Crusie and Mayer reteam (after Don't Look Down) on this goofball romantic confectionary that mixes together Cranky Agnes, a food writer and caterer, with Shane, a hit man with no last name. The plot is a little short on sense, but it's hard to complain when the duo keeps the ingredients coming at a fast pace. Agnes has staked everything she owns on the big Mafia wedding she's catering, and Shane has been sent to keep an eye on Agnes but winds up in love and in big trouble. Soon the two are involved in a dognapping and snooping in a basement hiding a murdered body and $5 million. Burr does a very good job as the women in the story (besides Agnes, there's also Brenda Fortunato, the widow of a top gangster who is hatching a dastardly plot to steal Agnes's treasured home). Unfortunately, Burr isn't as convincing with the male voices. Still, there's enough romance and comedy here to make it all diverting. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, June 4). (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Agnes and the Hitmanby Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer
Agnes Crandall's problems are rolling to a boil. First, a dog-napper invades her kitchen, seriously hampering her attempts to put on a wedding that she's staked her entire net worth on. Then a man climbs through her bedroom window to save her. "Shane" (no last name) may be Agnes's hero, but he's also a professional hitmanso he's no stranger to trouble himself
Agnes Crandall's problems are rolling to a boil. First, a dog-napper invades her kitchen, seriously hampering her attempts to put on a wedding that she's staked her entire net worth on. Then a man climbs through her bedroom window to save her. "Shane" (no last name) may be Agnes's hero, but he's also a professional hitmanso he's no stranger to trouble himself…
Between a rival who wants to take him out and an uncle who may have lost five million bucks in Agnes's basement, Shane's plate is plenty full. Soon Agnes and Shane are tangled up with the lowlifes after the money, a gang of Southern mob wedding guests, a dog named Rhett, andmost dangerous of alleach other.
"Cranky Agnes" Crandall is a food writer living in an antebellum mansion in a small Southern town. She and her fiancé, fellow foodie Tyler, bought the house from mob widow Brenda Fortunato with plans to use it as a venue for parties and weddings. Their first big event is the wedding of Maria Fortunato, Brenda's granddaughter. The week before the wedding, someone breaks into Agnes's house, falls down a flight of hidden steps to a basement Agnes knew nothing about, and dies. Shane and Carpenter, two tall, handsome hit men, show up to investigate. Who sent the intruder? Who sent Shane and Carpenter? Why does Brenda want to stop Maria's wedding? This complex plot of a sassy romance rolls merrily along, and each time it seems that Maria's wedding is headed in one direction, the plans turn in another. Narrator Sandra Burr conveys Southern and Jersey-mobster accents and the echoing interior admonishment of Agnes's psychiatrist with great skill. This second merger by authors Crusie and Mayer, published in summer 20007, is lots of fun for fans of chick lit.
Nann Blaine Hilyard
“Agnes and the Hitman is fabulous fun. ” Booklist (Starred review)
“A comic caper and raucous romance...laugh-out-loud funny...a fun ride.” Kirkus Reviews
“Wickedly funny.” Cincinatti Enquirer
“A bubbly novel with amusing banter and…moments of poignancy.” Publishers Weekly
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Agnes and the Hitman
By Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2007 Argh Ink and Robert J. Mayer
All rights reserved.
cranky agnes column #1
Do not be seduced by those big-box come-ons, full of "complete sets" of extraneous cookware. A complete set is whatever you need, and maybe all you need is a wok and a hot place to grill your bacon. In a pinch, I can do it all with my good heavy nonstick frying pan. Besides the obvious braising, browning, and frying, I can make sauces and stirfries in it, toast cheese sandwiches and slivered almonds, use the underside to pound cutlets, and in a pinch probably swing it to defend my honor. If I could find a man that versatile and dependable, I'd marry him.
One fine August evening in South Carolina, Agnes Crandall stirred raspberries and sugar in her heavy nonstick frying pan and defended her fiancé to the only man she'd ever trusted.
It wasn't easy.
