The PMS Murderby Laura Levine
"I'm crazy about Laura Levine's mystery series. Her books are so outrageously funny." Joanne Fluke
On the frontlines of the battle of the bulge, otherwise known as trying on bathing suits in the communal dressing room at Loehmann's, freelance writer Jaine Austen makes a new frienda wannabe actress named Pamand gets a new job: sprucing up Pam
"I'm crazy about Laura Levine's mystery series. Her books are so outrageously funny." Joanne Fluke
On the frontlines of the battle of the bulge, otherwise known as trying on bathing suits in the communal dressing room at Loehmann's, freelance writer Jaine Austen makes a new frienda wannabe actress named Pamand gets a new job: sprucing up Pam's bare-bones resume. Their feeling of connection is mutual, so Pam invites Jaine to join The PMS Club–a women's support group that meets once a week over guacamole and margaritas.
But joining the club proves to be more a curse than a blessing for Jaine. Though she is warned that Rochelle, the hostess, makes a guacamole to die for, Jaine never takes the warning literally. Until another PMS member, Marybeth, drops dead over a mouthful of the green stuff. Now instead of dishing dirt with The PMS Club, Jaine has to dig up the dirt on the surviving members. . .
"Jaine can really dish it out." The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
The PMS Murder
By LAURA LEVINE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Laura Levine
All rights reserved.
What's more painful than a mammogram? More excruciating than a bikini wax? More humiliating than spinach stuck to your front tooth?
Shopping for a bathing suit, of course.
There's nothing worse. Not even a root canal. (Unless it's a root canal in a bathing suit with spinach stuck to your front tooth.)
That's what I was doing the day I first became involved in what eventually became known as the PMS Murder: trying on a bathing suit. For some ridiculous reason I'd decided to take up water aerobics. Actually, for two ridiculous reasons: my thighs. Before my horrified eyes, they were rapidly turning into Ramada Inns for cellulite.
So I figured I'd join a gym, and after a few weeks of sloshing around in the pool, I'd have the toned and silky thighs of my dreams. But before I could get toned and silky, there was just one tiny obstacle in my way: I needed to buy the aforementioned bathing suit.
I knew it would be bad. The last time I'd gone bathing suit shopping, I came home and spent the night crying on the shoulders of my good buddy Jose Cuervo. But I never dreamed it would be this bad.
For starters, I made the mistake of going to a discount clothing store called the Bargain Barn. My checkbook was going through a particularly anemic phase at the time, and I'd heard about what great prices this place had.
What I hadn't heard, however, was that there were no private dressing rooms at the Bargain Barn. That's right. Everyone, I saw to my dismay, had to change in one ghastly mirror-lined communal dressing room, under the pitiless glare of fluorescent lights, where every cellulite bump looked like a crater in the Grand Canyon.
It's bad enough having to look at your body flaws in a private dressing room, but to have them exposed in a roomful of other women—I still shudder at the memory.
Making matters worse was the fact that I was surrounded by skinny young things easing their washboard tummies into size twos and fours. I once read that sixty percent of American women are a size twelve or larger. Those sixty percent obviously didn't shop at the Bargain Barn. But I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, this was L.A., the liposuction capital of the world, where it's practically against the law to wear a size twelve or larger.
I grabbed a handful of bathing suits, ignoring the bikinis and mini-thongs in favor of the more matronly models with built-in bras and enough industrial-strength spandex to rein in a herd of cattle.
I jammed my body into one hideous swimsuit after another, wondering what had ever possessed me to come up with this insane water aerobics idea. I tried on striped suits and florals; tankinis and skirtinis; blousons and sarongs. No matter what the style, the end result was always the same: I looked like crap.
One suit promised it would take inches of ugly flab from my waist. And indeed it did. Trouble was, it shoved that ugly flab right down to my hips, which had all the flab they needed, thank you very much.
I'd just tried on the last of the bathing suits, a striped tankini that made me look like a pregnant convict, when suddenly I heard someone moaning in dismay.
I looked over and saw a plump thirty something woman struggling into a pair of spandex bike shorts and matching halter top. At last. Someone with actual hips and thighs and tummy. One of the sixty percenters!
She surveyed herself in the mirror and sighed, her cheeks flushed from the exertion of tugging on all that spandex.
"My God," she sighed. "I look like the Pillsbury Doughboy with cleavage."
"Tell me about it," I said. "I look like the doughboy with cleavage, retaining water. "
"Oh, yeah?" she countered. "I look like the doughboy with cleavage, retaining water on a bad hair day."
She ran her fingers through her blunt-cut hair and grimaced.
"Would you believe this is a size large?" she said, tugging at the shorts. "Who is this large on? Barbie?"
"Well, I've had it." I wriggled out of the tankini and started to get dressed. "I'm outta here."
