From the Publisher
“As usual, the pace is quick without being frenetic, and the breezy narrative style is perfection--fun and sexy without being over the top.” RT Book Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND EXTRA-HOLD HAIRSPRAY
“This is a rollicking adventure that will have you rooting for the IRS for once--and you won't want to put it down until you find out how Tara will overcome all the obstacles in her way. Keep turning those pages--you'll love every second as you try to find out!” Reader To Reader Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND EXTRA-HOLD HAIRSPRAY
“If you've never read one of Diane Kelly's Tara Holloway novels, I strongly recommend that you rectify the situation immediately. The series has gotten better with every single installment, and I'd be shocked if you didn't see these characters gracing your television screen before too long (USA and HBO, I'm looking in your direction). Get on board now so you can say you knew Tara Holloway when.” The Season for Romance on DEATH, TAXES, AND EXTRA-HOLD HAIRSPRAY
“Diane Kelly knows how to rock the romance, and roll the story right into a delightful mix of high drama with great characters.” The Reading Reviewer on DEATH, TAXES, AND EXTRA-HOLD HAIRSPRAY
“Readers will find Kelly's protagonist a kindred spirit to Stephanie Plum: feisty and tenacious, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Tara is flung into some unnerving situations, including encounters with hired thugs, would-be muggers, and head lice. The laughs lighten up the scary bits, and the nonstop action and snappy dialogue keep the standard plot moving along at a good pace.” RT Book Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“Readers should be prepared for a laugh fest. The writer is first class and there is a lot of humor contained in this series. It is a definite keeper.” Night Owl Romance on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“A quirky, fun tale that pulls you in with its witty heroine and outlandish situations… You'll laugh at Tara's predicaments, and cheer her on as she nearly single-handedly tackles the case.” Romance Reviews Today on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“It is hard not to notice a sexy CPA with a proclivity for weapons. Kelly's sophomore series title…has huge romance crossover appeal.” Library Journal on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“An exciting, fun new mystery series with quirky characters and a twist…Who would have ever guessed IRS investigators could be so cool! ” Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“Kelly's novel is off to a fast start and never slows down. There is suspense but also laugh out loud moments. If you enjoy Stephanie Plum in the Evanovich novels you will love Tara Holloway! ” Reader to Reader Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“Diane Kelly gives the reader an action packed thriller bursting at the seams with humor.” Single Titles on DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE
“Keep your eye on Diane Kelly--her writing is tight, smart and laugh-out-loud funny.” Kristan Higgins, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“A hilarious, sexy, heart-pounding ride, that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Tara Holloway is the IRS's answer to Stephanie Plum--smart, sassy, and so much fun. Kelly's debut has definitely earned her a spot on my keeper shelf!” New York Times bestselling author Gemma Halliday on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“The subject of taxation usually makes people cry, but prepare to laugh your assets off with Diane Kelly's hilarious debut.” Jana DeLeon, author of the Ghost-in-Law series, on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“Quirky, sexy, and downright fabulous. Zany characters you can't help but love, and a plot that will knock your socks off. This is the most fun I've had reading in forever!” New York Times bestselling author Christie Craig on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“With a quirky cast of characters, snappy dialogue, and a Bernie Madoff style pyramid scheme–hunting down tax cheats has never added up to so much fun!” Robin Kaye, award-winning author of The Domestic Gods series, on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“Kudos to debut author Diane Kelly, who brings a fresh, new voice and raucous humor to the market. I can't wait to read the next book in the Tara Holloway series!” Angela Cavener, Indie Book Award Finalist and author of Operation: Afterlife, on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“Tara Holloway is Gin Bombay's BFF, or would be if they knew each other. Kelly's novel is smart, sexy and funny enough to make little girls want to be IRS agents when they grow up!” Leslie Langtry, author of the Bombay assassins mystery series, on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“This totally terrific debut is better than a refund check from the IRS!” Reader to Reader Reviews on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“Part romance, part thriller, and part comedic mystery, it's just the thing to help keep you warm on a chilly autumn night.” The Maine Suspect on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“Who knew the IRS was so sexy?” The Alcalde on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
“With her quirky humour and incredibly witty aside jokes, Diane Kelly has created a real winner and a star for her debut…series. Kelly's plot is filled with belligerent and bad ass characters and dicey situations that will keep you turning the pages to see how it all turns out.” Fresh Fiction on DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE
Read an Excerpt
At two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon in early February I spent a full minute pulling forward and back, forward and back, trying to maneuver my plain white government sedan into a space at the curb. I could put a bullet into a bull’s-eye at three hundred yards, but I’d never mastered the art of parallel parking.
