Thu
May 30 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers by Diane Kelly

Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers by Diane Kelly, the 5th book in the Tara Holloway series, puts Tara on the trail of mortgage fraudsters...at a strip club (available June 4, 2013).

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Diane Kelly’s Tara Holloway novels; I sing their praises every chance I get. And I’m happy to report that Kelly’s latest—Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers—is perhaps her best addition to the series thus far.

This book really does have it all, folks. Want to spend the afternoon with a snarky, feisty heroine who’s equal parts brilliant CPA, badass federal agent, and total cornball? Tara Holloway, reporting for duty:

A guy who could be Tarzan’s younger brother guarded the door to the administrative offices tonight. From the dull look on his face, I surmised he might have fed on a steady diet of lead-paint chips as a child. He had a narrow nose and eyes set so close together they blended into one big eyeball when I let my vision fuzz.

“I’m Sara,” I said. “The new bookkeeper.”

“I’m Ryan.”

Nah, I thought. You’re Cyclops.

He pointed his finger downward and made a rotating motion. “Balls to the wall. I gotta frisk ya.”

Though I had no balls to put to the wall, I turned around and raised my hands over my head, leaning on the wall. Cyclops stepped up behind me, pressing his body against mine as he ran his hands up my arms. He backed up only an inch or two as he ran his hands down my sides, his fingertips not just grazing my breasts but virtually groping them.

Rage flared in me at the violation. This guy was pushing his luck.

He reached into the pocket of my pants and pulled out my cell phone, taking a quick glance at it before returning it to my pocket. He knelt on the floor to run his hands down the outside of my pants, lifting the hem and eyeing the leg warmers when he felt the unusual bulk on my calves. He slowly stood, his hands making their way up my inseam now. Fondling my boobs had been bad enough, but when he cupped my crotch from behind he’d taken things too far.

I rammed my elbow backward into his gut.

Oomph. He buckled in two, clutching his stomach, retching involuntarily.

Whaddya know. Lu was right. I did my best work when I was angry.

Like a hefty dose of gut-busting comedy with your crime? Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers has it in spades:

“I’ll get it.” Lu bent over to retrieve the letter.

Rrrrrrrrip!

The seam holding the back of Lu’s pants together gave way, releasing an avalanche of cellulite-pocked sexagenarian butt cheek clad in white nylon granny panties.

I didn’t want to look, but hell! It was like a train wreck. I couldn’t turn away from the spectacle.

There was just so!

Much!

Ass!

Hankering for some scorchingly hot, blush-inducing, oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-I’m-reading-this-in-public romance? Kelly’s got you covered. (Really hoping I’d drop in an excerpt here, weren’t you? Well, you’re just going to have to buy the book, because DUDE, MY MOTHER IS READING THIS. Let’s just say Kelly didn’t win a Golden Heart award from the Romance Writers of America for nothing.)

But one of the things I admire most about these books (and Kelly as a writer) is that while Kelly’s capable of over-the-top, she’s not always turned up to eleven. Yes, her sex scenes positively sizzle, and her comedy is goofy as all get-out, but not everything in Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers is played for the cheap seats.

As you may have guessed from the title of this book (and the fact that the heroine is a Special Agent for the IRS), each of Kelly’s Tara Holloway novels spotlights a different financial crime. The schemes about which she writes are usually quite complex, but while Kelly could dumb things down for her readers by glossing over the details or back-burnering Tara’s work in favor of lighter plot points, she chooses not to. Kelly not only seamlessly incorporates Tara’s cases into her stories, but somehow also manages to clearly and succinctly explain the intricacies of the crimes without slowing things down or confusing the reader. How on earth does she accomplish such a feat, you ask? By contextualizing said crimes.

One of the cases in this book revolves around four guys who commit mortgage fraud. Sounds dry, right? But through Tara and her investigation, Kelly makes it clear that while this particular crime may be financial in nature, the damage done to its victims is not only monetary—it’s emotional and psychological:

Her breath hitched, her testimony dredging up feelings she’d tried hard to put behind her. “After my husband passed away suddenly, I began to struggle financially. Even though I picked the least expensive casket for him, his funeral still cost six thousand dollars. Between his medical bills and the burial, all of our savings was spent.”

She’d used up her paid vacation time to be with her husband in the final days of his bout with pancreatic cancer. Though her employer allowed her to take additional unpaid time off, she’d lost two full weeks of income, a significant sum for a person living paycheck to paycheck.

“I got behind on my mortgage. When I saw GSM’s ad in the newspaper, I thought I’d found a solution to my problems.” Instead, her problems only increased once she became involved with GSM.

She testified that she’d spoken with Darren Williams on the phone and relied on his representation that she’d only be signing over her deed temporarily, until she got back on her financial feet. Of course she couldn’t afford an attorney to look over the paperwork before she signed it. Hidden among the seventy-nine pages of legalese and gobbledygook was a clause that allowed GSM to terminate the buyback rights and evict the residents if they failed to comply with any of the terms, including the one requiring up-front reimbursement for GSM’s new insurance policy on the house.

Marisol ended up in tears on the stand, gulping for air as she testified how the con artists had stolen her home and every cent of equity she and her husband had worked years to build. I handed Ross the mortgage-loan statements that detailed the eighty-three grand in equity Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz had accumulated, along with documentation showing that GSM had paid less than four thousand dollars in back mortgage payments and insurance in exchange for the equity they’d obtained. I could hardly wait to point out in my testimony that the Racketeers had made a quick 2,000 percent return on their investment. No legitimate deal provided that kind of profit.

And the case that has Tara working undercover at a strip club to help prove that the owner is dealing drugs, pimping out his employees, and cheating on his taxes? Kelly manages to put a human face on that one, as well, beautifully illustrating not only the toll the owner’s misdeeds takes on the club’s dancers, but also the toll the case takes on Tara:

Angelique looked at me, her expression sad and shocked and helpless and traumatized. Her hair was a tangled mess, her red rose barrette hanging at an odd angle as if she’d engaged in a rough tussle. Her right cheek bore a darkening bruise in the shape of a handprint.

Obviously, one of the Ps in the VIP room thought his money entitled him to smack the girls around. That P was a real A-hole.

My heart contracted into a tight, painful rock. Sure, the dancers did things I’d never consider, but maybe I’d been lucky that I’d never had to consider doing them. And while I’d confronted violent men on my job, too, I’d been armed and trained to defend myself. Angelique had been neither. Geils and his goons clearly hadn’t come to her rescue. It took everything in me not to go back into that club with my gun blazing and teach those bastards a lesson.

“Can I do something to help?” I asked. “Maybe call the police?”

“No police.” Angelique wiped a tear from her eye. “But could you mail me my last paycheck?”

In other words, she wouldn’t be coming back to this hell-hole.

“Sure.”

As Shawna led Angelique off to her car, I realized I couldn’t hold back anymore. All of the illicit sex and drugs and violence was too much for me. I drove my car out of the lot, hot tears burning my eyes.

Sex, laughs, intellectual stimulation, and emotional resonance—in Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers, Diane Kelly gives you all that and more, wrapped up in one glorious page-turner of a package. And what self-respecting reader wouldn’t pay good money for that?

 

See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

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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 Crimespree Magazine and The Maine Suspect, and you can find her on Twitter.

Read all Katrina Niidas Holm’s posts for Criminal Element.

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2 comments
Mo Heedles
1. MoinNH
I love this seres lots of fun wrapped up in a good ystery. I have this on pre-order anxiously waiting for it ot pop into my knidle.
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