Killing Cupid, by Laura Levine (review)

January 20, 2014 Uncategorized 10


When Jaine lands a job writing web copy and brochures for matchmaker Joy Amoroso, she’s excited for a chance to help the lovelorn just in time for Valentine’s Day – until she realizes what “Dates of Joy” is really all about. Joy is a ruthless taskmaster who screams at her employees for the smallest infractions, pads her website with pictures of professional models posing as clients, and offers up convincing but empty promises of love in exchange for inordinate sums of money. And woe betide anyone who lays a finger on her heavily guarded stash of chocolates. So it’s no surprise when the chiselling cupid turns up dead at a Valentine’s Day mixer. Aghast to find herself on the cops’ suspect list, Jaine sets out to track down the killer. Who could it be? Joy’s harried assistants, whose lives she made a living hell? Her younger lover? The handsome hunk of a client with a secret in his past? Or the furious Beverly Hills widow who forked over the last of her savings for a Prince Charming who never materialized? Joy left behind a slew of enemies struck by her deviant arrows, so finding the culprit may prove harder than spotting that elusive caramel praline in a box of chocolates – and Jaine will have to flirt with danger to get to the truth…


Laura Levine’s newest Jaine Austen mystery is light and fun, but left me wishing for something with a little more substance.  Jaine’s breezy, somewhat snarky first-person narration fits the novel’s style, which mixes eccentric characters and sometimes-hilarious situations in with the mystery.  Some of the scenes with her cat-obsessed, elderly “date” are pretty amusing – especially the one in which he takes her to meet his (deceased) mother.  In one of the funniest scenes, Jane gets into a disagreement with a pair of squirrels that leaves her in an embarrassing state of dishabille.  I also rather like Jaine’s cat, Prozac, who demonstrates all the infuriating inconsistency and superior attitude of some real cats I’ve met.

The mystery itself engaged my attention, and I freely admit that I didn’t solve it before the reveal (although for the record, I did briefly consider the murderer early on, before dismissing them.*)  There are a few genuinely suspenseful scenes, though the tension is tempered by the fact that we know Jaine survives — after all, she’s narrating!

However, several factors led to this being only an “OK” read for me.  I know that cozy mysteries are often filled with eccentric characters, but most of the secondary characters here felt like nothing but eccentricities, and they’re all pretty two-dimensional.  One of my personal pet peeves is when authors rely on obvious, even exaggerated quirks or traits to identify characters without giving them much depth beyond those traits. That’s definitely a problem here, from the aforementioned elderly suitor to Jaine’s flamboyantly gay, utterly self-absorbed friend/neighbor.  Jaine herself is more 3-dimensional (due in part to the fact that she’s the narrator, so we hear her inner thoughts), but Levine gives her a few of those over-simplified character “tags” as well, in the form of an obsession with food (especially chocolate) and a lack of fashion sense, both of which the author dwells upon a little too often.

A series of emails from Jaine’s parents provide intermittent breaks in Jaine’s narrative.  Jaine’s parents are as wacky as the rest of the characters, and the ongoing saga related in their letters is funny, even laugh-out-loud hysterical at times — but neither her parents nor their antics have anything to do with the mystery.  Because the emails don’t contribute to the plot, they end up feeling like padding instead of a subplot.

All in all, Killing Cupid isn’t a bad book, it’s just not a great one.  If you like your cozies very light, with plenty of humor and a dollop of snark, I think you’ll enjoy it despite its flaws. And you don’t even have to start at the beginning of the series (always a plus in a mystery series!)  On the other hand, if you are like me and prefer even your cozy mysteries to have a little more body (pardon the pun!), it may be best to look elsewhere.

*Yes, I know that’s not grammatical, but if I say either “him” or “her”, I’ve reduced your pool of suspects by roughly one half, so it was the best word choice I could come up with.

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Rating: 2.5 stars 

Category: Cozy mystery
Series: Jaine Austen #12
Publisher: Kensington
Release date: Dec. 31, 2013
Book source:  review e-galley from the publisher

Book Links:      Goodreads       Amazon       Barnes & Noble       Kobo

About the author:  Laura Levine grew up in Brooklyn, attended Barnard College, and wrote screenplays for TV sitcoms like The Bob Newhart Show, Three’s Company, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, The Jeffersons, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  More recently, she has turned her talents to writing the Jaine Austen mysteries. Killer Cupid is the 12th book in the series.   (adapted from the author’s website)

Connect with the author:   Website      Facebook      Goodreads

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10 Responses to “Killing Cupid, by Laura Levine (review)”

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Prozac (the cat) is quite a character in her own right. She doesn’t talk, though Jaine imagines what she says. But she’s pretty funny at times – and comes through for Jaine when it really counts.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      It’s not really random, in that they’re Jaine’s parents, so seeing their zaniness does give you a better sense of Jaine (who is remarkably normal given her parents!) But since the action involving them all takes place elsewhere, and the subplot never joins the main plot, the mystery could have stood on its own just fine without the parental emails… except that it would have been a bit short.

  1. Bea

    That’s too bad about the excessive use of quirks and lack of development for the secondary characters.

    A cat named Prozac – giggle. MY cat has me tearing my hair out these days. Sigh

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Yes, a little disappointing. Just a bit too light even for when I want something light. But Prozac did make me giggle – both the name and the character.

      Cats can drive you crazy, can’t they? I’ve lived with them and without them, and for all the minor hassles, I much prefer “with.” Besides, they’re company when I’m home alone – of a sort! 😉

  2. Mark Baker

    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy this book since this is one of my favorite series. I will freely admit all of your discussing of the flaws of the book, but I don’t care. They make me smile and laugh, and that’s all I’m expecting out of them.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      And there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that! We all have different tastes, and we all need books that we read just for fun and entertainment. (My sister calls those “mental popcorn.” So… you like cheddar popcorn and I like caramel, or maybe vice versa.) By all means, enjoy them!

  3. Lisbeth

    I love, love Levine’s cozy series. Hers is about the only cozy I’ve found that delivers the humor you find in a good television sit com with the bonus of a longer running time.

    I’m glad to find people talking about Levine though I’m afraid her wonderful sense of comedy has been overlooked here – I find all her characters very believable and much more true to life because most humans have loony aspects just everyone runs around covering them up. This reader doesn’t want to be short changed when it comes to seeing the ridiculous in life. It makes life fun.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      And as I said to Mark, above, more power to you! I did try to convey that the book is indeed quite funny, but that I personally prefer — well, let’s call it a different blend of comedy and drama, or maybe a slightly different style of comedy. To use your sitcom analogy (great analogy, by the way), there are different flavors of comedy, from British zaniness to family comedy to stuff like ‘The Office” — even geek humor like ‘Big Bang Theory.’ Not all of it will appeal to everyone.

      Levine’s writing is definitely funny, but it’s not the kind of humor that appeals to me most. That’s a personal response, and I tried to acknowledge that. But clearly she does appeal to a lot of people, or she wouldn’t have just released book 12! So you’re in good company.