"Look, Joey, Taylor's not that bad." Agnes cradled the phone between her chin and her shoulder, turned down her CD player, where the Dixie Chicks were doing a fine rendition of "Am I the Only One," and then frowned over the tops of her fogged-up glasses at the raspberries, which were being annoying and uncooperative, much like Taylor lately. "He's a terrific chef." Which is why I'm still with him. "And he's very sweet." When he has the time. "And we've got a great future in this house together." Assuming he ever comes out here again.
Joey snorted his contempt, the sound exploding through the phone. "He shouldn't leave you out there by yourself."
"Hey, Brenda lived out here alone for years, and she did just fine," Agnes said. "I'm as tough as Brenda. I can do that, too." Of course, Brenda sold me the house and beat feet for her yacht in the middle of a marina, but —
"Nah, there's somethin' wrong with a guy who leaves a sweetheart like you alone in a big house like that. You should find somebody else."
"Yeah, like I have the time," Agnes said, and then realized that wasn't the right answer. "Not that I would. Taylor's a great guy. And anyway, I like being alone." I'm used to it.
"He's a mutt, Agnes," Joey said.
Agnes took off her glasses and turned up the heat under the raspberries, which she knew was courting disaster, but it was late and she was tired of playing nice with fruit. "Come on, Joey. I don't have time for this. I'm behind on my column, I've got —"
"And there's Rhett," Joey said. "How's Rhett?"
"What?" Agnes said, thrown off stride. She stopped stirring her berries, which began to bubble, and looked down at her dog, draped over her feet like a moth-eaten brown overcoat, slobbering on the floor as he slept. "Rhett's fine. Why? What have you heard?"
"He's a fine healthy-lookin' dog," Joey said hastily. "He looked real good in his picture in the paper today." He paused, his voice straining to be casual. "How come old Rhett was wearing that stupid collar in that picture?"
"Collar?" Agnes frowned at the phone. "It was just some junk jewelry —"
The oven timer buzzed, and she said, "Hold on," put down the phone, and took the now madly bubbling berries off the heat. Rhett picked up his head and bayed, and she turned to see what he was upset about.
A guy with a gun stood in the doorway, the bottom half of his face covered with a red bandanna.
"I come for your dog," he said, pointing the gun at Rhett, and Agnes said, "No!" and slung the raspberry pan at the guy, the hot syrup arcing out in front of it like napalm and catching him full in the face.
He screamed as the scalding fruit hit him and then dropped his gun to rip the bandanna away as Agnes stumbled to scoop up the pan and Rhett barreled into him, knocking him down so that he hit the back of his head on the marble counter by the wall and knocked off every cupcake she had cooling there before he collapsed into the doorway.
"God damn it," Agnes said breathlessly, standing over him with her pan, her heart pounding.
The guy didn't move, and Rhett began to hoover up cupcakes at the speed of light.
"Agnes?" Joey shouted from the phone on the counter. "What the fuck, Agnes?"
Agnes kicked the gun into the housekeeper's room and peered at the guy, trying to catch her breath. When he didn't move, she backed up to grab the phone off the counter. "Some guy just showed up here with a gun and tried to take Rhett," she told Joey, breathing hard. "But it's okay, I'm not angry." Miserable little rat-faced jerk.
"Where is he?"
"On the floor, across the hall doorway. He knocked himself out. I have to —"
"Get the hell out of there," Joey said, sounding like he was on the move. "Take Rhett with you."
"I can't get out, the guy's lying across the hall door. If I climb over him, he'll come to and grab me. I have to call —"
"Get out the back door —"
"I can't, Doyle's got it blocked with screen and boards. I have to hang up and call nine-one-one."
"No," Joey said, and she heard the screen door to the diner slap shut on his end of the phone. "No cops. I'm comin' over."
"What do you mean, no cops? I —"
The dognapper stirred.
"Wait a minute." Agnes put the phone on the counter and held the frying pan at the ready, hands shaking, as she craned her neck to look closer at the dognapper.
Young, just a teenager. Short. Skinny. Limp, dirty dark hair. Stupid, because if he'd had any brains, he'd have grabbed Rhett when he went out for his nightly pee. And now that he was unconscious, pretty harmless looking. She probably outweighed him by thirty pounds.
As she calmed down, she could hear Dr. Garvin's voice in her head.
How are you feeling right now, Agnes?
Well, Dr. Garvin, I am feeling a little angry that this punk broke into the house with a gun and threatened my dog.
