Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead
reviewed by Lou Jacobs
A new genre arises: the screwball comedy mystery! Mix into the pot a heaping amount of misunderstanding and misadventure, a humungous amount of humor, a tinge of romance, a deepening friendship and murder, and you’ve got an amazing propulsive read.
Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead is the perfect vaccine for Covid. This actually is the second Finlay adventure, but can certainly be enjoyed as a standalone, as Cosimano seamlessly weaves into the narrative the necessary backstory. Finlay Donovan is a struggling B-list writer of romantic mysteries, facing impending deadlines for her next book. She is the mother of adorable four year-old Delia and perpetually sticky two year-old toddler, Zach. Donovan is divorced from her ex-husband, Steven, who carried on a lengthy affair with their curvy, blond realtor.
During her first outing in Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, she was mistaken for a hit-woman during an “accidental” murder. She was aided by the unusual college student, Vero, who now wears many hats: trusting nanny, confidante, accountant—and from this, a blossoming friendship has evolved. In this adventure returning for an encore, are Finlay’s young law student and sometime lover, Julien, as well as her sister’s cop partner, Nick Anthony, who is determined to wheedle his way back into Finlay’s life. ( He was the “hot cop” in her first book, for whom fans are clamoring for more.)
Finlay—while surfing an online message board for disgruntled women—discovers a covert request for a “hit” on her ex-husband, Steven. She recognizes he is still a good father and feels the need to intervene. Her attempts to uncover the plot and its players lead to confrontations with both cops and the Russian Mob. (Reminiscent of encounters with the Keystone Cops.) At the same time, deadlines for her next book are looming, and she doesn’t even have a plot. While walking a dangerous tightrope and her agent pestering her for “a few pages” she spins her ongoing dilemma into the plot of her next book, which is met with ecstatic approval of both agent and publisher.
Elle Cosimano spins a twisted and hilarious tale that is well plotted, suspenseful, and is marvelously outfitted with multiple colorful characters that are both flawed and believable. The burgeoning relationship and “sisterhood” between Finlay and Vero is nothing less than amazing. The dialogue flows in an entertaining fashion, frequently funny and at times, sarcastic, as our two main protagonists entangle themselves in the world of murder and mayhem. Could this be a modern-day “Lucy and Ethel” adventure? This propulsive page turner is a welcome antidote to everyone’s angst. Hopefully this is not the end to the life and misadventures of Finlay Donovan.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.