Monday, August 8, 2016

Merit Badge Murder (Merry Wrath Mystery #1), by Leslie Langtry (author), Bailey Carr (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016 (original publication October 2014)

Merry Wrath was a CIA agent, and a good one. Then she was "accidentally" outed in a bit of Washington political hardball, and forced into early retirement. "Merry Wrath" is her new name, derived from a middle name and her mother's maiden name. Her hair is now blonde, and her eyes, thanks to contact lenses, blue.

And of course her Deep Cover Dead Secret new home is the small town in Iowa where she grew up. Did I mention that her father is a US Senator from Iowa?

So the completely unaddressed mystery here is why no one except her best friend from childhood, Kelly, recognizes her.

Despite that annoying weakness, this is a funny and fast-paced story, with Merry the unexpected target of a plot that has dead bodies of international terrorists turning up near her: an Al Qaeda agent at the camp where her Girl Scout troop meets, a South American drug dealer thrown in front of her car as she drives home, and a Japanese Yakuza boss found dead in her kitchen. Her sexy former handler, Riley, turns up, and he has a house guest for her--Svetlana, a blonde bimbo former KGB agent, who needs a place to lie low. (Obviously, a great plan, there.) And right at the time that Merry is dealing with bodies turning up everywhere, a very sexy police detective, Rex, moves in across the street from her. We are apparently supposed to accept this as a genuine coincidence.

It's fun, it moves, and while Merry makes some mistakes from rustiness and not really wanting to be in that mindframe anymore, none of the humor is of the "look how the girl agent screws up" variety. Both Merry and Svetlana are genuinely deadly when they want to be. There is one huge "this is never explained" incident that makes no sense, but talking about it would be a spoiler. The "two sexy alpha males" is clearly a set-up for the kind of ongoing "which one should she choose" thing that has, for me, worn out its welcome in other mystery series.

Still, this is light, and fun, and fast-paced. Recommended for a light read if you're willing to let the inconsistencies slide.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible in exchange for an honest review.