Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria by Diane Kelly is the 4th book in the humorous mystery series featuring U.S. Treasury Department Special Agent Tara Holloway (available January 29, 2013).
“Men,” I said, shaking my head. “You can’t live with ’em, and you can’t shoot ’em.”
“You’ve shot men plenty of times,” Alicia said.
“I’ve shot at them many times,” I corrected, “but I only actually put bullets in three of them.” I took the left nut off the first and got the other two in the leg. But don’t worry. They totally deserved it.
Meet Tara Holloway: Annie Oakley of the IRS.
That’s right—I said IRS.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—I say “IRS employee” and you picture a pencil-pushing math nerd. Somebody who sits behind a desk all day poring over tax returns and trying to wring blood from a stone—the blood in this scenario being money, and the stone being you.
But you’ve got the wrong idea about Tara Holloway.
Tara, you see, is a badge-carrying, sharp-shooting Special Agent with the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Treasury Department. She’s like Emma Peel without the rich industrialist father. (Also, without the part where she’s British. And probably without the part where she knows how to fence, too. BUT STILL.)
Sure, her love life is a thorny mess:
I grabbed his hand back and held it to my cheek this time. “Please don’t be mad. I’m crazy about you, Nick. You know that.”
He gave a grunt of displeasure, but when he eyed my face his frown melted. “I’ll never understand how you can be so tough at your job and such a chickenshit about your personal life.”
If he hadn’t nailed me so perfectly, I might’ve been angry again. “Guns are much easier to handle than men,” I said, shrugging. “They don’t go off unexpectedly, I can control them, and they’re easier to clean.”
She doesn’t often bite her tongue:
As I slid into the seat, Trish said, “No need, Tara. We’ve got what we need already. Besides,” she scrunched her nose as she eyed my suit again, “cheap fabrics don’t film well.”
I stood, doing my best to remain calm. “You’re right, Trish,” I said. “Cheap things look awful on camera.” I punctuated my words with a pointed look and a snide smile before raising my head high and walking out.
Her dirty laundry pile is the size of a small ski hill:
When I climbed out of bed, Christina shrieked. I turned to find her eyeing the gap where the back of my gown hung open. “You’ve been wearing those underwear for almost a week?”
I rolled my eyes. “No. I just put them on this morning.”
She gestured at my ass. “But they say Thursday.”
“Yeah, and my high-school yearbook says I plan to marry Keith Urban.” I rolled my eyes. “Don’t believe everything you read.”
And she consumes an alarming amount of fruity wine. But when the circumstances of Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria by Diane Kelly find Tara tasked with tracking down those responsible for helping terrorists send money overseas to fund bombings and other unspeakable acts of violence, you’d best believe she gets the job done. Because you see, Tara Holloway always gets her man—even if she’s occasionally forced to rely on somewhat unconventional methods in order to do so:
I gave him a big smile as I aimed my gun at him. “Howdy!” I hollered over the approaching siren.
He threw an ineffective swing at me with his right hand, managing only to get his body turned cockeyed in the seat.
“Sit still,” I ordered.
He didn’t obey. Instead, he righted himself and jerked his head around, desperately seeking his semiautomatic.
“If you reach for your gun,” I warned him, taking a step closer, “I’ll shoot you.”
He ignored me again, apparently spotting his gun and reaching down to the floorboard with his free hand.
At this point, I had a couple of options. One, I could do as promised and shoot the guy, fill out yet another firearm discharge report, and face yet another internal inquiry. Or two, I could figure out another way to keep the guy from reaching his gun.
I went for option two. I’m nothing if not resourceful.
With his left arm cuffed to the luggage rack, the man’s armpit was exposed. I reached out and tickled him. He shrieked, twisted in his seat, and slapped my fingers away. The instant he reached down for his weapon again, I tickled him a second time. He shrieked and slapped again. Say what you will about this rudimentary method, but tickle torture was an effective technique and far less controversial than waterboarding. Maybe they should add the tickle torture technique to the special agent manual.
And honestly, her unconventionality is a big part of what makes her such an endearing heroine. They broke the mold when they made Tara Holloway. She’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an I’m-with-Stupid t-shirt—a bad-ass, gun-toting, name-taking IRS agent who never seems to lose her goofy sense of humor, and above all, never stops being a woman:
An hour later, I was sprawled out on my sofa, the man who had planned to end my life was on his way to jail, and the man who made my life worth living was on the phone, congratulating me on a job well done.
“You’re quite a woman, Tara Holloway,” Nick said. “Are you sure you don’t have a big pair of balls hidden somewhere?”
“Quite sure,” I replied. “Just a pair of steel-plated ovaries.”
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Katrina Niidas Holm loves mysteries. She lives in Maine with her husband, fabulously talented pulp writer Chris F. Holm, and a noisy, noisy cat. She writes reviews for The Season E-Zine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.