My partner cut his brown eyes my way. Eddie was tall, talented, and tough, a black father of two and a political conservative, more Clint Eastwood than Kanye West. Though he said nothing, his expression spoke for him. It said, Wow. You really suck at this.
I cut my gray-blue eyes back at him, hoping he’d read the reply contained therein, which was, Pffft.
“Close enough,” I muttered, turning off the engine. The car sat farther than the recommended six to eight inches from the curb, but if Dallas PD issued me a ticket I could pull rank and get it dismissed. Working for Uncle Sam definitely had some benefits.
We climbed out of the car, made our way up onto the sidewalk, and pulled open the glass door that led into Doggie Style. Nope, the place wasn’t a sex shop. It was a pet groomer. Get your mind out of the gutter. Or at least six to eight inches from the gutter.
An alarm on the door announced our arrival with a short, sharp beep.
The place was small and smelled like a rank yet refreshing mix of wet dog and oranges, probably from some type of citrus-based flea shampoo. A pegboard along the side wall displayed an assortment of bows, collars, barrettes, and other fashion accessories for pets. A bulletin board on the back wall featured snapshots of the groomer’s kitty and canine clientele in cute costumes, including a white poodle in a pink tutu and a brown tabby in army fatigues. A notation under the cat’s photo identified him as Chairman Meow.
Eddie eyed the photos. “Dressing up your pet? That’s just wrong.”
“I think it’s cute.”
An open door behind the service counter led to the groomer’s workspace. Through the door we could see an elevated table currently occupied by a golden-red chow. A nooselike apparatus hung from a pole, encircling his fluffy neck and immobilizing him. A big-boned woman with a blond ponytail circled the dog, examining him closely, occasionally reaching out with the clippers to perfect his lion cut. Bzz. Bzz. Something tiny, black, and furry peered up from a pillow in the corner, opening its mouth in a wide, pink yawn. Being adorable was exhausting.
“Be right there!” the woman barked without looking up.
Why was I here? Because I worked as a criminal investigator for the IRS and the groomer had not only shaved dogs and cats but had shaved well over a hundred thousand off her reported earnings as well. The audit department had issued an assessment, but Hilda Gottschalk had refused to pay up. On three separate occasions, an agent from the collections department had come by and seized the contents of the cash register, netting a mere two hundred dollars for his efforts. Not an efficient process, obviously.
Hilda still owed thirty grand and was making no attempts to settle her tax bill. The IRS had put a lien on her house and levied the small balance in her checking account, but it was clear the woman was hiding her cash somewhere, like a dog hiding a bone, secreting it to savor later.
When the collections department had no luck tracking down her hidden profits, they’d booted the case over to criminal investigations. That’s where I came in. I’m Special Agent Tara Holloway, a law enforcement agent for the IRS, a tax cop if you will. I had the same powers as the collections agents to seize assets, but I also had a gun, handcuffs, and the legal right to kick tax-evader ass. Often, when cases were escalated to criminal investigations, tax cheats finally realized their days of playing games were over. Many cooperated at that point. A few, however, chose to go down fighting.
I hoped Hilda wouldn’t be the latter type. I had front-row seats for a concert tonight and I’d prefer to save my energy for dancing to the tunes of my favorite country crossover star.
The mere thought of his name made me want to sigh and swoon and shine his belt buckle with my panties. Yep, I had it bad for the guy. A major celebrity crush that would put any tweener with Bieber fever to shame.
Hilda removed the noose from the dog’s head. With a grunt, she lifted the big beast from the table, set him on the floor, and led him to a large cage to await his owner’s return.
Clippers still in hand, she stepped into the foyer, her hazel eyes flicking to Eddie before meeting mine. “What can I do for you?”
Might as well cut to the chase. I needed the rest of the afternoon to primp and preen and wax my upper lip. “You can tell us where you’ve hidden your assets.”
Hilda frowned as she took in the badges Eddie and I held up. “Who the hell are you?”
“Special Agents Tara Holloway and Eddie Bardin,” I said. “We’re from IRS criminal investigations. Your case has been escalated.” Saying her case had been escalated was the polite way of letting her know she was in deep doo-doo.
She crossed her arms over her chest, flicking the clippers on and off with her thumb. Bzz. Bzz. “You can’t make me talk.”
