Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure (Tara Holloway Series #1)

Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure (Tara Holloway Series #1)

by Diane Kelly

NOOK BookFirst Edition (eBook - First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429995610
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Series: Tara Holloway Series , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 81,950
File size: 581 KB

About the Author

Diane Kelly is a tax attorney by day, writer by night. A recipient of the 2009 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, she has received more than two dozen RWA chapter awards. Diane's fiction, tax and humor pieces have appeared in True Love Magazine, Writer's Digest Yearbook, Romance Writers Report, Byline Magazine, and other publications. Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure is her first mystery novel, with more in the series to come.

Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. The first book in Diane’s IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, received a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Book #2, Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte, won a Reviewers Choice award. Diane has combined her fascination with law enforcement and her love of animals in her K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series.

Read an Excerpt

Death, Taxes, and A French Manicure

By Diane Kelly

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2011 Diane Kelly
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9561-0


Some People Just Need Shooting

When I was nine, I formed a Silly Putty pecker for my Ken doll, knowing he'd have no chance of fulfilling Barbie's needs given the permanent state of erectile dysfunction with which the toy designers at Mattel had cursed him. I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor's Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me.

"He's getting him some," they'd said.

"Some what?" I'd asked.


We watched through the barbed-wire fence until the strange ordeal was over. Frankly, the process looked somewhat uncomfortable for the cow, who continued to chew her cud throughout the entire encounter. But when the bull dismounted, nuzzled her chin, and wandered away, I swore I saw a smile on that cow's face and a look of quiet contentment in her eyes. She was in love.

I'd been in search of that same feeling for myself ever since.

* * *

My partner and I had spent the afternoon huddled at a cluttered desk in the back office of an auto parts store perusing the owner's financial records, searching for evidence of tax fraud. Yeah, you got me. I work for the IRS. Not exactly the kind of career that makes a person popular at cocktail parties. But those brave enough to get to know me learn I'm actually a nice person, fun even, and they have nothing to fear. I have better things to do than nickel-and-dime taxpayers whose worst crime was inflating the value of the Glen Campbell albums they donated to Goodwill.

"I'll be right back, Tara." My partner smoothed the front of his starched white button-down as he stood from the folding chair. Eddie Bardin was tall, lean, and African-American, but having been raised in the upper-middle-class, predominately white Dallas suburbs, he had a hard time connecting to his roots. He'd had nothing to overcome, unless you counted his affinity for Phil Collins's music, Heineken beer, and khaki chinos, tastes that he had yet to conquer. Eddie was more L.L. Bean than LL Cool J.

I nodded to Eddie and tucked an errant strand of my chestnut hair behind my ear. Turning back to the spreadsheet in front of me, I flicked aside the greasy burger and onion ring wrappers the store's owner, Jack Battaglia, had left on the desk after lunch. I couldn't make heads or tails out of the numbers on the page. Battaglia didn't know jack about keeping books and, judging from his puny salaries account, he'd been too cheap to hire a professional.

A few seconds after Eddie left the room, the door to the office banged open. Battaglia loomed in the doorway, his husky body filling the narrow space. He wore a look of purpose and his store's trademark bright green jumpsuit, the cheerful color at odds with the open box cutter clutched in his furry-knuckled fist.

"Hey!" Instinctively, I leaped from my seat, the metal chair falling over behind me and clanging to the floor.

Battaglia lunged at me. My heart whirled in my chest. There was no time to pull my gun. The best I could do was throw out my right arm to deflect his attempt to plunge the blade into my jugular. The sharp blade slid across my forearm, just above my wrist, but with so much adrenaline rocketing through my system, I felt no immediate pain. If not for the blood seeping through the sleeve of my navy nylon raid jacket, I wouldn't have even known I'd been cut. Underneath was my favorite pink silk blouse, a coup of a find on the clearance rack at Neiman Marcus Last Call, now sliced open, the blood-soaked material gaping to reveal a short but deep gash.

My jaw clamped tighter than a chastity belt on a pubescent princess. This jerk was going down.