I'd long since given up my insane water aerobics idea. No. I'd take up something far less humiliating. Like walking. And the first place I intended to walk to was Ben & Jerry's for a restorative dose of Chunky Monkey.
"I'm going to drown my sorrows in ice cream."
"Great idea," said my fellow sufferer. "Mind if I join you?"
"Be my guest."
And so, ten minutes later, we were sitting across from each other at Ben & Jerry's slurping Chunky Monkey ice cream cones.
"I'm Pam, by the way," my companion said, licking some ice cream from where it had dribbled onto her wrist. "Pam Kenton."
It was nice being with someone who ate with gusto. My best friend Kandi has the appetite of a gnat and usually shoots me disapproving looks when I order anything more fattening than a celery stick. I know it's only because she cares about me and wants me to be one of the skinny forty percenters, but still, it can get pretty annoying.
"Actually," Pam said, "my last name isn't really Kenton. It's Koskovolis. Kenton is my stage name. I'm an actress. Of course, you know what that means in this town."
"You got it," she nodded. "And you?"
"I'm a writer."
"Really?" Her eyes widened, impressed. People are always impressed when I tell them I'm a writer. "What do you write?"
"Oh, industrial brochures. Resumes. Stuff like that."
Here's where they usually stop being impressed. Most folks find resumes and industrial brochures a bit of a yawn.
But Pam sat up, interested.
"You write resumes? I sure could use some help with mine. I'm getting tired of waitressing. I want a job where I get to sit down for a while."
"I'd be happy to help you with your resume," I offered.
A worry line marred her brow. "I couldn't afford to pay you much."
"Oh, don't worry about the money. I won't charge you."
Inwardly, I kicked myself. What was wrong with me? Why was I always giving away my services? If I started charging people, maybe I wouldn't have to shop at joints like the Bargain Barn. Oh, well. Pam seemed awfully nice, and it wasn't as if I had a lot of assignments that she'd be interfering with. In fact, my work schedule was scarily light.
"That's so sweet of you," Pam said. "How about I fix you dinner as payment?"
"Sounds great. When do you want to get together?"
"As soon as you can."
"How about tomorrow night?"
"Oh, I can't tomorrow," she said. "That's PMS night."
"A group of friends get together once a week to bitch and moan over guacamole and margaritas. We call ourselves the PMS Club."
"Sounds like fun."
"Hey, wait. I've got a great idea. Why don't you come with me? We're short on members right now and I think you'd be a great addition to the club. We could have dinner first at my place while we work on my resume and then head over to the club afterward. What do you say?"
"Are you sure the others won't mind?"
"No. They're going to love you; I'm sure of it. And it's really worthwhile. You get to share your innermost thoughts with like-minded women in a warm, supportive environment.
"Plus," she added, with a grin, "you get great guacamole and free margaritas."
"Sure," I said, never one to pass up a free margarita. "Why not?"
I was soon to find out exactly why not, but that's a whole other story. Stick around, and I'll tell it to you.CHAPTER 2
I guess you could say the whole PMS mess was Kandi's fault. If she hadn't gone and gotten herself engaged, I never would've joined the PMS Club in the first place.
Yes, after years of dating some of the wartiest frogs on the planet, my best friend and constant dinner companion, Kandi Tobolowski, had done the unthinkable and finally met a prince. Of all places, in traffic school. They locked eyeballs over a lecture on Illegal U-turns and by the time they got to Lane Changing, Kandi knew she'd found the man of her dreams.
In the past, Kandi's dream men have invariably turned out to be nightmares. Last year, for example, she was madly in love with a performance artist, a guy whose act consisted of lying on stage in a vat of hot fudge sauce and spraying himself with Reddi-Wip. Everything was rosy until she showed up at his loft one night and caught him in bed with another woman, a vibrator, and a jar of maraschino cherries.
But this time, it looked like she'd landed herself a winner. Her fiancé, Steve, was a true sweetheart, an attorney who worked pro bono for poor people. As far as attorneys went, he was a pussycat among piranhas.
I should have been happy for Kandi. And I was. Really. It's just that I couldn't help feeling a tad abandoned. I hardly ever saw her for dinner any more, and when I did Steve usually came with us. By the end of the evening I could practically feel them fondling each other's thighs under the table, putting me very much in the Fifth Wheel category. Which is why I was pleased and happily surprised earlier that day when Kandi called and asked me to have dinner, just the two of us. It would be nice, I thought, to have her all to myself for a change.
Back home, I found my cat Prozac asleep on the sofa, in the exact same position I'd left her six hours ago. Sometimes I think that cat was a statue in a former life.
"Hi, pumpkin. I'm home!"
The little darling jumped off the sofa and came racing to my side, rubbing my ankles with vibrating purrs of love.
Okay, so she didn't really do that. She pried open one eye, yawned a yawn the size of the Grand Canyon, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
But a cat owner can dream, can't she?