And how are you handling that anger, Agnes?
I never touched him, I swear.
The boy opened his eyes.
"Don't move." Agnes held up her pan. "I've called the police," she lied. "They're coming for you. My dog is vicious, and you don't want to cross me, either, especially with a frying pan; you have no idea what I can do with a frying pan." She took a deep breath, and the kid glared at her, and she looked closer at his face, and winced at the lurid welts of singed skin where the raspberry had stuck. "That's gotta hurt. Not that I care."
He worked his battered jaw, and she held the frying pan higher as a threat.
"So, tell me, you little creep," Agnes said, "why were you trying to kill my dog?"
"I weren't tryin' to kill the dog," the boy said, outraged. "I wouldn't kill no dog."
"The gun, Creepoid," Agnes said. "You pointed a gun at him."
"I was just gonna take him," the boy said. "There weren't no call to get mean. I weren't gonna hurt him. I wouldn't hurt nobody." He touched the sauce on his face and winced.
"No, you just broke into this house to terrorize me with a gun," Agnes said. "That's not hurting nobody, that's victimizing me. Do I look like a victim to you? Huh? You wouldn't have tried this crap on Brenda, would you?"
He frowned up at her, the raspberry sauce crinkling on his face. "Who's Brenda?"
"Everybody knows who Brenda is," Agnes snapped.
She took a deep shuddering breath and reached for the phone again, and he rolled to his feet and lunged for her. She yelped and smacked him hard on the head with her pan, and he staggered, and then she hit him again, harder this time, just to make sure, and he fell back onto the floor, blood seeping down the side of his face, and lay still. She felt a qualm about that, but not much, because it was self-defense. Brenda would be proud of her, he'd broken into her house and she'd defended it, he'd scared the hell out of her and —
Violence is not the answer, Agnes.
That depends on the question, Dr. Garvin.
— and she was not out of control, she was not angry, she was calm, she was shaking, but she was perfectly fine, and anyway it was a nonstick pan, not cast iron, so she was fairly certain she hadn't done any permanent damage.
Fingers crossed, anyway.
Beside him, Rhett collapsed, overcome by the number of cupcakes still on the floor.
"I hate you," she said to the unconscious boy. Then she picked up her phone and said, "Joey?"
"Don't do anything, Agnes," Joey yelled, the sounds of traffic in the background. "I'm on Route Seventeen. I'm almost there."
"That's good," Agnes said, realizing her voice was shaking, too. "He's just a kid, Joey. He said he wasn't trying to hurt anybody —"
The kid lunged to his feet, and Agnes screamed again and dropped the phone to swing the pan again, but this time he was ready for her, ducking under her arm and butting her in the stomach so that she said, "Oof!" and fell backward against the counter. He tried to backhand her, and she swung the pan again and hit him in the head, and then she couldn't stop, she hit him over and over, and he yelled, "Stop it!" and grabbed for her while she swung at him, driving him back toward the hall door, screaming, "Get out, get out, get out of this house, get out of this house!" as he lurched back, and stepped in Rhett's water dish and fell back against the wall and then through it, screaming.
Agnes froze, the frying pan raised over her head as he disappeared, and then the wall was solid again, and she heard a thud, and the screaming stopped, cut off.
She stood there with the pan over her head for a moment, stunned, and then she lowered it slowly and clutched it to her chest, warm raspberry sauce and all, her heart beating like mad. She stared dumbfounded at the wall, waiting to see if he'd come rushing back through, like a ghost or something. When nothing happened, she went over and pushed cautiously with the pan on the place where the kid had disappeared.
It swung open and shut again, the hideous wallpaper that had covered it now torn along the straight edge of a doorframe.
"Oh," Agnes said, caught between amazement that there'd been a swinging door behind the wallpaper and fear that there was also a crazed moron behind there.
"Agnes!" Joey yelled on the phone.
Agnes took a deep breath and stepped back to the counter and picked it up. "What?"
"What the fuck happened?"
"There's another door in my kitchen, right next to the hall door." Agnes went back and pushed it open again, avoiding the rusted, broken nails that lined the doorway edge, and peered into the black void. "Huh."
"Where's the kid with the gun?"
