Book Review: Death By Smoothie by Laura Levine

It’s the funny side of homicide in acclaimed TV comedy writer and novelist Laura Levine’s newest mystery featuring Jaine Austen and her snarky cat, Prozac, as a murder from the past comes back to haunt the Hollywood writer-for-hire! Read on for Doreen Sheridan's review!

The latest Jaine Austen comic caper mystery juggles its many plot threads with aplomb to make for a fast-paced, wholly entertaining read.

As the book begins, Jaine is considering how to give her cat a healthy dose of the great outdoors without incurring the wrath of her more persnickety neighbors. It’s one of her friendlier neighbors, however, who comes knocking with a work opportunity for our perpetually freelance writer. Lance has just started dating the hunky Aidan, an actor who’s landed a part in a passion-project play. The producers are looking for a professional to help them polish the script, and Lance isn’t above fibbing about Jaine’s credentials a bit in order to help his friend land the gig. After all, a job’s a job, even if it does carry some inadvertent baggage:

“Anyway, you’ll never guess what play they’re doing. Remember the old sitcom I Married A Zombie?”

 

Of course I remembered. The actress who played the lead in that sitcom had lived up the street from us–a major league grouchpot, aggravating everybody with her nonstop complaints–until the night she got murdered. A murder in which, I’m sad to say, I was one of the cops’ leading suspects. But that’s a whole other story, one you can read all about in Death of a Neighborhood Witch, available wherever books (and mine too) are sold.

Not even Jaine’s wryly self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking humor can hide how thrilled she is to meet the producers, David and Becca, and the generous paycheck they’re happy to give her – though admittedly her excitement has more to do with the paycheck than the producers. David is a former tech drone who quit his job after winning the lottery. With the help of his girlfriend Becca, he’s ready to stage, direct, and star in what he’s hoping will be a camp classic reboot of his favorite TV show. 

An initial overview of the situation leads Jaine to believe that this shouldn’t be too difficult a job, at least until she has the misfortune of watching David fall head-over-heels for the wholly unsuitable young actress who lands the lead role. Misty has never acted before and for good reason: she’s terrible at it. She is, however, extremely attractive and unafraid to use all her feminine wiles on a completely enamored David, much to Becca’s chagrin. What should have been a quick script doctoring on Jaine’s part turns into a string of constant rewrites, as Misty’s distinct lack of stage talent keeps forcing Jaine to dumb the script down to her leading lady’s none-too-impressive level of skill.

Luckily, Jaine also has other, less stressful revenue streams in mind. She really wants to make a good impression while on a Zoom interview for a position writing marketing material for the Pasadena Historical Society:

“So tell me,” Susie asked, “why you’re interested in working for us.”

 

To fulfill my lifelong dream of a steady paycheck was what first popped into my head, but I wisely kept that thought to myself. Instead, I told her about my fascination with old houses, how I loved to tour them and picture myself living in them back when they were first built.

 

And it’s the truth. I really do get off on that stuff.

 

I guess Susie could hear the fervor in my voice.

 

“You’re exactly the kind of candidate we’re looking for,” she beamed.

 

Yes! She liked me!

With all this, her parents’ hilarious emails regarding their own shenanigans over in Tampa, and her best friend’s insistence she participate in a bachelor auction, Jaine’s figurative plate is more than full…and that’s even before Misty drops dead at rehearsal one day. After it turns out that someone poisoned Misty’s daily smoothie, the finger of blame points squarely at Aidan. Misty had been a pain to everyone on set, but Aidan’s fingerprints are the only ones that were all over both her drink and the rat poison in the theater pantry. He swears he didn’t kill her, and Lance won’t let Jaine rest until she and her penchant for solving murders manage to successfully clear Aidan’s name.

I always look forward to inhaling every one of Laura Levine’s hilarious Jaine Austen books, especially when I need a break from heavier reading or stressful real-life circumstances. While the murders are deadly serious and Jaine often finds herself in grave peril, her buoyant personality and eye for the comedic, even in the grimmest of times, are a balm for the cozy-lover’s soul. It’s always so much fun to follow along as she catches a killer while juggling very relatable everyday problems of family, friendships, and finances. This is one of those can’t-miss series that I always turn to when I want some zingy humor and a thoroughly appealing heroine to go with the exercising of my little grey cells.

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