Review

A Date You Can't Refuse

by Harley Jane Kozak

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this fourth
mystery in the Wollie Shelley series is another fantastic,
hilarious, nail-biting read. The bad news? Rumor (please, let it be
just that!) has it that this is the last book in the series.

Greeting card artist Wollie Shelley is on jury duty when she
finds the defendant, Yuri Milos, riveted on her every move. This
puzzles her because she is hardly the most beautiful or youngest
female member of the jury. After the case is over, with Yuri
decreed not guilty, he approaches Wollie, who blurts that she is in
a relationship (she doesn't mention, of course, that Simon, her
boyfriend, is an FBI agent). To her amazement, she finds that Yuri
knows of her from her stint as a star in the TV shows
“SoapDirt” and “Biological Clock.” Wollie
is hardly proud of having anything to do with those productions,
and she is stunned to hear that “SoapDirt” has a huge
following in Belarus, Moldova, Slovakia and Ukraine. Yuri is from
that area of the world and has many friends who are big fans of
Wollie. Who knew?

At any rate, Yuri doesn't want a romantic partner. He would like
Wollie to come work for his media training company, MediaRex, which
teaches celebrities, usually from Europe, all about American
culture and how to deal with the media. Yuri believes Wollie would
be a perfect social coach. Wollie tries to turn down the job, but
when Yuri offers her $50,000 (plus living expenses) for three
months' work, she wavers even though she particularly detests one
of the job descriptions: "dating surrogate." Yuri assures her that
she will simply teach foreign men how to date American-style,
without any unsavory nuances or strings.

No sooner does Wollie reluctantly begin to mull over Yuri's
lucrative offer than she is approached by another would-be
employer. An FBI agent, one she has never met, informs her that the
federal government is interested in Yuri and his company. He
insists that she not only has to accept the social coach job at
MediaRex, but she must work undercover for the FBI, which has been
unable to place an agent in the company. Again, Wollie refuses to
seriously consider the MediaRex position, until the FBI agent
convinces her by explaining that he is able to help Wollie's
mentally ill brother remain in the caretaking home in which he
currently resides. Wollie just can't turn down a chance to help
P.B. stay at Haven Lane where he is safe and content. She agrees to
accept Yuri's job offer, even though she does not believe the FBI
agent when he suggests she won't be in any danger.

Her disbelief, as it turns out, is quite correct. Wollie is
expected to live on the MediaRex compound, a gated community with a
fence and a guardhouse. Here, among the extended Milos family, she
is coached in how to instruct foreign celebrities in American
social graces. Donatella, one of Yuri's ex-wives, is in charge of
Wollie's "visual presentation," which includes hair, walk, shoes
and clothing. Wollie is startled to discover that the fine designer
wardrobe Donatella insists she wear was once worn by Chai, the
previous social coach. She is shocked when she learns that young
Chai died in a car accident ---- and curiously, no one at Yuri's
company seems to want to talk about her. Wollie's uneasiness
increases as another death and a mysterious disappearance occur at
the compound, even as she ineptly sneaks around to spy on the Milos
business doings for the FBI.

There is nothing not to love about A DATE YOU CAN'T REFUSE,
another stellar mystery from Harley Jane Kozak. Wollie Shelley is
one of the most likable and sympathetic (not to mention hilarious)
characters around. Readers will root for her as she bungles her job
as a double agent. In addition, the plot is well-paced, the mystery
is puzzling, and a romantic subplot adds a little spice to the
mix.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on December 29, 2010

A Date You Can't Refuse
by Harley Jane Kozak

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway
  • ISBN-10: 0767924223
  • ISBN-13: 9780767924221