"Good question." Agnes dropped her skillet on the counter, yanked open the utility drawer by the door, and got out her flashlight. She turned it on, shoved the door open with her shoulder, and pointed it into the darkness.
"What are you doing?" Joey yelled.
"I'm trying to see what's behind this door. I didn't even know it was here. Brenda never mentioned —"
"Agnes, you can explore that goddamn house later," Joey said. "Take Rhett and get the hell out of there."
"I don't think the kid's a problem anymore." Agnes held the phone with one hand and peered down into the pool of light the flashlight cast on the floor below as Rhett came to join her, pressing close to her leg so he could peer, too. "He fell into a basement. I didn't even know I had a basement back here. Brenda never said anything about one. Did you know —?" She had been playing the light around the floor, and now she stopped as it hit the moron. "Uh-oh."
"What do you mean, 'uh-oh'?"
The boy was splayed out on what looked like a concrete floor, and he did not look good.
"I think he's hurt. He's definitely not moving."
"Good," Joey said. "He fall down the stairs?"
"There are no stairs." Agnes squinted down into the darkness as the light hit the boy's face.
His eyes stared up at her, dull and fixed.
Agnes screamed, and Rhett scrambled back, stepping in the raspberry sauce, which he began to lick up.
"Oh, God," Agnes said as her throat closed in panic. "Joey, his neck's at a funny angle and his eyes are staring up at me. I think I killed him."
"No, you didn't, honey," Joey said around the traffic noise in the background. "He committed suicide when he attacked an insane woman in the stupid house she bought. I'm almost there. You stay there and don't open that door for anybody."
"He's dead, Joey. I have to call the police." This is bad. This is bad. This is not going to look good.
"The police can't help you with this one," Joey said. "You stay put. I'm gonna get you somebody until we figure this out."
"Some body. Right." Agnes clicked off the phone and looked back down at the dead body in her basement.
He looked pathetic, lying there all broken and dead-eyed. Agnes swallowed, trying to get a grip on the situation.
How are you feeling right now, Agnes?
Shut the fuck up, Dr. Garvin.
Don't say "fuck," Agnes. Angry language makes us angrier.
Gosh darn, Dr. Garvin, I'm feeling ...
She put the beam on the boy again.
Okay, calm down, she told herself. Think this through.
She hadn't killed him, the basement floor had.
You hit him many times in the head with the frying pan — try explaining that one.
Okay, okay, but he'd attacked her in Brenda's house. No, in her house. So it was self-defense. Yes, he was young and pathetic and heartbreaking down there, but he'd been a horrible person.
Why do you always hit them with frying pans, Agnes?
Because that's what I always have in my hand, Dr. Garvin. If I were a gardener, it'd be hedge clippers. Think how bad that would be.
She punched in 911 on her phone, trying to concentrate on the good things: Rhett was fine, her column would be finished soon, Maria's wedding was still on track for that weekend, Two Rivers was hers — well, hers and Taylor's — pretty soon she was going to be living her dream, and her cupcakes were burning but she could make more —
There's a dead body in my basement and I lost my temper and I hit him with a frying pan many times, I was not in control —
"Keyes County Emergency Services," the police dispatcher drawled.
"There's a dead body in my basement," Agnes said, and then her knees gave way and she slid down the cabinet to sit hard on the floor as she tried to explain that the kid had been going to hurt her dog, while Rhett drooled on her lap.
"A deputy is on the way, ma'am," the dispatcher said, as if dead bodies in basements were an every-evening occurrence.
"Thank you." Agnes hung up and looked at Rhett.
"I have to make cupcakes," she said, and he looked encouraging, so she got up to get the blackened cupcakes out of the oven and clean the floor and get back to work, thinking very hard about her column, and Maria's wedding that weekend, and Brenda's beautiful house that was now hers, and everything except the dead body in her basement and the goddamned frying pan.
Shane sat on a bar stool, in a shady nightclub on the wrong side of the tracks in a bad part of Savannah, Georgia, and tried to estimate how many people he was going to have to kill in the next hour. Optimally it would be one, but he had long ago learned that optimism did not apply to his profession. He felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket and pulled it out with his free hand, expecting to see the GO or NO GO text message from Wilson. There were only three people who had his number, and they never called to chat. One of them was across the dance floor from him, which left two options. He glanced at the screen and was surprised to see JOEY.
