cleaner now. Still, I think that helped me build a tolerance for it that those more sensitive to foul language might not have.

    Beth - The downside with this one is that I have to wait awhile before the next book in the series comes out.

  27. Clea - I think you will really like this one, Clea.

    Ingrid - It was a lot of fun. I hated for it to end.

    Carrie - I hope you will enjoy it if you read it, Carrie.

    That's too funny about the word verification. LOL

    Staci - I wouldn't mind getting a tattoo from Brett. :-) I didn't go into her history much in my review, but there's a lot more to her than what meets the eye at first.

    Alice - I am glad we both got to read this one about the same time, Alice. I wish we didn't have to wait so long to visit with Brett again.

  28. Myckyee - Thank you, Donna! There's always room for humor. :-)

    Amy - Thanks! The cover art is great, isn't it? I like it to. It's so good to see you blogging again, Amy! Welcome back. :-)

    Sheila - I got pretty good at it while in Vegas too. :-)

    Lisa - Haha! Your wish list and mine both. Mine's rolling out the door and into the street these days, how about yours?

    Julia - Thank you! I hope you will be able to visit Las Vegas one day. Take in a show, play on a slot machine, and take in the atmosphere. :-) And shop, of course. You can't go to Vegas and not shop.

    Iliana - I like that both women are strong and independent too. And of the two, I can't really say I have a preference. They're both different enough that I like them both very much.

    Suzi - I hope you continue to enjoy the Annie Seymour series. I recommended the series to a coworker and now the books are going around my office and everyone's enjoying them. :-)

  29. I thought you'd like to hear that your review directly influenced someone to buy this book today! I e-mailed the link to your review to my sister across the state, who just finished the third Wicked Lovely book and was looking for something else to read. She's a tattoo-addict, so I thought she'd like this book. She just called me on her cell from Barnes and Noble cause she couldn't remember the title - she's buying the book right now!

  30. Carrie - How cool! I hope your sister enjoys the book!


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