Review: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

1. The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson
Publication: Signet (July 7, 2009), Paperback, 299pp / ISBN 0451227468
Genre: Mystery
Read: January 1-2, 2010
Source: Paperback Swap
Summary from Amazon:

Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of an elite tattoo parlor in Las Vegas. When a girl makes an appointment for a tattoo of the name of her fiancé embedded in a heart, Brett takes the job but the girl never shows. The next thing Brett knows, the police are looking for her client, and the name she wanted on the tattoo isn’t her fiancé’s…


I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I spotted that fantastic cover in Walmart about four months ago, and while I have mixed feelings about individual points in the book, I had fun reading it. Mostly.

I’m going to go into a little rant, here, about cozy mysteries. Cozy mysteries, like vampire romance novels, are not for everyone. I can only handle one or two of them at a time, myself, and only then if I don’t try to deconstruct every aspect of the book. Because, see, cozy mysteries do not make sense. Especially, and I’m sorry about this, but especially the ones with a food or knitting theme! (And do NOT get me started on the cats.) I like amateur detectives as much as the next person, but who can seriously buy that all these random women (and some men) can suddenly turn into detectives and solve mysteries better than the police? Especially when they’re something like pastry chefs or bookstore owners or, like in this book, tattoo shop owners.

That said, cozy mysteries are suddenly more believable (and enjoyable!) to me when the protagonist gets pulled into the mystery because of a combination of things and not just because they’re nosy. Maybe they’re blackmailed into finding clues or maybe the police in charge of the case really suck or SOMETHING. And then maybe they already have a little bit of a leaning towards detecting– like ex-newspaper reporters, for instance. But when the protagonist just keeps butting into places they shouldn’t butt, ESPECIALLY when the police are already doing a good job and their own BROTHER is a policeman and is about three steps ahead of the protagonist already and wtf? I understand wanting to solve a mystery because you feel bad for the murder victim but, c’mon! The whole premise behind The Missing Ink just does not work for me.

However, it didn’t really start to bug me until around the middle of the book, when Brett blatantly declines to tell her POLICE OFFICER BROTHER (can I say that enough?) important facts pertaining to the case. That just crossed a line with me, and even though she makes up for it later– I lost a lot of respect for the character.

This really disappointed me because I enjoyed reading the first few chapters so much. Immediately after reading the first page I was all “omg this is awesome” and I couldn’t wait to read more about Brett and her life and the mystery. And I will say that the mystery was very well done, and if Brett hadn’t annoyed me so much in the second half of the book I would have really loved it. It was exciting, so much so that I stayed up until nearly 2am to finish the book!

However, as I read more of the book I couldn’t help but notice a few inconsistencies. I’m not sure if it was because of the writing or because of what I was expecting based on the cover, but Brett’s voice didn’t match what was going on in her life. Her voice– choppy, somewhat overly dramatic, short sentences– gives the impression of a hardcore, kick-butt woman, but what she was actually doing in the book didn’t match that. I guess I was kind of expecting a Kat Von D sort of character and instead I got a rock n’ roll-less Janis Joplin, including the peasant skirts and ugly sandals.

It’s possible she just sounds tough because she’s jaded from her past, which we got some hints about (and how much do I love that we weren’t given a giant infodump? I like the bits-and-pieces routine; it came off very sophisticated, more so than you’d maybe find in the typical cozy mystery), and that inside she’s really a big teddy bear, but it was just jarring.

So I guess my major disapointment with The Missing Ink was mostly with Brett and her character. The mystery was fine, the other characters were fine, and while there wasn’t as much romance in the book as you might think (Brett flirts with this one dude who may or may not be the killer, but that’s it), it wasn’t as bad a read as I may have made it out to be. After all, I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it, and I’ll for sure try out another of Karen E. Olson’s books. I like her writing (I do!), and if you don’t have a hate on for cozy mysteries like I’m developing, you’ll probably really like The Missing Ink.


Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: Book-a-rama | Michelle’s Masterful Musings | Chick Loves Lit | Ania Reads (who has some excellent things to say about the tattoo world and how this book doesn’t accurately represent it)

First book of the new year! Oh yeah!

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0 thoughts on “Review: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson”

  1. Oh dear. From the synopsis this book sounded like fun – but I will be ski[[ing it! I completely agree with your cozy mystery complaint – there needs to be an actual reason behind involving the non-detective protagonist other than “ooh wouldn’t solving a murder be fun”

    Great review, as usual!

  2. i think i read about this book (and the author) on another blog. i’m sorry it didn’t work for you but can see how the cover art grabbed you! i’m a sucker for titles and this one cracked me up.

    i’ve read the cat mysteries, the pastry chef mysteries, and loads of others. i know exactly what you mean about them being ‘cozy’ and usually just listen to them as audiobooks because they don’t require 100% attention at every second.

    enjoyed your review nonetheless and you made valid points! 🙂 i might take it out from the library if it’s on audiobook just to see if our book reviews and tastes are in sync.

  3. Oh my God it is so true! And when the police are just totally flummoxed and no good at all? That drives me mad! I mean it’s not like Hercule Poirot who does it all the time and it’s practically his job. The amateur detective stuff works better (I always think) with Stuff the Cops Wouldn’t Believe and/or Don’t Care About, than with Stuff the Cops Can’t Solve.

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