I really didn't like the first collaboration between Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, though I'd loved previous Crusie books. The mix of military/action and romance/mystery/humor was just not well-executed. When I read positive reviews of Agnes and the Hitman that began, "I didn't like Don't Look Down, but..." I knew I wanted to give the duo another try. And, really, they're a likable pairing. Check out their website. Click on "How it happened" and "How it works." Funny stuff (and actually, it explains a lot). But on to the book!
Columnist and cookbook writer Cranky Agnes has a history of whacking guys upside the head with frying pans. This is understandable, since she's been engaged to some real jerks. But the most recent whacking, of a lowlife out to steal her dog, ends in death when the whack-ee falls into a previously hidden basement, possibly the site of the murder of an old mob guy. Confused yet? This plot is a doozy, but it's masterfully controlled, unlike the convoluted mess of Don't Look Down. Agnes got her house in a deal with Brenda Fortunato, in exchange for planning Brenda's granddaughter's wedding, and it looks like Brenda may be trying to renege by sabotaging the wedding. Agnes's fiance is starting to look like he could use some frying-pan action. And her basement may be the site of an old mob boss's murder (and the hiding place for $5 million). So her hands are pretty full when Shane, attractive and sensitive hitman, shows up. There is still a ridiculous body count, intrusive military speak, and unbelievably cruel treatment of bad guys, courtesy of Mayer, but either he's getting better at this chick lit thing, or Crusie had the plot more under control this time, because it's a pretty fun read. Lisa Livia (Brenda's daughter) is a fantastic character, Shane is actually a nice guy, so you can see the attraction for Agnes, and Agnes herself is a lot of fun.
Fans of Jennifer Crusie can rejoice in this one, and I think Evanovich fans would get a kick out of it, too. The authors have outtakes right here, but they have spoilers, so read the book first.
My review of Don't Look Down