Ugh. So that’s how she wanted to play this, huh?
I put a hand on my waist and pushed back my blazer, revealing the Glock holstered at my waist. Her eyes went to my gun and back to my face. The expression in them read, Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Her eyes were very ill-mannered.
Eddie chimed in. “The government means business, Miss Gottschalk. Either you tell us where your assets are or you go to jail.”
She seemed to ponder his words for a moment, clicking the clippers on and off once more—bzz-bzz—before glancing back into the workroom. “I can’t leave these dogs here.”
Eddie cocked his head. “You won’t have to if you tell us where you’ve hidden your cash.”
Bzz. Bzz. She looked the two of us over as if sizing us up. She had a good six inches over my five-feet-two-inch frame and, with her stout build, likely weighed as much as Eddie. Still, there were two of us and only one of her. Neener-neener.
“All right,” she said finally. “I’ve got some cash in my safe in the back room.”
“Got anything else in that safe?” A gun, perhaps? I’d learned—the hard way—never to assume someone would be unarmed.
“That’s for me to know!” she called out in a snarky, singsong voice. “And you to find out!”
I rolled my eyes. What did she think this was, a third-grade playground spat?
Eddie and I followed her to the back room. I glanced around. The black puppy was curled up in a tiny ball on his pillow now, snoozing away. The floor in front of the porcelain tub glistened with water droplets, having yet to dry after the chow had taken his bath. Clumps of reddish-gold dog hair lay on the floor around the grooming table.
Hilda led us to a small storage closet in the corner and pointed at the door. “The safe is in there.”
“I’ll open it,” Eddie said.
That meant I’d be standing guard, making sure Hilda didn’t pull a fast one. You might think it would’ve been better to have Eddie on guard, but you’d be wrong, even if you are one of those geniuses who knows how to parallel park. Eddie was bigger and stronger than me, sure, but he didn’t have my quick-draw gun skills. They didn’t call me the Annie Oakley of the IRS for nothing. I put a hand on the butt of my gun, ready for action.
Eddie opened the door to the closet. A stack of white towels sat on the top shelf, bottles of pet shampoo on the next one down. On the floor was a mop bucket. That was it. No safe in sight.
Eddie hadn’t gotten his words out before Hilda lunged toward the back exit door.
Oh, hell, no.
This woman is not getting away.
I sprang toward her and grabbed her thick arm. She flung me aside with little effort. All those years of lifting dogs had given her some solid arm muscles.
“Crap!” I slipped on the wet floor and landed on my butt, my head banging back against the tub. Damn, that hurt! My brain rattled, I sat helpless for a moment as I tried to gather my wits. Unfortunately, my wits were all over the place, like a litter of lively puppies. Before they could be fully corralled, Eddie blocked Hilda’s escape route and she decided to seize the moment and come at me with the clippers.
The clippers buzzed like a ferocious swarm of hornets around my head. Bzzzzz! Bzzzzz! Before I could slap Hilda’s hands away, a harsh tug began at my forehead and ended at the crown of my head. A four-inch strip of my chestnut hair fell into my lap.
“Stop that!” I yelled, leveraging my back against the tub and kicking out at her with my steel-toed shoes.
I landed two solid kicks to her meaty calf but my actions didn’t scare her off. They only seemed to make her madder. She came at me again, her face red and blotchy with anger and adrenaline.
With a primal cry, Eddie grabbed the woman from behind and pulled her away from me, shoving her up against the wall. But it was too late. My hair was now styled in a reverse Mohawk.
I reached up to touch the bald landing strip on my head, igniting in an instant fury. How dare this woman ruin my two-hundred-dollar cut and color! Especially when I’d be meeting Brazos Rivers in person tonight.
My body launched from the floor like a bitch-seeking missile, hurtling toward its target. I body-slammed the woman from behind, smashing her face and torso against the wall. The clippers fell from her hand with a thunk.
On instinct, I yanked my gun from my holster only to shove it back in when I had second thoughts. I’d just recently got back my job with the IRS after being fired for shooting a target four times in the leg. Long story, but suffice it to say the bastard deserved every one of those bullets and then some. Still, I knew that using my gun now would get me in even deeper doo-doo than Hilda Gottschalk. I’d have to even the score some other way. Hmm …
An eye for an eye.
A tooth for a tooth.
A hair for a hair.
Copyright © 2014 by Diane Kelly