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This Pen For Hire (A Jaine Austen Mystery Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Laura Levine
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Smarmy personals ads. Daring declarations of love. Writer-for-hire Jaine Austen has penned them all. But when one of the love connections she made is broken up by murder, Jaine finds herself freelancing free-of-charge--and uncovering more than she bargained for. . .

No one seems to need her help more than geeky, gawky Howard Murdoch. His request is simple enough: a letter proclaiming his undying love for Stacy Lawrence, a gorgeous aerobics instructor. The fact that he's never actually met the woman gives Jaine pause--but she soon overcomes her misgivings, warms up her computer, and starts pitching woo on Howard's behalf.

To Jaine's surprise, the letter is a success--the unlikely Romeo lands a date! But his triumph is, sadly, short-lived. On Valentine's Day, Howard finds Stacy bludgeoned to death with a Thigh Master--and is quickly named the prime suspect.

Upon hearing the news, Jaine is shocked. Sure, Howard's awkward, eccentric, and a tiny bit odd. But a murderer? That's hard to believe. Especially after a little sleuthing turns up a whole bunch of people who harbored less-than-loving feelings towards the svelte Stacy.

But Jaine had better wrangle her clues quickly, before a crafty killer catches on--and puts a whole new spin on her ghost writing career. . .

"This book is laugh-out-loud funny. A real winner!" --Laurien Berenson

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Humor is the key ingredient in this slick debut by television comedy writer Levine. Freelancer Jaine Austen (her mother loved the classics but couldn't spell) makes a living writing love letters, personal ads and industrial brochures, but she never expected her work to involve her in murder. When geeky Howard Murdoch hires her to pen a letter proclaiming his love for gorgeous fitness instructor Stacy Lawrence, no one is more surprised than Jaine when Stacy agrees to go out with Howard on Valentine's Day. But Harold arrives for their date only to find that someone has bludgeoned Stacy to death with a ThighMaster. Feeling some responsibility for the hapless Howard, now the police's only suspect, Jaine starts digging. Stacy might have been beautiful, but most people disliked her. Elaine Zimmer wanted the corner apartment Stacy had just moved into, and the building superintendent seemed besotted with her. Then there's the volatile, married producer, not to mention the girlfriend Stacy stole him from. Handsome neighbor Cameron Bannick, a straight antiques dealer, piques Jaine's interest (she hasn't had a good date in a long time), and becomes a dashing Watson to Jaine's Sherlock. Though her life is in danger, Jaine never loses her sense of humor as the story zips along to an action-filled and surprising climax. Levine delivers the goods, and readers who appreciate a heroine with wry, self-deprecating humor will hope Jaine soon gets caught up in another murder.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-The setting for this book is Los Angeles, where freelance writer Jaine Austen, whose "mother is an Anglophile, and a bad speller," describes her apartment-based business; nosy neighbor; ex-husband; and contrary, voracious cat, Prozac. Having written a love note for Howard, a bashful client who ends up being arrested for murdering the object of the correspondence, Jaine tries to exonerate him. It takes impersonating a New York Times columnist, an attorney, and a police investigator plus lots of eating, some aerobics, and wry wit. Teens will like the flippancy of the narrator as she works through insecurities about her appearance while making admirable amateur deductions. A fluffy, fun, and fast read that will leave YAs awaiting the next installment in the series.
Karen Sokol, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 455 KB
  • Print Length: 228 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0758201591
  • Publisher: Kensington Books (June 1, 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002OM67MW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,508 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First in the Jaine Austen Series April 13, 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought this book was excellent. It was a great mystery. Jaine is a talented writer. She writes a letter for a geek named Howard. It was to get him a date with his aerobics instructor. Unfortuately for Howard, he shows up for the date only to find to object of his affection murdered. Howard is charged with the murder and Jaine feels responsible. She starts investigating and finds out a lot of motives to kill stacy Lawrence, the aerobics instructor.

This book is filled with lots of funny scenes and an adorable cat named Prozac.

If you like mysteries, you will enjoy this series.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Series Debut August 14, 2002
Jaine Austen runs a (mostly) successful freelance writing business. In between promo material for commercial companies, she gets a request to write a love letter. Geeky Howard Murdoch has a crush on Stacy, one of the instructors at his fitness center. Jaine figures Stacy will never agree to the date and is shocked to learn that her letter actual was successful. But the biggest shock is when Howard arrives for their date to discover Stacy bludgeoned to death with her thigh master. The police are sure Howard did it, and Jaine feels responsible for getting him in this mess. So she starts digging into the case herself. She finds no shortage of suspects, but can she figure out what's happening before something happens to her?
This series debut was an absolute delight. The story is well plotted, and the pace never lets up. The main characters are fleshed out well. What sets this book apart, however, is the humor. Written in the first person, the pages drip with wit and sarcasm in all the right places. I constantly had a grin on my face, and several times found myself laughing out loud. Yet, it never looses sight of the fact that it's a murder mystery first; the humor never gets in the way of the story.
Anyone looking for a light, fun mystery for a relaxing weekend or trip need look no further. I've already added this series to my favorites and look forward to Jaine's further adventures.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Date To Remember March 16, 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jaine Austen, owner of This Pen For Hire a writing service in Los Angeles is hired by geeky Howard Murdoch, to write a love letter to aerobics instructor, Stacy Lawrence.

