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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Review by Xeranthemum

Out of the frying pan, into the line of fire . . .

What happens when a food writer (Agnes Crandall, author of the Cranky Agnes column, syndicated in most minor newspapers) meets a hit man (Shane, just Shane, syndicated by a major government agency which disavows all knowledge of him, anything about him, they've never heard of him, Shane Who?) the week she's trying to throw the wedding of Maria Fortunato, a mob princess, and Palmer Rehnquist, an old money Southern gentleman/golf course designer, hampered by the bride's grandmother (the real-steel faux-magnolia, Baby Fortunato Dupres), Agnes's ex-fiance (the more hair than brains celebrity chef Troy Paradou), Shane's uncle (transplanted Chicago mobster now diner owner Joey the Gent Torcelli), the local homicide detective (that Southern Columbo, Detective Simon Xavier), and a host of neighbors, relatives, florists, and hitmen?

The heat’s not just in the kitchen . . .

Agnes and the Hitman is a hysterical romance filled with drama, mystery, a hunky good bad guy and a heroine with anger issues. Not to mention Rhett, a most unlikely guard dog who saves the day a time or two.

The first main character I liked meeting was Agnes, a woman who is a great cook but has a thing about frying pans and anger. She trusts the people who were instrumental in guiding her in her youth but that trust is shaken to its foundations once the intrigue surrounding a decade’s old mystery rears its loaded gun at her.

Shane is a harsh and masculine male that makes any red-blooded woman weak in the knees. He simultaneously exudes danger, safety and sex which is a strange combination. In his job, he is a competent, knowledgeable, take charge kind of a guy. Once he meets Agnes, he’s experiencing a loss of focus alien to his nature. He’s my favorite kind of hero. Shane is a strong man who is bemused by the personality of a woman who can alternately drive him nuts yet from whom he can’t stay away. Shane’s a moth to Agnes’ flame and boy, do the sparks fly when they get together.

The secondary characters are written with flair and fullness. They are so well developed they support and help carry the plot along at a fast clip. Carpenter is Shane’s partner and he’s yummy too as well as very efficient and effective. Some additional character examples: a family that names its members by using numbers of wheels, old mobsters, a jealous woman, a dual personality and a wedding with a practical joker plaguing it. Add a boyfriend leading a double life and you have a rich mix of mayhem.

The humor woven throughout the book keeps it upbeat even when it gets down and dirty. Even the love sick flamingos play a role in showcasing Agnes’ sweet personality – once she calms down.

Be prepared though. Shane lives in a harsh world where violence is commonplace and nasty. When it darkens Agnes’ door, he’s right there to protect her no matter what. It’s the ‘no matter what’ that shocked me. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story where the line of what a man will do in the line of duty is as starkly depicted as it is during a scene in this book. It had to be done; they were professionals but he didn’t even hesitate. I presume that is Mr. Mayer’s contribution and it’s effective and sharp. The balance of fun and ferociousness is a tightrope that both Ms. Crusie and Mr. Mayer traversed perfectly.

The finale is incredible. Simply breath-stealing. There were so many threads to tie up but like a tapestry woven by a master, it all came together for a rollicking good time with the bad guys getting their comeuppance and the good guys getting their HEAs. There is action, humor, a beautiful and exciting wedding and a cat fight.

Agnes and the Hitman is a book not to be missed. I had a great time reading this book and I refused to stop reading it until I was done. If Ms. Crusie and Mr. Mayer collaborate again, I’m going to make it a must buy because these authors rock!