My block had knocked him to the side. Taking advantage of our relative positioning, I threw a roundhouse kick to Battaglia's stomach, my steel-toed cherry-red Dr. Martens sinking into his soft paunch. The shoes were the perfect combination of utility and style, another great find at a two-for-one sale at the Galleria.

The kick didn't take the beer-bellied bastard out of commission, but at least it sent him backward a few feet, putting a little more distance between us. A look of surprise flashed across Battaglia's face as he stumbled backward. He clearly hadn't expected a skinny, five-foot-two-inch bookish woman to put up such a fierce fight.


He regained his footing just as I yanked my Glock from my hip holster. I pointed the gun at his face, a couple drops of blood running down my arm and dropping to the scuffed gray tile floor. "Put the box cutter down."

He stiffened, his face turning purple with fury. "Shit. IRS agents carry guns now?"

Although people were familiar with tax auditors, the concept of a special agent — a tax cop — eluded most. But we'd been busting tax cheats for decades. Heck, when no other law enforcement agency could get a charge to stick, we were the ones to finally bring down Al Capone. And if we could nab a tough guy like Capone, this pudgy twerp didn't stand a chance.

By our best estimate, Battaglia had cheated the federal government and honest Americans out of at least eighty grand and didn't seem too happy when Eddie and I'd shown up to collect. Now, with my partner on a potty break, Battaglia was treating me like I was a shrimp and he was a chef at Benihana.

The madman sneered at me, revealing teeth yellowed by age and excessive soda consumption. He waved the blade in the air. "If you shoot me, you better shoot to kill. 'Cause if you don't, I'm gonna carve you like a pumpkin."

My gunmetal-gray-blue eyes bored into Battaglia's. "Daddy had a strict rule about firearms. Anything we killed we had to eat. No amount of barbecue sauce would make a hairy guy like you palatable."

He raised the box cutter higher. Now that just burned me up. He didn't think I'd do it. He was wrong. Still, I'd only shoot as a last resort. Not because I was some kind of bleeding heart. There was just too much paperwork involved. Besides, gunplay was hell on a manicure and I'd just had my fingers freshly French-tipped yesterday.

Since threats hadn't worked, I decided to try persuasion. "Look. If I shoot you, I'll have to fill out a form. I hate filling out forms."

He snorted and rolled his eyes. "You hate filling out forms and you took a job with the IRS? What are you, some kind of idiot?"

So much for my powers of persuasion. Now I was beyond burned up. Now I was hot and bothered. "Drop the box cutter, you sorry son of a bitch."

There I went again, exposing my country roots. Growing up in the rural east Texas town of Nacogdoches, I was taught how to curse a blue streak by my brothers. But now I was a sophisticated city girl living in Dallas, a member of the Junior League, and I needed to act like it. Problem was, this jerk was making it hard to remember my manners.

Battaglia lunged again, a green blubbery blur coming right at me. I ducked aside just in time to avoid being slashed again and hollered for my partner. Eddie appeared in the doorway, spotted the box cutter, and took a running leap onto Battaglia's back. Battaglia outweighed Eddie by a good hundred pounds. He managed to stay on his feet, but with Eddie riding him his focus shifted from slicing me to shreds to shedding the tall guy playing horsey with him. It was just the opportunity I needed. I took aim.


The bullet hit the blade of the box cutter, sending it flying out of Battaglia's hand. Battaglia let out a throat-searing scream, barely audible over the ringing in my ears from the gun blast. Eddie screamed too, but I wouldn't embarrass him later by pointing it out. Eddie slid off the man's back and I slid my gun back into the holster. A foot hooked behind the ankles, an elbow jammed into the solar plexus, and the guy fell on his butt with a fwump. Ta-da!

Eddie yanked Battaglia's arms behind him and slapped cuffs onto his wrists. Click-click. After rolling Battaglia onto his side, he stood over him, his gun pointed at Battaglia's head.

