Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream by Diane Kelly is the sixth novel featuring Tara Holloway, an (ex?) investigative agent for the IRS with a special knack for trouble (available October 1, 2013).
I’ve spilled no small amount of ink on this here site singing the praises of Tara Holloway. In the course of her employment as a Special Agent for the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Treasury Department, she’s racked up a record that could easily rival that of Karen Sisco (or, for that matter, Raylan Givens):
“Prior to the incident at the club, had you ever used your weapons on the job?”
“Yes.” I gave him my long and complete history, including my shooting a box cutter out of the hand of an auto parts store owner intent on killing me, a later shoot-out at a private residence, moving on to my putting a bullet in a target’s testicle, to a later incident in which I put one bullet each in a set of twins. I’d also been forced to shoot a rifle out of the hands of a crazy old coot who led a secessionist group, and I’d improvised a flamethrower with a lighter and a spray can to fend off another attacker. That one happened in my home, when I couldn’t get to my gun, though the man who’d broken in and attacked me had been a target in a tax evasion case.
The attorney jotted down notes as I spoke. When I finished, he looked down at my long list of human targets, then up at me. Tinkle-tinkle. This is quite a list. How many years were you with the IRS?”
I gulped back the lump in my throat. “Eight months.”
[Well, one lawyer's “trigger-happy” could be an agent's “effective”...]
Impressive, right? There’s a reason she came to be known as the Annie Oakley of the IRS. Tara Holloway is equal parts brilliant CPA, badass federal agent, and total cornball—a strange combination, perhaps, but like adding sea salt to dark chocolate, it totally works. In fact, it’s downright addictive. So you can understand my trepidation when I cracked the cover on Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream only to read this:
“I don’t know who I am anymore.”
Okay, I know I sounded like a drama queen, but that was exactly how I felt. As if my sense of self, my identity as a butt-kicking federal agent, had been erased, replaced by an empty void. Since I’d been fired from my job as an IRS special agent a few days ago, forced to turn in my gun and badge, I felt like a mere stick figure, a black-and-white, two-dimensional version of myself. Like a hollow chocolate Easter bunny with the ears bitten off, no longer recognizable as a rabbit. Like a snowman that had melted and was now only a carrot and a soggy stocking cap sitting in a wet spot in the yard. But I suppose that’s enough similes, huh? Let’s just use southern shorthand and say that I felt like a sorry sack of shit.
No longer a tax cop? How was I supposed to feel about that? Who’s Tara Holloway if not an ass-kicking, name-taking sharpshooter? Without her gun and her badge, she’s just a goofy spazz who’s good with numbers, and who wants to read that book? Tara’s a character whose job is her life; it defines who she is, how she sees herself. Heck, it even defines her relationships:
An uncomfortable realization dawned on me then. Much of our relationship had developed around our jobs as special agents. Although we enjoyed doing the usual things together—dinner, movies, and whatnot—what we both enjoyed most was working together to take down bad guys. We bonded while strategizing, planning, and pursuing, then achieving satisfaction with a takedown. Without that connection, without that thrill of a joint pursuit, was there enough left to keep us together?
I had to admit that I found Nick most attractive when he was in action, putting himself at risk for the good of our country. It was selfless, heroic even. I knew he felt the same way about me. Could he still feel that way about me if I was no longer a special agent? How would I feel about Nick if he weren’t a special agent? It was hard for me to say. So much of how I felt about him was tied up in his work, because his work was what defined him. My work had once defined me, too.
I had no idea what defined me now. I hoped it wasn’t the fried baloney.
As it turns out, though, I needn’t have worried; the IRS may have taken away Tara’s badge, but they didn’t rob her of her moxie. Even when she’s facing criminal charges and being used as a pawn in a petty prosecutor’s play for power, in her heart of hearts, she’s still Tara—full of piss, vinegar, and a pre-adolescent sense of humor:
I shook Kerr’s hand and nodded but said nothing. Pucker up and kiss my lovely little ass, Troy Kerr.
When we were all seated, Kerr glanced again at me before he addressed my attorney and began banging his dick on the table, metaphorically speaking. “As you know, your client shot a man multiple times in the leg during an arrest.”
“Four times to be exact. Most of the shots being fired after the victim no longer had a weapon.” Bang. Bang.
Giacomo banged back. “And?”
Kerr stiffened. “And that’s not how a member of federal law enforcement should have handled the situation.”
Jackass. What did he really know about these situations? Had he ever risked his life by going undercover among criminals, hoping not to be discovered? Had he ever stared down the barrel of a gun wondering if it would be the last thing he’d see? Had he ever been shot at? Of course not. For the first time, I found myself with penis envy. I wanted a dick to bang, too.
In Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream, Diane Kelly proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can’t keep a good woman down. Quite literally, as a matter of fact:
At least a dozen armed men closed in from various directions, creeping toward the agents, using the trucks for cover. Nick, Eddie, William, and Tanaka were outmanned and out-gunned.
From my vantage point, I could see the entire yard. It was like watching one of those maps on a video game with red dots to warn a player of enemies closing in.
I stuck one leg down between two branches and wrapped my ankle around them to brace myself. “Send the SWAT team,” I told the emergency dispatcher when she returned to the line. “These guys are armed to the teeth with semi-automatics.” I took one more look and said, “Tell the cops not to shoot the girl in the tree. That’s me. Gotta go.”
As an author, you know you’ve succeeded when your protagonist takes on a life of her own—when she becomes more than the hook on which you pitched the series, and can in fact carry an entire story without said hook. Diane Kelly’s latest may not be the tale of Tara Holloway, badass federal agent, but it’s still the tale of Tara Holloway, badass. And as it turns out, that’s a book I very much want to read.
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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.