Saturday, March 27, 2010

International Thriller With Side-Splitting Humor: BULLETPROOF MASCARA by Bethany Maines

I know there are times my husband wishes I'd read in some other room -- but hey, we're partners in Kingdom Books, and I figure if a thriller is worth gasping over -- and then guffawing, and racing into the next scene, and marveling out loud how much fun it is -- well, Dave might as well know about it right away. But I suppose I should give a bit more detail, besides just saying that BULLETPROOF MASCARA drove me to e-mailing my best friends within a few minutes of finishing reading it, saying to each of them, "Grab a copy! Now!"

Here's the premise: An international cosmetics company named Carrie Mae (say it out loud) is dedicated to the women it serves: "Our sales consultants provide needed income for their families and affordable, quality cosmetics for women everywhere." That's what the indomitable Mrs. Merrivel asserts as Nicole -- Nikki -- Lanier begins to question just what the deeper side of the corporation, the Carrie Mae Foundation, is up to. If she'd been a bit more introspective, she might have noticed that her own background in martial arts and multiple languages wasn't exactly the typical setup for handing out beauty samples. Carrie Mae's recruits have serious work to do, upholding the rights and safety of women around the globe. That's why Nikki is getting firearms training, as well as a set of highly improbable devices that can be hidden in lipstick tubes, powder compacts, and other feminine accoutrements.

After taking top honors in the practical exam at the end of her training, Nikki's first assignment requires all the guts and know-how she can summon. Here's a sample moment as she comes to realize that even the ambassador's wife is tough enough for international crises:
Her hair had been disoriented in the earlier tussle. Nikki watched as the ambassador's wife began to straighten it, patting it back into place with an unconscious and practiced hand.

"Were you able to apprehend the assailant?" she asked with a polite smile, calm and order having apparently been restored.

"No. Um, sorry," said Nikki, feeling deeply embarrassed. Somehow this was even worse than being failed by Mrs. Boyer. She'd never failed an assignment where the outcome actually mattered to someone. "We lost him behind an elephant."

"Oh," Laura said, nodding, as if that explained everything.
In fact, it's Laura, the ambassador's wife, who'll soon explain the facts of life in international crises: "I think diplomacy is more about finding the appropriate facts to justify something you've already done."

Nikki needs that practical approach in order to complete the rescue she's attempting (with dangerous partner) in Thailand, as well as to manage her shoe situation -- and equally disturbingly, the possible CIA agent (male) dogging her footsteps. Trustworthy or not? More to the point, will he help her mission or get in her way?

Crazy and funny as this adventurous thriller is, it's absolutely believable in quick bursts. And it's clearly the swift-tongued feminist rejoinder to John Burdett's Thailand crime fiction, as well as being a modern-day well-groomed James-Bond-in-earrings adventure. I'll be reading this again as soon as Dave recovers from all the laughing that I did the first time. Maybe I should take it out into the backyard and give him some peace.

Then again -- the sooner he reads this one himself, the sooner he'll recognize that a "chick" fantasy of high-stakes espionage and wild times can be as gripping as the "guy" versions. Read it with plenty of cool beverages and snack food nearby, for a rollicking good spring/summer delight.

PS: Maines is well on the way to having her sequel ready. Hurrah! And do visit the author site, for a lot more fun:

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