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By Karen E. Olson
Obsidian, 2011 ($7.99)
Kindle Edition $7.99
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Brett Kavanaugh, owner of The Painted Lady, an upscale tattoo parlor in Las Vegas, is shocked to see a familiar tattoo on an unfamiliar website dedicated to photos of interesting skin art. The flamingo is one of the ten artworks she has done for Daisy "Dee" Carmichael, the lead singer of the girl band Flamingos. There's something odd about the tattoo: all of Daisy's tats are in black and white because she is allergic to colored inks, but this design has been filled in with bright pink, red, and orange hues. Brett is even more shocked when her assistant calls her in to look at a special report on television. Daisy has been found dead in a seedy hotel off the Strip. Last Brett had heard, the band was back east, and were not scheduled to perform in Las Vegas for another day or so.
Brett's brother Tim, a Las Vegas homicide detective, calls her and half-jokingly says she's a suspect. Witnesses saw a tall red-haired woman leaving the hotel room shortly before the body was found. She reminds him there are plenty of women of that description in Las Vegas, and he admits she's not really a suspect. He queries her about the number of tattoos she's done for Daisy, and lets slip that someone has added one more to the count. Why was Daisy in Las Vegas early, before the band arrived, why was she in that crummy hotel room, and why did she let another artist color in the flamingo and add another tattoo?
Things get even more bizarre. The website is updated, and the new photos are not of tattoos, but of Brett, going about her everyday business. There's nothing salacious about the photos, but obviously she's acquired a stalker. Another website pops up with a photo of a terrible, infected tattoo, and an accusation that the botched-up job was done by Brett, resulting in Daisy's death. When Harry, an unemployed blackjack dealer who hangs around the Painted Lady, offers to introduce her to the band's manager, Sherman Potter (really? Shades of M*A*S*H), the case takes a few more wild twists and turns.
Brett has had some experience with violent crime: her friend Jeff Coleman even took a bullet for her in a previous incident, and her brother warns her to stay out of this case. That's hard to do when she is at the center of it. As the bodies start piling up, her various male friends offer to escort her around town to protect her, which leads to trouble of the romantic kind. Photos of her, slightly tipsy, kissing Harry, are e-mailed to her doctor boyfriend, who is not at all pleased. She knows Harry's up to something, and she's not sure if she can trust Jeff, even though their relationship has progressed from initial dislike to smoldering passion.
This is the fourth in the Tattoo Shop mystery series. Having a tattoo artist as a protagonist is unique, and the details of the business and the artistry it involves are interesting even if the thought of going under the needle makes the reader cringe. Las Vegas is a fun setting, a place where nothing is what it appears to be, a place where a person can reinvent him-or-herself and make a new start or hide secrets from their past. This is a well-written, enjoyable mystery.
Other titles in the series are:
THE MISSING INK PRETTY IN INK DRIVEN TO INK
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