Finlay Donovan Is Killing It | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐
"Finlay Donovan is killing it...except, she’s really not. A stressed-out single mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: The new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written; her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her; and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.
When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet. She soon discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation."
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first novel in the mystery series, Finlay Donovan, by Elle Cosimano.
"Finlay Donovan is killing it...except, she's really not." Words I can relate to because I did not end up enjoying this book as much as I was expecting to, or at all really. The only Finlay killed for me was my mood and my patience for her.
I went into this book expecting a charming and witty mystery with light comedy elements, which is not at all what I ended up getting. That being said though, I will partly blame my unenjoyment of this book due to those expectations that were not lived up to, as it ended up affecting my experience. The other half though, well, that's purely on the content of the book.
Let's get into the details.
I honestly don't really have much to say about the writing. Despite the fact that I didn't enjoy the book, it wasn't difficult to get through since the author's prose was rather simple.
This is a premise that, while simple, I find is really easy to mess up. A woman overhears the protagonist talking about making a hit on someone, and makes the (wrong) assumption that they are a hitwoman and asks for them to take out their husband. Again, an interesting and fun-sounding concept, but one that didn't hit the mark for me.
I wanted for this book to lean into the concept in a chaotic way, but also in a fun way, because the chaos I got was not the good kind. Finlay, as I will get more into in the characters section, was an absolute mess of a person who bumbled her way through her situation. I think it would have been a lot more impactful if the author focused more on the 'what would you do for money' idea, and made Finlay more of a morally grey character.
But she didn't, and what I got was Finlay digging herself a hole that got bigger over time, and I just wasn't here for it. I also just found the story to be rather convenient because for not once second did I believe that Finlay would have actually gotten away with anything she did in this. For how messy the ride was, it was just too clean of an outcome.
One aspect of the plot that I also did not enjoy was the addition of a budding romance, two to be specific. First of all, this story just didn't need one, and secondly, I didn't really like how Finlay bounced between two guys. Not that I am saying she can't be in a healthy relationship with more than one person, but that isn't exactly what is happening here. It felt more like she was using them rather than genuinely having a connection with them.
As you can already tell, I did not like Finlay. At first, I was a bit intrigued because you don't get many characters who are single moms, but that intrigue died out real quick. She was an absolute mess of a character, which I can get because she is down on her luck, but it messy in an unlikable way.
As I said earlier, she just fumbled her way through her situation and just got lucky most of the time. She was also very naïve, which I didn't like specifically because, as an author, she had been conducting research, so she really shouldn't have been as clueless and clumsy and incompetent as she was. She also decided to write her book based on what was happening which...honestly just blew my mind because of how moronic that was.
Another issue I had with her is that her motivations and actions were very wishy-washy. I wanted her to commit to the bit, which she didn't, and instead just kept floundering around trying to figure out how to make things right (while simultaneously making very bad decisions to do so). If she really needed that money in order to pay off her bills and keep her kids, I would have liked to see more conviction from her.
If she truly was thinking about her kids, she would have either gone in full force, or not at all, but she did neither which made me question her motivations a bit. I also ended up questioning them in general because, while she says she is trying to protect her children, we don't actually get to know her much as a mom. In my mind, if you have that as her motivation, you need to actually establish a relationship between her and her kids, and not just have them in the background.
Moving onto the only thing I liked about this book, we have Vero, the babysitter turned accomplice. Vero was the complete opposite of Finlay, being level-headed, rational, and competent. I.e., she is exactly what I wanted Finlay to be. She committed to the bid and struck through it all because she knew, unlike Finlay, that what they are doing is criminal and there is no turning back, only moving forward.
This was Will I continue with this series, most likely not? I think that I have had my fill of Finlay. I will say though, if there is ever a spin-off following Vero instead, I may be inclined to reconsider.
Now, if you, like me, were expecting this to be wittier than it ended up being, I would suggest you try out Castle instead. I say this partly because I am currently re-watching the series, but also because it really hits the spot when it comes to murder mysteries with likable witty characters. I have not yet read the book series though, but my mom says it is just as witty.