Over the top is okay!
The latest installment of Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan series dropped on January 31st, and I started reading it a few days later when I discovered it on my Kindle (I had prepaid for the e-book dump and then forgotten all about it).
Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun carries on fairly precisely where the last book left off: Finlay and her sidekick, nanny/ accountant Vero, are indebted to Feliks Zhirov (the local Russian mob boss) for saving them from an embarrassing and dangerous situation, and he (of course) wants something in return. There’s a person called “EasyClean” who is operating online as a paid assassin; Feliks wants to know this person’s identity, and believes that Finlay can deliver that to him. Being impatient (as mob bosses often are, don’t you know), he gives her a two-week deadline, which doesn’t make her one-week time limit with her agent for the final manuscript of her latest novel any easier to achieve, especially since the contents of the book are so close to the circumstances of her personal life that she has run head-on into writer’s block trying to resolve them.
Meanwhile, Vero has a deadline of her own—she’s delinquent on a gambling debt with a loan shark out of Atlantic City, and his enforcers are hot on her heels. What’s the solution? Finlay and Vero decide it’s to enroll in a one-week civilian police academy training. After all, they have come to believe that EasyClean may actually be a cop, so where better to figure it all out than from in amongst ’em? And where else could they be sure that pesky flunkies for the mob won’t be able to touch them? Finlay hands over the kids to Steven for a week, and the two move into the police academy dormitory to see what they can see. And, since it’s Finlay Donovan, chaos immediately ensues. Did I mention that Finlay’s crush, Detective Nick, is running the thing? and that both of his slightly suspicious partners and Finlay’s police officer sister are in attendance? And that the supposedly well-guarded barriers to the facility turn out to be as porous as swiss cheese when it comes to characters, suspicious or otherwise, making their way to the window of Finlay’s room?
In short, this is yet another frenetic flourish of Cosimano’s pen in pursuit of the author/single mom/accidental hit woman, and carries the franchise along nicely. I had been under the impression, for some reason, that this series would be a trilogy, but that’s not the case—this one ended on yet another cliff hanger, ensuring there are more books to come. (If all of this description has intrigued you, read the series in order from the beginning or you will be lost.)
I’m a little torn on my rating for this book. I gave the first one five stars, and the second one got four; I’m tending towards four stars on this one as well. Although it had moments that were totally brilliant (the opening scene with toddler Zach comes to mind), it also had some repetitive stuff (the continued misunderstandings about poor Javi); and the restriction of the scene-setting to the police academy means we miss out on some of the fun interactions with unsuspecting civilians that were so important to the first two books. But I did enjoy the thought processes behind figuring out EasyClean, and Cosimano is an expert at writing the hapless, accidental escalation into total mayhem that feels like Lucy Ricardo has landed in the middle of a murder mystery! I will definitely look forward to the next installment in Finlay’s overwrought journey, particularly the resolution of so many relationships: Will she finally put Steven firmly in his place? Will they ever get Vero out of debt and able to show her face again? Will Finlay be able to have a relationship with Nick without revealing all her (mostly inadvertent) criminal activities? Will Georgia find a girlfriend? Will Zach complete potty training? For these and many other crucial details, we once again await you, Elle Cosimano!
Accidental hit woman
I just read two delightful books in a planned series by young adult author Elle Cosimano, although these books are intended for adults. I checked out the first, Finlay Donovan is Killing It, based on a “best books” email from Goodreads; my brain kept nagging me that I should recognize the name of the author, but it wasn’t until I finished that book and the sequel and went looking for her on Goodreads that I realized she was the author of a wonderful YA book, part paranormal and part gritty realistic fiction, that I had read back in 2016. That book was Holding Smoke, and I had forgotten all about it but certainly remember it now, because it was one of my favorite books of that year, to the point where I raved about it and gave it five stars.
Her YA books seem to be similar in content (mystery/thrillers) but completely different in execution from these first two books for adults. The YA books are deadly serious, while the Finlay Donovan books are deadly but also funny, sort of a mashup of thriller, French farce, and relationship fiction. Those elements may sound incompatible, but Cosimano makes them work, and keeps you in both suspense and in stitches all the way through.
Finlay is a newly single mom; her husband, Stephen, left her and her two young children for his real estate agent, Theresa, and is now using his vastly greater income and resulting stability as a weapon to try to win custody of the kids. Meanwhile, Finlay, who is a novelist with a string of almost-successful romance/thrillers that have garnered small advances and insignificant royalties, is way behind with her latest manuscript, for which her agent and editor are both hounding her, and she has maxed-out credit cards and nothing coming in to cover the copious bills piling up on her porch. To top that off, her husband has just fired her nanny without telling her, and she’s late to a meeting with her agent due to a catastrophic incident with a pair of scissors that left her daughter, Delia, half bald with a bloody scratch on her head.
Absentmindedly stuffing the scissors and the bloody rag she used to stop the bleeding into her diaper bag, Finlay rushes the kids off to their father for a couple of hours so as to meet up with her agent for a late lunch at Panera, to discuss deadlines Finlay already knows she’s not going to be able to meet. A woman seated next to the two eavesdrops on their conversation about how to deal with a dastardly man and provide a safe haven for a nice woman (part of the plot of her latest book), catches a glimpse of the scissors and the blood-spotted diaper in Finlay’s bag, and jumps to a wrong conclusion. After taking a trip to the restroom, Finlay discovers a note left for her by the eavesdropper, offering $50K if Finlay the contract killer will “off” the woman’s husband.
In a book that promises mystery, intrigue, and laughs, we get everything we are promised as this crazy but nonetheless somewhat plausible story unfolds. The coincidences are epic, but I embraced them whole-heartedly as necessary to the continuation of the saga of Finlay, her errant nanny, Vero, and the love interest—a hot young bartender studying to be a lawyer who unwittingly gives Finlay a much-needed alibi when her bad decisions blow up on her.
I finished the book in two days, and couldn’t wait to grab the sequel, Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead, which was, if possible, even more fun, bringing a plot so convoluted that only Finlay and Vero could figure it out…eventually. The third book, Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun, is due out in 2023, and I can hardly wait. In the meantime, though, I am going back to explore Cosimano’s young adult novels to see if the others measure up to Holding Smoke. If so, there will be more raving to come.