Jesus. First time ever, and he calls in the middle of a job. Shane hesitated for a moment, then thought, Hell, you gave him the number for emergencies, and hit the ON button. "Uncle Joe?"
"Shane, you on a job?"
"Where you at?"
"Good," Joey said. "Close. I need you home."
Shane frowned. Home? You send me away at ten and now you want me home? "What's the problem?" he said, keeping his voice cold.
"I got a little friend needs some help. She lives just outside Keyes in the old Two Rivers mansion. Remember it?"
Fucking Keyes, SC. Armpit of the South.
"Come home and take care of my little Agnes, Shane."
You adopt another kid, Joe? Gonna take better care of this one? "I'll be there in an hour."
"I appreciate it." Joey hung up.
Shane pushed the OFF button. Joey needing help taking care of something. That was new. Old man must be getting really old. Calling him home. That was —
"I'm a Leo — and you?"
Shane turned to look at her. Long blonde hair. Bright smile plastered on her pretty face. Pink T-shirt stretched tight across her ample chest with the word Princess embroidered on it in shiny letters. Effective advertising, bad message.
"What's your sign?" she said, coming closer.
"Taurus with a bad moon rising." The hell with Joey. He had a job to do. He looked at the upstairs landing.
Excerpted from Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie, Bob Mayer. Copyright © 2007 Argh Ink and Robert J. Mayer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Jennifer Crusie was researching her dissertation on the differences in the way men and women tell stories when she got sidetracked into writing romance novels.
Her first book was published in 1993 (which pretty much finished off any hope of her getting that PhD) and her twenty-second book, Maybe This Time, came out in August of 2010, all of which she considers a minor miracle, especially since she is also a New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author and a two-time Rita award winner.
BOB MAYER is a former Green Beret and the USA Today bestselling author of thirty-two novels under his own name and the pen names Robert Doherty and Greg Donegan. He has over two million books in print.
- Date of Birth:
- Place of Birth:
- B.A., Bowling Green State University, 1973; M.A., Wright State University; Ph.D., Ohio University, 1986
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I never quite understood the concept of a "favorite book" that you read AT LEAST once a year or your life isn't worth living. Until, that is, I found this little slice of indulgence. Best five bucks I ever spent on a book! This is one of those books with a sense of humor and a vibrant personality. It is by turns hilarious, sassy, obnoxious, crude, sweet and sinfully vindictive with a side of butter. And forget trying to cook dinner and read this book at the same time, multi-tasking is near-impossible with this book in your hand. You'll devour the pages like a pint of Caramel Pecan Perfection high-fat ice cream and read it through the fire alarm and the scent of charred something; dinner be damned. You know you want take-out and wine anyway.
I loved this book so much! I read it in a day because I couldn't put it down. There were times when I would laugh out loud and end up reading that part over again because I thought it was so funny. I love Jennifer's quick wit and humor, her one liners are the best!
I absolutely love all of Jennifer Crusie's books. However, I like some of the other reviewers, wasn't that impressed with Jennifer/Bob's last book 'Don't Look Down' 'it wasn't bad...it just lacked some of the feminism and great dialogue of her other books.' So I bought this book and then left it sitting for several weeks. I finally sat down and read it and it was fabulous!!!! I loved everything from the storyline, the characters, the dialogue, even the book cover with the flamingos, red checkerboard look of a Betty Crocker Cookbook and the gunshot holes. Great marketing....Hope the next go round is just as fun.
I almost didn't pick this up because I didn't enjoy Don't Look Down, but I am glad I did. This was really exciting, edge of my seat page turning with a insane heroine that you just HAVE to root for. The hitman's not bad either.
Smart, sassy, fast paced. Agnes is the hard gooey center on a roller coaster ride to happiness. This is a go-to book for me whenever I need a pick me up. Gotta love a woman that can multipurpose a cast iron skillet.
Like most other reviewers, I wasn't completely enamored with "Don't Look Down" but AATH was absolutely wonderful! I re-read this book at least once a year and laugh every time I do. Great read!
