Cassie Cruise is a private investigator trying to reinvent herself after being publicly humiliated on her PI reality show. Now the reluctant owner of a tattoo parlor, The Big Prick, Cassie is having a difficult time letting past habits rest—especially when she finds her car in flames and a dead body in the trunk. After being cleared as a suspect, she is warned to stay out of the investigation, but she won’t let it go—particularly after noticing her neighbor Lane’s boyfriend, Del, has the very same car, leading her to believe that the killer made a mistake. In an effort to gather intel, Cassie attempts to befriend Lane—and is even hired to find Lane’s long-lost father. As she digs deeper into her neighbor’s life, Cassie finds that Lane and Del are embroiled in a rather unpleasant, volatile situation with Del’s former assistant Crystal. Things take an even stranger turn when she learns that her own fiance, Vince, and Del’s mother are somehow wrapped up in all of it. When Cassie finally pulls on the right thread, things unravel in a way she never expected. Ellis’ debut novel introduces Cassie Cruise and her 70-something best friend, Janice, a tattoo artist with a secret. While Cassie comes across as flawed but likable, the few periphery characters—shop intern RJ, Detective Brick Winslow and Vince—don’t seem to do much more than hover over the page. Cassie’s new title of tattoo shop owner is more of an albatross than an outlet, which only causes her to pine that much harder for her investigative days. Despite valiant attempts to tie in the shop, it never finds much relevance within the story except to serve as a catalyst due to its silly, double-entendre moniker. However, in addition to having a female private eye, Ellis shows further creative flare in making the main protagonist’s sidekick an artistic, ethnic, active, septuagenarian, who will hopefully be taking a larger role in the next book.
A captivating introduction to a cozy female PI series with potential for wide appeal.