Jaine has written personal ads for clients, but this was her first love letter and she was a little worried since Howard had never actually met Stacy. But she gives it her all and is surprised when Stacy accepts Howard's offer for a date. Could it be that she's fascinated with geeky guys or maybe the hint in Jaine's letter which might have made her think that Howard Murdoch's uncle was Rupert Murdoch.

Either way, Howard never got a chance to find out because when he arrives for his date on Valentines Day, he finds Stacy bludgeoned to death with a thighmaster.

Jaine appears to be the only person who believes Howard isn't guilty and using all her skills, she tackles the suspects, which include Andy, her married boyfriend, Jasmine, Andy's former girlfriend who was angry Stacy stole him, Elaine who was upset that Stacy got the good apartment in the building when she was next in line.

As an added bonus, she gets to meet Cameron Bannick, an antique dealer neighbor of Stacy's who definitely makes her heart race a little faster.

With the help of Cameron, and her friend. Kandi she searches for the clues that will lead her to the killer before the killer finds her.


This book is a laugh riot. I think it is the funniest mystery book I have read. Jaine is a great character, very witty and bright.

Her detective work. Jaine does some real investigating, pretending to be a reporter, or from the police, whatever it takes to get her in the door.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great quick and entertaining read. August 30, 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The heroine (Jaine Austin) is funny and the plot is engaging. Besides, who could resist a story with a demanding cat named Prozac? A health club beauty gets murdered and Jaine's pathetic client gets nabbed as the suspect. She feels guilty because it's due to her that the two even met so she decides to do some sleuthing on her own as the police obviously have the wrong man. The writing style is breezy and humerous although the heroine's constant self depricating jokes about her weight did get on my nerves. A nice lighthearted story that made me smile as I read it. Definitely recommend this one and I look forward to reading the sequel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Well Plotted Cozy Mystery March 4, 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like her namesake, Jaine Austen is a writer, but a freelance writer, meaning she'll take just about any job that will help pay the bills. So when geeky nerd Howard Murdoch shows up at her door asking her to write a love letter for him she agrees although she doubts gorgeous aerobics instructor Stacy Lawrence will agree to go out with him. Much to Jaine's surprise, Stacy agrees to go out with Howard on Valentine's Day! Alas, Howard's triumph is short lived when he shows up for the date and finds Stacy's murdered body. Detective Timothy Rea is convinced Howard is the killer, but Jaine's not so sure and sets out to clear his name. She has plenty of suspects, including Stacy's neighbors, coworkers, and ex-boyfriend. She needs to find who the killer is before she becomes the next victim.

"This Pen for Hire" is an extremely funny cozy mystery. The humor starts with the name of the heroine, Jaine Austen (her mother was a bad speller), and continues from there with the fact that the modern Jane is a writer but no, well no Jane Austen. Some of the funniest bits in the book are the writing she does for various companies. Jaine is a good heroine - struggling not only to find writing jobs to pay her bills but struggling with her weight and a bit insecure because of that. Her friend Kandi, a writer on the cartoon show Beanie and the Cockroach, adds to the humor in the novel as she is always looking for "Mr. Right". Of the rest of the characters, I'd like to see more of Jaine's nosy neighbor Lance.

Because the book is on the slim side and heavy on the humor, I was afraid the mystery elements would be underdeveloped, but I was pleasantly surprised. The murder was well plotted, with a good motive, plenty of suspects and some nice red herrings along the way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost loved the book.
SPOILER ALERT BELOW! This is the 2nd Book I've read by Laura Levine. Someone gave me the 11th book, Death of a neighborhood Witch, so even though I hate going out of chronological... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Tina Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Love all books by this author.
Published 8 days ago by Cherylpm
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 19 days ago by Jamie Makin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book, thanks!
Published 20 days ago by Debbie Schnitzler
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Fun Read
A five star book if there ever was one. Interesting characters. Love Prozac and Jaine is a hoot. The story was good and I'm sure I'll be reading more books in the series.
Published 23 days ago by Colleen M. Snell
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Laura Levine's books -- her heroine
I love Laura Levine's books -- her heroine, Jaine Austen -- is so funny and so real. This is the first in the series and I recommend these books for those who want a break from... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M.E I.
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read !!! Lots of laughs...
This was the first Laura Levine book that I read... After reading this, I have read all her books... Laura Levine is very entertaining. Quick fun reads... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy style, twist in the tale
I liked the breezy style and twists in the plot. Jaine is really likeable.. She is human and fun, solving the mystery with more luck than brains. It is a pleasant no taxing read.
Published 1 month ago by Joan Gajadhar
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read
Quick and easy read that compelled you to read more. Finished it in one day. It had humor, mysetery, and suspense. Was a very enjoyable read that kept me guessing.
Published 4 months ago by Christina
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning to a Great Series
Just found my newest favorite fictional-detective! Being a big fan of murder mystery books, Austen is a hilarious character I can relate to and I practically inhale these books... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Carla Garcia
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More About the Author

Laura Levine is a former sitcom writer (The Bob Newhart Show, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat, Three's Company, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman). As an advertising copywriter, she created Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals for General Mills. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

She and her husband live in Los Angeles.

Readers are welcome to contact her at or on her website at

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