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Mystery Monday – Ink Flamingos

Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson

Review by reacherfan1909

I started reading Karen E Olson back in with her first book in the Anne Seymour series, Sacred Cows.  I sort of lost track of her work over the years and thanks to the Mystery Thriller Virtual Box group, I heard about the Tattoo Shop series.  I hesitated a bit, I cannot tell how tired I am of those cozy clones with the many cutesy hooks, but The Missing Ink got such uniformly good reviews I gave it and Pretty in Ink a try.  I was immediately hooked and the Tattoo Shop books have been on pre-order ever since.  Ink Flamingos was released June 7 – and I obviously wasted no time reading it.

Brett Kavanaugh owns The Painted Lady, a high end tattoo shop in the shopping plaza of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.  Like the classy setting, The Painted Lady is no ordinary tattoo shop, they do custom work only – body art.  (The stock tattoos commonly seen are called ‘flash’.) Her staff are mostly well developed characters – Bitsy, her tough as nails ‘little person’ receptionist, and Joel, the forever unsuccessfully dieting artist.  Ace, her second artist who considers tattoos rather beneath him as he sees himself as a ‘real’ artist, but needs to make a living, has never really been fleshed out as well as the other characters.

Brett shares a home owned by her older brother, Tim, a detective with the Las Vegas Police Department.  She and Tim enjoy a good relationship, except for one little problem – Brett keeps getting involved with murders.  This time it’s different. Very different.  One of Brett’s clients, a young woman, Daisy ‘Dee’ Carmichael, who became an ‘overnight’ rock sensation, has turned up dead in a Vegas hotel.  A blog has photos that implicate Brett in causing the death with a bad tattoo.  Her apparent involvement is exacerbated by a tall female in a red wig claiming to be her.  Not one, but two blogs seem to be setting her up, blaming her for Dee’s death, and trashing her reputation and business.

Brett really liked Daisy and had been doing her tattoos – all plain black due to Daisy’s allergies – since before she and her band, the Flamingos, became famous.  Between someone seemingly out to ruin her, a sense of obligation to Daisy, whom she considered more than just a customer, her own curiosity, and the blogs driving some very negative public attention her way, Brett finds herself once again, ‘meddling’ in a police investigation.  Calling on Jeff Coleman, owner of Murder, Ink, a ‘flash’ style tattoo business and her frequent cohort in her rather questionable activities, they keep finding as many questions as they do answers.

Unemployed blackjack dealer and frequent Painted Lady visitor, the good natured Harry, helps Brett out on one of her forays, then takes her for a drink – absinthe.  Photos of her and Harry kissing land on the blog the within hours.  And someone makes sure Brett’s current beau, Dr Colin Bixby, sees them.  Colin quickly becomes her ex.  Jeff tells Brett the apparently genial Harry is actually a tattoo artist he fired for incompetence and has been lying to her right along.  And it turns out Harry’s kiss is nothing compared with Jeff’s, which curls Brett’s toes like no one ever has.  And the only one socked by it is Brett – everyone at Painted Lady figured it was about time!

The plot twists are good, even if one of them was a bit trite (sorry no spoiler, so I can’t reveal more).  As a newspaper writer, Ms Olson writing style is clean and descriptive, she keeps her story on track and well paced, and makes most of her characters and colorful Las Vegas setting.  I’ve come to really like Brett, Jeff and the supporting characters, including Jeff’s eccentric elderly mother Sylvia – a delightful original.  One of the interesting parts of this series is how she draws the reader into the philosophy and mindset of those who get ‘body modification’ in the form of tattoos.  Colorful, original, and very good reading.  The one trite plot trick keeps my score for Ink Flamingos at 4.5*, B+ to A-, but it is a highly recommended read!  You don’t need to read the series in order, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you do.



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