Maines (Bulletproof Mascara, 2010) strikes a familiar chord in this flimsy tale about an undercover cosmetic-company spy and the rock star she’s trying to protect.
Nikki Lanier is a redheaded whirlwind: She’s beautiful, quick-witted, a deadly martial artist who slips effortlessly into a size two without holding in her stomach. Nikki isn’t simply perfect, though, she’s part of Carrie Mae, a Mary Kay–like cosmetics company with a top-secret spy division that dispatches its secret and highly trained operatives across the world in the cause of justice for oppressed women. This time, fresh off a break-up with her CIA boyfriend, Nikki, speaker of six languages and possessing an Olympics firearms capability, steps right into the Paris leg of Kit Masters rock tour. The evil Cano, who killed Kit’s father many years ago, is also targeting Kit, the son of another Carrie Mae agent. Kit’s mom, Camille, a Brit with a grudge, would do anything to get Nikki off her son’s case, but Nikki sticks with Kit. She saves his life several times (unfortunately for the bad guys she only shoots dead center, even on the run), while racing against time to figure out who on his team could be in league with Cano. Set against the backdrop of Paris, the writer has a way with a quick line, but the plot wanders in silly circles, and most of the action seems jammed into the story just to show how incredibly efficient, smart and awesome the heroine is in comparison to everyone else. The writing, though pleasant enough, is littered with conversations in which the characters snort, sparkle, blush, laugh, smirk, whine and fall prey to many annoying adverbs along the way. By the end, Nikki has, with the help of a cartoonish group of Carrie Mae buddies, almost single-handedly resolved the issue without breaking a nail.
What’s missing in this Saturday morning cartoon of a book is a story that makes sense and a big, funny dog named Scooby to give the readers some reason to care if the good guys win.