Cover image of "Finlay Donovan Is Killing It," a novel about a mom turned suburban contract killer

Even if you’re not a mother, this novel is likely to grab you from the outset. “It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty A.M. on any given morning.” So muses Finlay Donovan—divorced mother of two, hack author of murder mysteries, and, as you’ll soon see, suburban contract killer. Yes, Elle Cosimano plays it for laughs in Finlay Donovan Is Killing It. At least one reviewer compared her to Janet Evanovich. But the comparison between Finlay Donovan and Stephanie Plum falls flat. Although this story is just as implausible as those of the seemingly interminable Stephanie Plum saga, it’s also a fiendishly complex tale of murder and mayhem, with a plot that can stand up to the best of them.

OK, so the humor is blindingly obvious most of the time. “My relationship with Panera was complicated,” Finlay confesses. “I liked their soup. Panera didn’t like that I’d poured it over another customer’s head.” And we even sympathize with Finlay, because the customer in question was her real estate agent, who’d had the bad taste to run off with Finlay’s husband.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano (2021) 363 pages ★★★★☆

Image of members of a Russian mafia gang
Spoiler alert: Members of a Russian mafia gang like this one may appear in the novel. Image: Quora

A plot turns into a plot

Naturally, Finlay’s turn from suburban mom to suburban contract killer comes about because of a misunderstanding. She’s meeting with her agent at one of Panera’s nearly ubiquitous bakery-cafés. Said agent is raking her over the coals for failing to meet deadlines for the manuscript of her latest novel. She’s quizzing Finlay about the plot and arguing about how much of an advance Finlay will receive for yet another book. But $15,000 is the least she’ll accept. Meanwhile, a woman at a neighboring table overhears the conversation in the noisy restaurant, concluding that Finlay is a contract killer. The woman leaves a note after the agent is gone and then scuttles away herself. As the note reveals, the nameless woman is offering Finlay $50,000 to kill her husband. Are you with me so far?

A suburban contract killer meets the Russian mafia

Now, that meeting is merely the set-up. Soon, we’ll meet Finlay’s sister (a cop), her ex-husband, her nanny, the other woman, and the sister’s handsome fellow cop. We’ll become acquainted with the Russian mafia in the region—the boss, his enforcer, and his sleazy accountant. Yes, they’re the men Finlay is hired to kill. (And, no, it doesn’t stop with one.) Meanwhile, we’ll soon see that Finlay doesn’t have to settle for a paltry $15,000 for her next book. Except that the price she’ll pay for it could be her freedom—or her life.

About the author

Image of Elle Cosimano, author of this novel about a would-be suburban contract killer

As she notes on her website, Elle Cosimano “grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs, the daughter of a maximum security prison warden and an elementary school teacher.” She is the author of four novels, including a sequel to Killing It. Elle lives with her husband and two sons in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia.

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