Agnes and the Hitman

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
2007, Fiction
St. Martin's, $24.95, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312363044

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

I almost gave up during the early pages of Agnes and the Hitman. There was a lot going on, a lot being set up and, frankly, who is this Bob Mayer guy working his way into my beloved Jennifer Crusie books? I have to say Iím glad I stuck with it. Crusie and Mayer had things perfectly in hand from beginning to end.

Agnes Crandall is arranging a wedding for her best friendís daughter. She agreed to host the wedding so she could wave three months' mortgage from her best friendís mother - who just sold Agnes her lovely, but slightly dilapidated southern mansion. One night while making a raspberry reduction, someone breaks into her house, points a gun at her, and threatens to steal her dog. Agnes whacks him over the head with a frying pan (not her first offense with kitchen equipment!) and tries to explain to friend and mentor Joey that sheís fine.

Too bad Agnes is surrounded by ex-mobsters who feel the need to take care of their own. Joey calls in a favor to his nephew Shane and asks him to keep an eye on little Agnes. Some old myths start to resurface about a long ago deal gone wrong, and the money that disappeared with it. Through all of this hoopla about missing money and dognapping, Agnes tries to keep the home of her dreams, ditch her fiancť, create a lovely wedding, and control her anger issues. Oh, and thereís the deadline for her next food column coming up. Iím breaking out in a stress-related rash just typing this.

Agnes definitely has her hands full, but she handles it, all the while making mouth-watering food (I think I gained five pounds just reading this book!) and taking full advantage of her biting, sarcastic wit. She leaves no one wondering why she has the charming sobriquet "Cranky Agnes." Sheís a tough chick with plenty of baggage and when Shane walks into her life Ö well, sheís still a tough chick, just one with a good man.

Shane is the quiet, ultra-serious man who is a perfect foil for Cranky Agnes. Being a hitman is starting to wear on him and heís getting restless. This assignment from his uncle is the first personal time heís taken in years. Being around Agnes and falling for her and her loony menagerie of misfits opens his eyes to a new world. Shane is also having a hard time keeping strangers from showing up in Agnesí kitchen and pointing a gun at her. The things a guy has to do for love.

Even though the previous Crusie/Mayer book, Donít Look Down, wasnít my cup of tea, Iím going to keep my eye on this pair, for, other than a bumpy start, I couldnít find anything wrong with Agnes and the Hitman. It made me laugh multiple times, and that alone makes this book well worth the reading. South Carolina mobsters, good food, flamingo-themed weddings: What more can you ask for?

-- Lisa Gardineer

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