THIS PEN FOR HIRE: A Jaine Austen Mystery

Laura Levine, Author . Kensington $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7582-0158-4

Humor is the key ingredient in this slick debut by television comedy writer Levine. Freelancer Jaine Austen (her mother loved the classics but couldn't spell) makes a living writing love letters, personal ads and industrial brochures, but she never expected her work to involve her in murder. When geeky Howard Murdoch hires her to pen a letter proclaiming his love for gorgeous fitness instructor Stacy Lawrence, no one is more surprised than Jaine when Stacy agrees to go out with Howard on Valentine's Day. But Harold arrives for their date only to find that someone has bludgeoned Stacy to death with a ThighMaster. Feeling some responsibility for the hapless Howard, now the police's only suspect, Jaine starts digging. Stacy might have been beautiful, but most people disliked her. Elaine Zimmer wanted the corner apartment Stacy had just moved into, and the building superintendent seemed besotted with her. Then there's the volatile, married producer, not to mention the girlfriend Stacy stole him from. Handsome neighbor Cameron Bannick, a straight antiques dealer, piques Jaine's interest (she hasn't had a good date in a long time), and becomes a dashing Watson to Jaine's Sherlock. Though her life is in danger, Jaine never loses her sense of humor as the story zips along to an action-filled and surprising climax. Levine delivers the goods, and readers who appreciate a heroine with wry, self-deprecating humor will hope Jaine soon gets caught up in another murder. (June 4)

Forecast:Blurbs from Garrison Keillor, Laurien Berenson and Carolyn Hart, plus the author's Hollywood connections, will see to it that this first novel attracts more than usual attention. The dazzling pink jacket will also lure the casual browser.

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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