By now, I was regretting that scoop of Chunky Monkey I'd packed away at Ben & Jerry's. (Okay, two scoops.) So I headed to the bedroom and slipped out of my jeans and into a pair of elastic-waist pants. I was just breathing a sigh of relief when the phone rang.
A no-nonsense male voice came on the line. "Andrew Ferguson here. From Union National Bank."
Oh, darn. I couldn't possibly be overdrawn again, could I? Why, I just deposited a check last week. Or was it two weeks ago? I couldn't have run through all my money already. And even if I had, the bank had a hell of a lot of nerve calling me at home and invading my privacy. Wasn't it bad enough they socked me with a service charge every time I blinked an eye? I don't mind admitting I was pretty steamed.
"Look, here, Mr. Ferguson. Is it always your policy to call people at home like this?"
"I guess I could've e-mailed you, but I wanted to get in touch with you as soon as possible."
"If I'm overdrawn, I assure you the matter will be taken care of right away. I don't need a personal reminder."
"You don't understand—"
"When I've got scads of money in the bank, I don't see you calling me and thanking me, do I?"
There was a pause on the line.
"Ms. Austen, I'm not calling about your checking account."
"No, I'm calling about the ad you answered in the L.A. Times. For someone to write our bank newsletter. "
I'd answered that ad weeks ago and forgotten all about it. Here the man was calling me about a paying job, and the first thing I did was yell at him. Talk about your disastrous first impressions. I wouldn't be surprised if he hung up right then and there. But miraculously, he didn't.
"So do you think you can come in for an interview?" he asked.
"Wednesday morning at ten? Our downtown branch?"
"Absolutely! I'll be there. And I'm sorry about that checking account thing."
"That's okay. I'll be sure to have someone call you to thank you, though, the next time you've got scads of money in the bank."
I hung up and groaned. What an idiot I'd been. I couldn't believe he was still letting me come in for the interview. At least he seemed to have a sense of humor.
"Guess what, dollface?" I said, scratching Prozac behind her ears. "Mommy's got a job interview. Isn't that super?"
Whatever. Now scratch my back.
Ever her obedient servant, I scratched Prozac's back and then spent the next hour at the computer doing some research on Union National Bank. After my less than auspicious start, I wanted to be as knowledgeable as possible for my interview. I worked at it steadily, with just a tiny break for a quick game of computer solitaire (okay, five games of solitaire), until I heard the sweet sounds of Prozac yowling for her dinner.
I got up and went to the kitchen cupboard, where I took out a can of the diet cat food my vet had recommended on our last visit. I'd been meaning to give it to Prozac for the past several days, but I'd kept putting it off, afraid of the battle that might await me. After all, this was a cat that was used to Jumbo Jacks and the Colonel's chicken. Extra crispy, if you please.
But I'd promised the vet I'd give it a try, and now, I decided, was as good a time as any. I opened the can and poured the contents into Prozac's bowl.
"Here you go, sweet pea. Dee-licious Healthy Haddock Entrails."
She took one sniff and looked at me indignantly.
You've got to be kidding. Surely, you don't expect moi to eat this stuff?
"You know what the vet said last week when we went to visit, and everybody in the waiting room thought you were pregnant. Remember? She said you've really got to lose weight."
I still say she was talking to you, not me.
She jumped up on the counter and started pawing the cupboard where I keep the Bumble Bee Tuna.
"Forget it, Pro. You're not getting any fancy white albacore."
I scooped her down off the counter and put her back at her bowl.
"You want to be thin, don't you?"
Not if I have to eat this glop, I don't.
The vet had warned me it wasn't going to be easy. I'd just have to hang tough. Sooner or later she'd break down.
I headed for the bedroom to get dressed for my dinner date with Kandi. Prozac followed my every footstep, dodging between my ankles, all the while moaning piteously. I did my best to ignore her as I threw on some jeans, a silk shirt and an Ann Taylor blazer. But it wasn't easy, because by now, Prozac was howling like a banshee.
"Jaine? What's going on in there?"
It was my neighbor Lance, shouting from his apartment. Due to our paper-thin walls and his Superman-quality hearing, Lance knows a lot of what goes on in my life. Of course, he could've been Helen Keller and still heard Prozac's ruckus.
"Oh, it's just Prozac. She's mad at me because I put her on a diet."
"Well, keep it down, will you? Some of us are trying to have sex in here."
"I'm so sorry, Lance. I had no idea you had anyone with you."
"Who said I had anyone with me?"
Oopsie. A little more information than I needed to know.
"Have fun," I said weakly.
Then I carried Prozac out to the living room and plopped her on the sofa, where she stared up at me with Starving Orphan eyes.
"Try to understand, Pro. I'm doing this for your own good."
I bent down to kiss her, but she pulled away.
