Review | Murder Gets a Makeover (Jaine Austen # 18), by Laura Levine

MurderMakeoverCoverLaura Levine’s Jaine Austen mysteries are one of my favourite go-to comfort reads. They’re fun, they’re frothy, and best of all, they feature a hilariously diva-esque cat named Prozac! Murder Gets a Makeover is a fantastic and entertaining addition to the series. Jaine agrees to Lance’s offer of a makeover only because a neighbour mistakes her for a homeless person, but she quickly regrets her decision when the stylist turns out to be hateful and mean. It’s little surprise when the stylist turns up murdered; unfortunately, Jaine accidentally gets her prints on the murder weapon and becomes the prime suspect.

Murder Gets a Makeover is classic Jaine Austen. The mystery is lighthearted and more madcap than nail-biting, and the novel is chockfull of hilarious subplots. The spotlight is turned on Prozac after she saves a toddler’s life. Really, she’d meant to steal the toddler’s chicken nugget, but with all the media attention and an invitation to a steak dinner, Jaine’s not about to correct anyone! Of course, Jaine and Prozac being who they are, Prozac’s stardom doesn’t quite benefit her owner as much as Jaine envisions, and the way this subplot unravels is a delight.

Even Jaine’s beloved Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs T-shirt gets into a misadventure of its own! One of the first things the makeover stylist does is yank the shirt off Jaine and demand it be burned. Jaine sets off on a quest to rescue the tee, and a scene featuring Jello wrestling and an opponent called Cindy the Bulldozer is classic. Another subplot, featuring Jaine’s parents and homeowner association president Lydia Pinkus, is equally hilarious, and a subplot involving Lance’s investigation into a work rival is fun.

I do wish the central mystery had been fleshed out a bit more. The best Jaine Austen mysteries are those that truly plunge the reader into a madcap world, and give us a victim who’s larger than life in their villainy and a cast of potential suspects whose motives are peeled away in layers. As unpleasant as the victim in Makeover was, she was far from iconic, and her presence barely hovers over the narrative after she’s killed. Levine does give us the usual large cast of suspects, each with their own motives, but they disperse so quickly after the murder that the investigation merely dips our toes into their individual stories rather than immerses us fully in their world. Levine’s subplots are usually just as entertaining, and at times more so, than her central mysteries, but in Makeover, they seemed to overshadow the central case more than usual.

The big reveal did take me by surprise — I had an inkling on the villain, but didn’t guess their motive at all. Their motive was set up well in advance though, so well done to Levine for sneaking that in. Unfortunately, the climactic confrontation felt anticlimactic — there was barely any sense of danger, and rather than super evil or super pathetic, the villain just seemed bland.

Still, overall Makeover is classic Jaine Austen. I love how much Prozac featured in this instalment, and I especially love that the Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs shirt got significant time in the spotlight. I don’t think it’s quite my favourite among the Jaine Austen books, but it’s a solid addition to the series, and lots of fun to read.

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Thank you to Kensington Books for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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