Crusie, Jennifer, and Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the Hitman is Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s second collaboration, which I like quite a bit more than their first, Don’t Look Down. It has the same virtues—characterization, banter, action—but in service of an overall plot that I found more enjoyable. I borrowed this from the library, but am now tempted to buy it in hardcover rather than wait for the paperback. (I’ll probably resist, but still: tempted.)

Agnes is a food columnist with an anger problem and a newly-purchased house. When a guy shows up in her kitchen demanding that she hand over her dog, she smacks him with her frying pan . . . and he falls through a papered-over swinging door into the basement and breaks his neck. On hearing this, one of Agnes’s friends decides she needs protection, and sends it in the form of his nephew Shane, a government hitman. Complications ensue in ways that pretty much defy easy summary but include a mob wedding, old family secrets, and a startlingly high body count.

Despite said body count, this strikes me as a nicer book than Don’t Look Down, perhaps because it’s much more explicitly about building bridges (both literal and figurative) and creating family and a home. The romance between Agnes and Shane also clicks better than the prior book’s. My only complaint is that the portrayal of the sole black character makes me twitch just a bit; I kept getting flashes of Samuel L. Jackson or Laurence Fishburne reprising their serene-yet-kick-ass black man roles. However, the characterization isn’t entirely stereotypical, and the very existence of the character is a good thing, since I can’t remember another black (or even non-white) character in Crusie’s books.

The first chapter is online and is a lot of fun.

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