I took a deep, calming breath. With Battaglia now immobilized, the adrenaline waned and the hurt kicked in full force. Yee-ow! The cut pulsed with a raw, prickly pain. I gritted my teeth and checked my manicure. My index fingernail was chipped. Damn. Should've killed the asshole when I had the chance.

Eddie must've seen me wince, because he trotted back to the tiny bathroom across the hall and returned with a stack of white paper towels from the dispenser, pressing them firmly to my forearm. A few seconds later, he lifted the towels and peeked under them. "Looks like you'll live. Besides, experiences like this build character."

As if. "Right."

Sure, Eddie talked tough, but I'd seen his face when he noticed the blood on my arm, that flash of alarm and concern. He wasn't fooling me.

Eddie jerked his head at Battaglia. "You want the honors?"

"Hell, yeah." I reached into the pocket of my raid jacket and pulled out the black wallet that held my creds. I finagled a laminated card out of the wallet — my rookie cheat sheet. Stepping directly in front of Battaglia, I read from it, making a conscious effort to control my natural Southern twang. "You have the right to remain silent."

Battaglia glared up at me from the floor. "Screw you, bitch."

"I said you have the right to remain silent." I waved the card at him. "Nowhere on here does it say you have the right to be an obnoxious dipshit."

Not only are steel-toed shoes great for kicking, they also serve as effective gag devices. When Battaglia opened his foul mouth again, I shoved the toe of my shoe into it. The Treasury's special agent manual didn't exactly recommend this technique as standard operating procedure, but when you're in the field sometimes you have to improvise. Battaglia struggled on the floor, gagging and whipping his head from side to side in a futile attempt to dislodge the shoe wedged between his lips. I rattled off the remaining Miranda warnings, slid the card back into the wallet, and removed my shoe from Battaglia's mouth.

"Let's get him out of here." Eddie jerked the man to his feet and pushed him out the door of his office and onto the sales floor of the auto parts store. I followed, stopping briefly to wipe the saliva from the toe of my shoe with a chamois displayed at the end of aisle three. Eddie pushed Battaglia forward, his gun shoved into the man's right kidney.

We squeezed past a teenage boy wearing saggy jeans, a Nickelback concert Tshirt, and a metal hoop through his left eyebrow. He turned to us and held up a package. "This the right spark plug for a '72 El Camino?"

"Nah, kid," Battaglia said as Eddie forced him past. "You want the one on the top shelf."

A bewildered female clerk looked on as I called the U.S. Marshal's office from my cell phone and Eddie kept a gun trained on her boss, sitting against the front wall like a naughty schoolboy. After I finished the call, I stole a look under the paper towels to see if the cut on my arm had stopped bleeding. Almost.

When the marshals arrived, Eddie gave them the rundown. One of the men eyed me with something akin to hero worship. "You shot a box cutter out of his hand? Really?"

"Yep." I forced a smile. True, I was a great shot. But what wasn't great was that I'd occasion to prove it. Just because we special agents were trained to handle weapons didn't mean we could use them willy-nilly. Any use of force deemed excessive or unnecessary could lead to dire consequences. Reprimands. Desk jobs. Dismissal.

After the marshals hauled Battaglia away, Eddie gathered up the store's records, stuffed them into two cardboard boxes we found in the storeroom, and carried them out to my BMW. He dropped the boxes into the trunk and slammed it closed.

I put a hand on Eddie's arm. "Eddie?"

My partner glanced down at my hand, then up at me. My concerns must have been written on my face because Eddie said, "You had to use your gun, Tara. There's no way we could've wrestled the weapon out of Battaglia's hand. Not with the way he was carrying on."


He nodded. "Really."

I released my grip on his arm. "Thanks."


It was comforting to know Eddie was on my side, sure, but his words failed to totally reassure me.

Eddie and I climbed into my car. From my purse I retrieved my sunglasses, a stylish tortoiseshell pair with silver-plated scrollwork earpieces, Brighton knockoffs. I slid them on, glancing over at Eddie. "Want to go topless?"