"I'm going out now to have dinner with Kandi," I said, grabbing my car keys. "I'll be back by nine. Eat your haddock."
Okay, go ahead and leave me. Go eat some fancy dinner while I'm stuck here with that disgusting haddock goop. You, of all people, have got a lot of nerve putting me on a diet! You, who just last night polished off a pint of fudge ripple ice cream. And don't think I don't know about that Chunky Monkey cone at Ben & Jerry's today.
Okay, what she actually said was Meow, but I could tell that's what she was thinking.
I hurried out the door before she could bring up the slice of mushroom and anchovy pizza I'd eaten for breakfast.
(Okay, two slices.)
Excerpted from The PMS Murder by LAURA LEVINE. Copyright © 2006 Laura Levine. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The characters are believable the plot has suffcient twists and turns as to keep you guessing who really did commit the murder! This is a fast-read. It is pure mind candy! I'd recommend this as a fun book to read inbetween other books!
Jaine Austen, copywriter and part-time investigator, is out shopping. She meets Pam who invites her to join the PMS Club, a women's support group. They get together once a month and drink margaritas, eat guacamole and complain about life. Jaine goes and has a great time. Marybeth who is annoying and overly perky drops dead at the meeting from a guacamole laced with peanut oil¿she was allergic to peanuts. Since most of the members are reach, they were in the headlines. Jaine isn't too happy being a public murder suspect. It isn't helping her land a good paying job. So she begins investigating and finds that everyone in the club had a reason to kill Marybeth. Jaine's put her cat on a diet, but he seems to be getting fatter. She teaches a memoir writing class at a local retirement home. A very sexy female senior citizen has joined the class and caught the attention of a lonely man in the group. Jaine's kind of happy as he's leaving her alone. But the rest of the women in the group are not happy. And Jaine's dad is convinced his new neighbor is a wanted professional assassin. Can Jaine find the killer? Will the rest of her life calm down any time soon? Can she find a job? This series is such a fun series to read. The e-mails from Jaine's parents are always very entertaining. The PMS Club is a great group of women and yet do they have secrets? There are so many suspects that it kept me guessing right up to the end who the killer was. I highly recommend this book and this great cozy mystery series.
I haven't read any of Levine's other mysteries and I won't be in the future. Several of my brain cells died while reading this one. The characters aren't original, the dialogue is unrealistic and the plot cliche. It doesn't surprise me that she is a sitcom writer as well. She (and her publisher) must think the majority of the public are idiots. I can't believe that she was ever published in the first place.
Loved this story and will read more by this author. It held my interest right from the start. I guessed the killer towards the end, but until then, I wasn't sure who it was. This was a clean read - no sex, swearing or gore. I loved the humor, too, it was fun and refreshing without being silly or over the top. Jaynee was also a believable character. Liked that the author didn't make her drop dead gorgeous, rich, and super successful. The PMS Club members seemed a bit neurotic, but that happens in life. About the only thing I didn't care for was the reference to the cat always licking it's private parts. After the first couple of times, that got old. Read this story and enjoy an entertaining book! As for the person's comments about the blonde character, get over it. Bet he/she doesn't approve of the sidekick in the Stephanie Plummer books either...that person is extremely overweight and black. Her language isn't always clean, either. Good grief, they're just stories.
This was my first book by this author and I absolutely loved it. She held my attention and surprised me through the entire book. I will be reading more books of Laura Le vine
The books in this series are written in a comedic, easy-to-read style. Jaine Austen, the heroine, is a very average woman except for her strong sense of initiative, and that's a refreshing change from the norm. A couple of great things about the books is the fairly fast-paced plot and (for the most part) the lack of boring sections. By now, you must be wondering why I rated the book only 1 star. Here's why: this series (I've already read two other books in the series) has a recurring, highly offensive theme that actually had me steaming angry by the third book. This is it: the dumb, nasty, and shallow blonde. Now, I wouldn't have had THAT much of a problem with that particular characterization if only one or two blonde characters fit that description, but so far EVERY SINGLE blond-haired female character has been nasty, icy, "brittle" (to use the author's words), abysmally unintelligent, and shallow. Not to mention that the murder victim has always been the nastiest blonde of them all. Now, it seems highly likely to me that the author has some sort of problem with blondes; it would be to her benefit if she would grow beyond hateful stereotypes and start viewing blondes as individuals with diverse personalities. If Ms. Levine had systematically characterized blacks, Asians, or Indians in such an offensive manner, the outcry of racial prejudice would have been so high that she'd probably be out of the novel-writing business by now. However, since blonde white women are the object of her vitriol, no one seems to mind. Therein lies the hypocrisy. I am very, very glad that I got my copies from the library for free rather than dishing out money for them. Authors like this, who promote hurtful stereotypes and who seem to believe that anti-white prejudice is not racism, don't deserve my hard-earned money.