I have read almost all of Jennifer Crusie's books and really enjoyed her writing style. This is the second book I've read where she co-wrote with Bob Mayer. The first book I read from this collaboration took all I could do to finish the book. I will have to say I did like this one, but wish that J.C wrote it alone. I really liked the main characters in this story. The plot has many twists and turns that make it difficult for you to guess what's coming next. Ultimately, you know what will happen in the end, but the road to get there is full of surprises. Normally, I would really love a book like this, but J.C. has always had great dialogue in her books. In the collaborative books, the dialogue is replace with a little more action and what dialogue there is is FULL of f-bombs and other course language. I expect it from other writers, but not J.C. This left me with a little bit of a "bad taste" in my mouth when I finished. Overall, if you're looking for a good read on a rainy day or at the beach, this will keep your interest. If you've never read Jennifer Crusie, you might love this book. If you're picking it up because you've enjoyed J.C.'s other books, beware! I hope to see more of J.C's independent work in the future.
I'm not finished with the book just yet but hate that I have to put it down to do anything. I'm dying to leave work and get back to it. These authors have done a great job.
Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer made it work this time and work it did. After the disappointing Don't Look Down, I was reluctant to buy this book, but I'm glad I did. The story flowed seamlessly without apprearing to be done by two different authors. The characters were believeable, if slightly eccentric, and the humor was pure Crusie. This was a great read and will keep me looking forward to the next one.
Buy it. Read it. Share it.
Out of all the books that Jennifer and Bob have written together, I have to tell you THIS one is the only one I think is worth reading. Not only reading once, but also re-reading repeatedly! I don’t know how many times I have re-read this book, and I’m still as in love with the story and the characters as I am the very first time I read it! This is a sexy, funny, mysterious read and a bit of a roller-coaster ride. This is a story containing major deceptions, weddings, food, murder, frustrations, obsessions, the ‘Mob”, hope and out and out hate. Agnes Crandall is a food writer and wields a mighty frying pan. Sometimes that frying pan is used for purposes other than it was intended; like whacking someone over the head if they tick Agnes off. Perhaps this is one reason why she is known in the newspaper business as “Cranky Agnes”. Shane is asked by his Uncle to come back and watch over his ‘Little Agnes” after someone tries to dognap her bloodhound and accidentally gets killed in the process. Shane is a hit man, but whom does he work for? And how much does he owe his Uncle and just why is his next hit apparently in the same town as Agnes? What is his boss Wilson hiding? The team of Cruise and Mayer’s write flawlessly speaking in two voices, yet written so subtlety that I am still not sure as to who is writing what. The characters, ALL of them, are fully fleshed and grow during the telling of the story. The story itself has a lovely flow to it combining the best of comedy and mystery. Those who deserve the ‘happily ever after’ get one and the characters that don’t …well you’ll just have to read the book!
Like the characters and am okay with thezaney plot. However the action is not taut...maybe because there are two authors. Bodies really pile up so you have to suspend disbelief. Its supposed to be light hearted comedy a la stephanie plum, but misses the mark.
I liked this one. It's witty and the characters are off-beat funny. The mystery storyline was often missing a bit of who and why and mostly predictable except for just one part that I hadn't expected. The author seems to have a thing for butter in this one and the drawn out very descriptive pages of breakfast meals got annoying and as with her other stories she has to put a dog in the mix for some reason I haven't figured out. This was still another quick and enjoyable read from this author.
This is one of my favorite books. It had me laughing from begining to end! Love the strong female characters and crazy ones, plus the male charecters are funny too! This is a must read.
If you are looking for a funny, romantic read....THIS IS IT!
Definately one of my favorite books by Jennifer Crusie.
I love to read and when I hit college age I needed to find more types of books to read. This is when I came by Jennifer Crusie. I instantly fell in love with the characters in her books and this is my absolute favorite. I did not think that I would ever find a book that made me love reading more than I do. This book surpassed all other books I had read. Her characters are so easy to all in love with and this story line will make you laugh until your sides hurt. Of all the books I have read, this is the one I can reread anytime. I also think this book would make a great movie.
I love the balance between these two writers, i've read all they have co-written that I know of and would definitely keep an eye out for another co-authored release for them. LOVED it!