"Sure. We could use the fresh air." He pushed up the sleeves on his raid jacket. "Besides, I gotta work on my tan."

"Yeah, right." The guy was already the color of hot chocolate and, when he wasn't being a smart-ass, could be just as sweet.

I pushed the button to lower the Beamer's black vinyl top. The motor whirred as the top folded back, letting in the already warm early March air. In north Texas, spring starts around Valentine's Day and wraps up by Easter. Then we have eight months of summer, maybe a month each of fall and winter, and head right back into warmer weather. Not that I was complaining. The warm weather gave me plenty of opportunity to drive with the top down on my convertible Electric Red 325Ci.

On a government salary, I'd never be able to afford one of these babies brandnew. This particular car had been seized by the Treasury Department to satisfy delinquent taxes owed by some deadbeat who thought the feds wouldn't catch up with him. Surprise! His loss was my gain. I'd bought the car for a song last month when the government auctioned it off.

Eddie glanced over at me, our little moment now over, his smart-ass side back in business. "Who would have gotten this cherry car if Battaglia had managed to kill you today?"

"Shut up, Eddie."

"I'm just asking. Any chance your partner is mentioned in your will?" He cocked his head and flashed a toothy, hopeful smile.

My grip involuntarily tightened on the steering wheel. "What part of 'shut up' did you not understand?"

I knew Eddie was only trying to make light of the situation in his own goofy way, but the truth was Battaglia could have put an end to our lives today.

And it scared the hell out of me.

Sure, I could pull off the tough-chick routine, but when it really came down to it I enjoyed being alive and preferred to stay that way. A little danger kept the blood pumping, but getting killed was something I could live without. Especially when everything in my closet was so last season, nothing I wanted to be buried and spend eternity in.

I reached down to turn on the stereo, tuned it to my favorite country station, and cranked up the volume to drown out that voice in my head telling me that maybe I should prepare a will, just in case I wasn't so lucky next time. The voice was also warning me I'd be in big trouble once I got back to the office. I revved the engine, exited the parking lot, and headed back to headquarters.

When my boss found out I'd fired my gun, she'd kick my ass. But what can I say? Some people just need shooting.


A Case of My Own

Viola, the longtime secretary for Criminal Investigations, shook her gray curls and reached across her cheap metal desk to take the form from me. She glanced at the paper, her brow furrowing when she noted the caption. "A firearm discharge?"

"Sorry. Believe me, I hate paperwork as much as you do."

Viola shot me a skeptical look over the top of her bifocals.

Treasury Department procedures require special agents to file a report any time they discharge a firearm. My superiors would have to investigate the incident, make sure the shooting was justified. I wasn't looking forward to my interrogation. There was no telling how things would turn out when the director of field operations and internal affairs reviewed the facts. My instinctive reactions, decisions made in the heat of the moment and driven by fear and adrenaline, would be examined under a microscope, second-guessed, analyzed to death. Hell, the nightly news ran stories all the time about cops raked over the coals for using their Tasers or shooting criminals who'd resisted arrest or pulled a weapon. Some of the officers faced criminal charges themselves for the shootings. If their defense attorneys could whip out a loaded handgun and aim it at the jurors, no doubt fewer cops would be indicted. Maybe I should bring a box cutter to my hearing, rush at the men who'd decide my fate, give them a small taste of what I'd just gone through. Then again, I'd never get a box cutter through building security. Only officially issued weapons were allowed inside.

Viola stamped the form with today's date, added it to a stack of documents to be copied and routed, and turned her eyes back on me. "So? What happened?"


