This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine is the first book in her Jaine Austen Mystery series. From the inside cover-flap.~
Steamy personal ads. Daring declarations of love. Writer-for-hire Jaine Austen has penned them all – and, in the process, glimpsed the truly desperate side of L.A.’s swinging single scene. But when one of the love connections she made is broken up by murder, Jaine finds herself freelancing free-of-charge – and uncovering more than she bargained for…
No one seems to need her help more than geeky, gawky Howard Murdoch. His request, though strangely stalker-ish, is simple enough: a letter proclaiming his undying love for Stacy Lawrence, a gorgeous aerobics instructor. The fact that he’s never actually met the woman gives Jaine pause- but she soon overcomes her misgivings, warms up her computer, and stars pitching woo on Howard’s behalf.
To Jaine’s surprise, the letter is a success – the unlikely Romeo lands a date! But his triumph is, sadly, short-lived. On Valentine’s Day, Howard finds Stacy bludgeoned to death with a Thigh Master – and is quickly named the prime suspect.
Upon hearing the news, Jaine is shocked. Sure, Howard’s awkward, eccentric, and a tiny bit odd. But a murderer? That’s hard to believe. Especially after a little sleuthing turns up a whole bunch of people who harbored less-than-loving feelings towards the svelte Stacy. Like the woman who coveted her spacious apartment. The jealous wife who saw her husband’s eye wander in Stacy’s direction. The ex-best friend, who’s still angry at Stacy for stealing her man…
Things only get crazier when Jaine meets Stacy’s handsome neighbor Cameron, whose blue eyes and boyish grin turn her knees to Jello. But Jaine doesn’t have time for romance. She’s got a murder to solve. After all, it’s her fault that Howard’s in jail. If she hadn’t written that letter, the only cops on Howard’s case would be the fashion police. Before Jaine knows it, she’s become a nosier – and bolder – version of her usual self, flashing her Bloomies charge card in lieu of a press pass and lying her pants off in her quest for the truth. But Jaine had better wrangle her clues quickly, before a crafty killer catches on – and puts a whole new spin on her ghost writing career.
This Pen for Hire is a really fun mystery. Jaine Austen writes personal ads, promotional items, and brochures for a living. She had never written a love letter before, but when geeky Howard Murdoch shows up, she feels so bad for him that she does take the job to write a love letter to Stacy Lawrence. Of course, Howard has never actually met Stacy, and she is an aerobics goddess and would never give him the time of day. The letter Jaine writes convinces Stacy to go on a date with Howard, but when he shows up for the date he finds Stacy murdered and he is now the prime suspect. Jaine decides that since she got Howard into this mess, she should find a way to get him out of this mess.
I enjoyed This Pen for Hire very much. I was able to figure out who the killer was about half way through the book, but I read lots of mysteries. This series was suggested to me by Wendy at her Super Librarian blog, and I look forward to reading more books by Laura Levine in the future.