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Jove Brand is Near Death (Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #1) by J.A. Crawford 

Pure entertainment from start to finish! 

Ken Allen is a former competitive martial artist with one IMDB credit to his name. Eighteen years earlier, he had portrayed the fictional super spy, Jove Brand, of the wildly successful film franchise of the same name in one awful movie that was only released overseas. When the movie was eventually leaked to the US market, Near Death and its star attained a cult following. Now, Ken ekes out a living as “Sensei to the Stars,” providing personal training to an exclusive list of BIG NAMES in town, working the fandom convention circuit, and doing the occasional cameo as Jove Brand on television. 

His most recent TV appearance on Good Morning, Burbank, was going better than usual. The popular actor, Sir Collin Prestor, the current Jove Brand and star of the last six blockbusters in the series, was retiring. He was hosting the popular morning show to “officially” turn over the reins to Jove Brand to the new young actor chosen to continue the role. However, the understated Prestor wasn’t wowing the audience. Enter Ken Allen with his display of martial arts kicks and jumps and his comedic portrayal of the character, and the audience responds enthusiastically, saving the bit. But only a short while later, one of the evening’s co-stars is found dead, murdered in the same over-the-top manner that Ken’s nemesis in Near Death met his end; Ken becomes the police’s number one suspect. 

Jove Brand is Near Death is fun and quirky, and immensely entertaining. I was hooked from the start. Parodying such successful movie franchises as James Bond, Marvel, and DC Comics, I laughed out loud in delight at the fun parallels (and remembering my own experiences going to the cons; the descriptions are spot on!) The throwbacks to the past are fabulous, but there are also up-to-the-minute cultural references, making the whole story fresh and funny. Ken’s devotion to his diet and the frequent inclusion of trendy food choices had me smiling. The writing is easy to read, and the dialogue sparkles as Ken investigates the murder. 

Ken is a genuinely nice guy, and he’s got a solid circle of friends who have his back. I particularly enjoyed Yuen Hung, his former Near Death co-star and convention partner. I hope he returns in future books. The effects master, Ray Ford, provides awesome working props that he engineers to Ken’s needs. I loved his whole persona and vibe. 

The plot is a solid mystery with constant action as Ken follows his instincts and chases down possible leads. The story is more complex than I expected and kept me guessing. 

Tim Campbell narrates the audiobook edition, and I thought he was perfect as Ken Allen. He has a wonderful voice and delivery and uses it to get perfect results. He is my Ken Allen now. I will also be looking for more audiobooks that he’s voiced. 

I recommend JOVE BRAND IS NEAR DEATH to mystery readers, especially those with a fun interest in spy movie thrillers and comic book-themed film series. However, no knowledge of either would keep a reader from enjoying this delightful book. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.