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book review: pretty in ink. a tattoo shop mystery, p. 2

 The second part of ‘Tattoo Shop Mystery’ Series was just published and either it is growing on me or the author managed to get better at writing about tattoos in the totally-popular-and-not-so-serious way!

Let’s start with the bad stuff, though.

I do hope that I am mistaken but it seems as if there are certain patterns in the series which make it quite predictable (and that’s a crime on its own when it comes to detective novels, taken lightly or not).

Just like before, the main character, Brett Kavanaugh, a female tattoo artist based in Las Vegas, gets involved in a shady affair resulting in a death of one of her clients (previously, her client didn’t die but death followed her anyway). Makes one think that it’s not that safe to be tattooed by the owner of the ‘Painted Lady’ shop!

Just like before, no one likes Brett snooping around and trying to find out what is going on but, as before, she can count on her brother, her staff and her competitor-slowly-turning-into-a-friend.

Just like before, Brett is single and overly eager to get into a relationship again. Apparently Olson’s readership target may be young single women dreaming about love and romance even in not that romantic settings.

Just like before, there are several phrases that Olson seems to love so much that she can’t resist the temptation to use them more than once every few pages: Brett’s phone doesn’t ‘blast Springsteen’ anymore but this time it’s ‘warbling ‘Born to Run’’ that appears over and over again and let’s not forget about Brett’s pajamas set because this one, definitely not trivial detail is mentioned at least thrice in the novel.

Unfortunately Brett, again, doesn’t seem to be more knowledgeable about other forms of body modification and she still sports very 80s ‘hoop earrings’. Characters in this novel sport either some tattoos or some more common piercing but, again, there is nothing about stretched ears, split tongues, implants etc. Too bad that Las Vegas is shown more like a place good to grab lunch at than a place with many tattoo and body piercing shops haunted by people either brave or insensible enough to test their bodies’ limits.

It’s all forgivable, though, as Olson seems to have learned her lesson and she quit this awful manner of referring to the tattoos as ‘tats’ or ‘ink.’ Sure, there are a few minor slips when she mentions ‘ink’ or tries to smuggle in ‘inking’ meaning the tattooing process but a big improvement in this regard is easy to notice anyway.

She also tries to be more educational when it comes to tattoos, so we can read a few descriptions of the sensations one can feel while being tattooed (where did she take them from, though, if she isn’t tattooed herself?) and even a sort of aftercare guidelines. This part, however, does not really convince me.

I have one good reason for why to actually bother with reading this book, though, and it’s the fact that one can look at it as a kind of document showing how tattoos are perceived through a lens of pop culture, here and now. It is covered with lots of overly sweet icing and there is nothing about the real life and what drives people to get tattooed, what they have to face on daily basis in certain settings and what it actually feels like to be tattooed but that’s the way the popular culture works – always diluting reality, selecting the catchier elements and aiming for becoming ‘in,’ even if only for a while.

Olson is a decent storyteller with a trace of a sense of humor and an ability to write light, fast-paced stuff. She may try too hard to show the world she doesn’t know much about but it’s not a serious offence. If you don’t know much about tattoos and you’re into the Ink TV, you’ll find it pretty good; if you are into tattoos and have more than one tiny one, you’ll find it amusing at times but also showing you that these days tattoos are mainstream and ‘cool’ enough to write entertaining ‘pulp’ novels about them.


Karen E. Olson, Pretty in Ink. A Tattoo Shop Mystery, Signet 2010

About Ania Reeds

fit, modified, open-minded, well-read, always eager to learn. Don't judge me by your standards!

5 responses to “book review: pretty in ink. a tattoo shop mystery, p. 2

  1. Glad that you’re warming up to the series. No, I don’t have tattoos, but I have many friends who do, and being a longtime journalist, I can write about things I haven’t experienced myself. I’ve never committed murder or solved a crime, either. As per romance: the publisher requires some sort of love interest in books like these. There is a cookie cutter type of formula that I need to adhere to, but I do try to keep it as original as possible. Thanks for pointing out repetitions in my phrases; you’d be surprised how easy it is to overlook that, and I’ll be carefully checking the manuscript for the third book, DRIVEN TO INk, which will be out in September. And a final FYI: Maybe I’m not getting into the deep reasons why people get tattoos, but I am trying to show readers who aren’t familiar with them to see how mainstream they’ve become, to appreciate the art form, and to break some stereotypes.

  2. aniareads ⋅

    Thank you for the input!

    I do understand your points but you should be aware that your books are/ will be read not only by people who only watch Ink TV and have no tattoos themselves but also by these that are more into them and the whole body modification thing and since we know more about it, we can, should and are going to be a little more critical!

    There’s a huge difference between committing a crime and describing it and writing about more conventional things (and in this case tattoos fall into the ‘more conventional’ category!). A vast majority of people doesn’t expect an author to commit a murder or rob a bank to write about it but when you are going to write about tattoos, you should expect that there are thousands of people out there who have at least one tattoo and they all love to think they are experts on the subject! Also, no matter how many people with tattoos you know, it will never give you a real picture of what it’s like to be tattooed, how you can feel during a tattoo session and how your body can react to pigments. Some ppl describe the process of tattooing as a feeling of being sunburnt while for others it’s more like a cat scratch and then there are also others who feel way differently. When you get tattooed, you may experience a massive amount of swelling, pain, huge discomfort, stiff limbs and there are also these next few days that may be agonizing at times. So what about adding to Brett’s aftercare guidelines some info on swelling, a need to keep a fresh tattoo clean and protected from the sun and water etc? It’s important and some lazy tattooees may appreciate this info in your books.

    Like I said in two last paragraphs of my review, a light approach toward your books is crucial and I’ll keep it in mind next time!

    I’d love, however, to see Brett getting more modern in regard to body modification. I’d love to see you showing more modifications that are getting mainstream and that are, by now, a huge part of the tattoo ‘scene.’ You can see them on TV, too, so why not to inform your readers about them?

    There’s a huge potential in this series of yours. It’s just that a little more digging into the subject would be a great thing!

  3. I see your points, definitely. I’d love to get more of your input. Can you email me and we can discuss this further?

  4. bastian ⋅

    @ Ania: Congratulations – I like seeing that your input is appreciated!

  5. Pingback: a handful of news « Aniareads Weblog

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