Excerpted from Death, Taxes, and A French Manicure by Diane Kelly. Copyright © 2011 Diane Kelly. 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had the good fortune to meet this author and get to ask her lots of questions. She was a delight. I loved this book and am half way through the second book in her serIes. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a book with a bit of humor, a bit of Intrigue and some action. It would be great for a book club which is where I found it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
IRS Agent Tara Holloway works white collar tax frauds. Her small town kick butt Texas attitude works great when dealing with violent Dallas offenders. Working a case with agent Eddie Bardin, she is forced to fire her gun at menacing felon Battaglia, shooting a box cutter knife from his hand. Thus in spite of her cut arm, she earns the rep of Annie Oakley. Tara's boss Lu "Lobo" Lobozinksi assigns her first solo task to investigate a granny complaint that ice-cream truck salesman Joseph "Joe Cool" Cullen failed to report his profits from selling illegal drugs to teenagers. Her other major inquiry is much more complex than a drug dealer. She scrutinizes the dealings of financier Michael Gryder and banker Stan Shelton, who appear to be running a Ponzi scheme. The problem is her best friend Brett Ellington is Shelton's landscaper. The first exciting Tara Holloway IRS investigative tale is an entertaining story that stars a tomboyish mascara wearing noir heroine who appreciates a French manicure. The story line is lighthearted fun as Tara works the Dallas beat along with other agents. Although some readers may dislike the wisecracking asides especially when facing danger; the story line is filled with humor and satire as the IRS does not care whether the gains are legal only that Sam collects its share. Harriet Klausner
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
From the first page to the last this was pure white trash. Not the kind that involves lawn implements, although a pink flamingo made a cameo appearance, but the kind that involves Kid Rock concerts, sucking on Buds, with half-naked women prancing around on stage and gyrating in cages with red thongs protecting the merchandise. Well, maybe not that extreme, but it felt pretty darn close, with red thongs and polka-dotted panties receiving more than just a cursory mention. Tara and Christina would make any redneck proud with sprayed hair at its fizziest max, derriere showing shorts, tube tops, spandex, and enough makeup for the stage. Both come with enough spunk and junk-in-the-trunk to chase away scam artists and pencil-thin drug dealers. The antics left zany in Pinky’s rearview mirror, the ice cream was always plentiful, and even the ones with money ended up being whores and miscreants. Britney and Chelsea proved to be the kind of women that made other trophy wives look good, with their ample, enhanced assets, bottled-blond hair, tight miniskirts, and enough drunken antics to rival certain childhood actresses, crotch flashing and yelling at the gardeners in nothing more than a pair of panties, after sleeping one off, notwithstanding. But the voice was what really made DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE work for me. The following is how the character first learns about sex (at the age of nine): I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor’s Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me. “He’s getting him some,” they’d said. “Some what?” I’d asked. “Nooky.” The mystery may have been a bit underdeveloped, the characters totally off-the-wall, and the frolics tipped my believability factor a bit over the edge, but Tara’s voice was friggin’ fantastic, and that’s most certainly why I kept reading. If you like your mystery romps trashy and larger than life (this is Texas after all), you may just find yourself enjoying this screwy read. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stumbled upon this book by accident but the title really caught my attention! I enjoyed the characters because none are "too perfect" to be believable! A great mix of humor and mystery! I'm a big Stephanie Plum fan but Tara Holloway may be my new female detective! So glad I read it! It was a fun read!
BeckyMcF More than 1 year ago
Since I have not read a mystery with an IRS agent as the protagonist and I was intrigued that all of the books in this series start with "Death, Taxes, and....", I bought book #1. There were a lot of things I definitely liked about the story, including Tara's DEA partner, Christina. I will read another book in the series, but it made me realize that I am a cozy reader mystery at heart. I found myself skipping over the bedroom scenes, because I find those details unnecessary to the telling of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this series by accident. I have to say I love the first book, getting ready to read the second book, and I am sure I will buy the third one too! I usually read James Patterson style books. This was a great diversion, a happy quick read. Well worth the time and money spent! I love this author!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LPDM222 More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have ready by Diane Kelly and it won't be my last. I read a lot so I don't know how I missed this author. I really enjoyed the book: it was entertaining and made me laugh out loud. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
mfsan More than 1 year ago
This was a good, light book to kill some time. It was easy to read and funny - a good break from the more intense murder-mysteries I usually read. I will probably read more from this author when I am in the right mood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Especially loved it being from Dallas too. Fun read. Anxious to read next in series!