– Finlay Donovan is Killing It

“Finlay Donovan is Killing It” by Elle Cosimano. New York: Minotaur Books, 2021. 359 pp.

Finlay Donovan is having a very bad year. Her husband has left her for a blonde bombshell real estate agent named Theresa. She hasn’t written a word in months, and her deadlines are flying by. She can’t pay her bills. To say the single mom/suspense writer is struggling is an understatement.

Finlay Donovan is also having a very bad day. Her nanny, Vero, hasn’t shown up, her daughter has decided to cut her hair in a way that drew blood and required duct tape to fix, her electricity has been turned off, her ex has filed to change their custody agreement, and she is running very, very late to a meeting with her agent. When a woman at the next table overhears Finn talking about the plot of her new novel, (and sees duct tape, a knife and a bloody burp cloth in her diaper bag) she jumps to the very wrong conclusion that Finn is a hitwoman, and leaves a note offering $50,000 to bump off her husband. Finn is very much not a killer, but should could use the cash…

Finlay Donovan is about to have a very strange night.  She’s a good enough researcher to have discovered that her mark, Harris Mickler, is not a nice guy, in fact he’s likely abusing his wife. So, what could be the harm in going to a networking event at a trendy bar to check him out? Donning a disguise of heavy make-up, a little black dress and blonde wig, she introduces herself as Theresa (her ex’s new fiancé) to Julian, the flirty bartender/law student who looks like he could be an underwear model. Scoping out Mickler proves that he’s a bad guy when Finn sees him drugging a woman’s drink, cueing a series of mishaps that lead to a very dead Harris Mickler in Finn’s garage.

Finlay Donovan is about to be rescued by an unlikely ally. When Finn’s ex-nanny Vero stumbles upon her trying to move Mickler’s body, she’s game to help Finn get rid of the evidence, for 40% of the bounty plus room and board. This is where the story really starts to move, with a missing Harris Mickler in the news, and the wife that hired Finn to kill him no where to be found, it turns out that he was also involved with Russian mobsters, which attracts the attention of Finn’s cop-sister Georgia, and the annoyingly attractive Detective Nick Anthony.

Finlay Donovan is super-relatable, or at least I thought so. She’s a hot mess just doing the best she can every day, even if her best isn’t always all that great. YA Edgar Award winner Elle Cosimano has, in her first adult fiction outing, created the most enjoyable murder-for-hire romp you’ll ever read, with a cast of characters that are well-drawn, endearing, and funny, and a twisty plot that keeps you guessing until the end.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It lives at the fizzy intersection of caper suspense and rom-com fun, a book that was almost immediately optioned by the producers of Pretty Little Liars for a TV show. And, judging by the ending, should be the beginning of a series, so it looks like there’s more of Finn and company on the horizon. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Lacey Tobias is a Library Assistant at Graham Library. She can be reached at ltobias@alamancelibraries.org.

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