Bourke's Bookshelf: ‘Are you really dating an underwear model?’

This week's book feature is the Finlay Donovan series by Elle Cosimano.

Finlay Donovan
Finlay Donovan series by Elle Cosimano.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been so engrossed in a book series that I’ve done very little else until I finish them.

Theresa Bourke headshot

My sister raved about “Finlay Donovan is Killing it” a few weeks ago, so I decided to give it a listen when I needed a new audiobook to occupy my time. After staying up until 2 a.m. to finish it, I did the only thing I could think of. I waited until a socially acceptable waking hour and then recommended it to my reader friends.

I quickly found the sequel, finished it in about two days and then immediately began the third, putting off everything I had to do for the next couple days while I sped through it.

It’s rare that a book actually makes me laugh out loud, but Finlay Donovan — a mystery writer mistaken for a hit woman — and her crazy chaotic life did just that.

Not only was the series funny, but author Elle Cosimano wove intricate mysteries with fantastic twists and turns that kept me wanting more and more. Needless to say, I’m going to be hard-pressed to find something as entertaining while I wait for the fourth book to come out next year.


‘Finlay Donovan is Killing It’ by Elle Cosimano (2021)

Finlay Donovan’s life is falling apart. She’s a single mother with two young kids, trying to make ends meet after her recent divorce. The neighborhood busybody caught Finlay’s husband having an affair, and now both Steven and his new fiance Theresa are trying to clean her out and take the kids, too.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

Finlay is a murder mystery romance writer, but she’s already behind on the deadline for her latest project, and plus, her books aren’t popular enough to bring in the money she’s going to need for a top-notch custody lawyer

But when a stranger overhears a conversation between Finlay and her agent and spies the diaper bag containing a bloody burp rag used to bandage a cut and the duct tape Finlay’s 4-year-old demanded be used to fix her accidental haircut, the woman mistakes Finlay for a contract killer and enlists her to kill her no-good husband.

It’s a simple misunderstanding that Finlay must correct.

But then again, the job pays $50,000. She could fix her van, pay all her overdue bills and hire the best custody lawyer in Virginia with that kind of money. She’d never have to worry about losing Zach and Delia or asking Steven to bail her out.

But could she do it — actually take a man’s life? Surely he couldn’t be that bad of a person to deserve death.

However, sneaking a quick peek at him couldn’t hurt, right? And who knows, maybe finding out his story could even fuel the creative juices and give Finlay an idea for the unwritten book she’s supposed to have a completed draft of by now.

Garbed in a stolen dress that makes her look much more high class than she is, Finlay gets more than she bargained for after tracking down Harris Mickler at a swanky bar.


He’s worse than she thought.

One thing leads another, and she soon finds herself in way over her head, cleaning up mess after mess, only to turn around and find some other problem.

Elle Cosimano’s writing is hilarious, bringing witty humor to Finlay’s trainwreck of a life through the unpredictable outbursts from a 4-year-old, the devil-may-care attitude from the college-aged nanny and two unreasonably attractive men vying for Finlay’s attention.

Finlay Donovan ‘Knocks ‘Em Dead’ and ‘Jumps the Gun’ (2022, 2023)

Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

For those who want to check out the series, be warned that the books end on cliffhangers, and you’ll likely be compelled to move on to the subsequent volumes right away.

The second one made my 2.5-hour drive home from the Twin Cities go by in the blink of an eye, and the third occupied nearly the entire day I had off of work after my last vacation. The story continues from book to book, with things Finlay did in Book 1 coming back to haunt her in the third. The poor woman can’t catch a break as she and Vero, her nanny and partner in crime (quite literally), do everything they can to fly under the radar and stay out of harm’s way.

But somehow trouble always finds them.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

Among the action in the second and third installments, someone is out to get Steven, Vero is clearing hiding something big, there’s a hot law student and a hot cop who both have crushes on Finlay, and the Russian mob is watching everything.

The books are incredibly fast paced, with something new and unexpected around every corner. I was never bored and was amazed at how quickly they each flew by.


For those who are fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, featuring a young female bounty hunter, I highly recommend giving Finlay Donovan a chance. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads