Elle Cosimano’s Popular Mystery Series Heads to Atlantic City In This Excerpt From Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice

Books Features Elle Cosimano
Elle Cosimano’s Popular Mystery Series Heads to Atlantic City In This Excerpt From Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice

Elle Cosimano’s genre-crossing, feminist Finlay Donovan mystery series has been an instant hit pretty much since Finlay Donovan Is Killing It arrived on shelves in 2021. The witty, face-paced series is one part satire, one part rom-com, and one part relatable story of the complex balancing act required of modern women today, and has rightly earned comparisons to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.  

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead was published in 2022, followed by Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun in early 2023. The series’ highly anticipated fourth installment—titled Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice—is set to arrive in March of 2024, sending Finlay, Vero, and several other familiar faces on an adventure to Atlantic City, and promising readers another exciting and deeply relatable mystery. 

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

Finlay Donovan and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero are in sore need of a girls’ weekend away. They plan a trip to Atlantic City, but odds are—seeing as it’s actually a cover story to negotiate a deal with a dangerous loan shark, save Vero’s childhood crush Javi, and hunt down a stolen car—it won’t be all fun and games. When Finlay’s ex-husband Steven and her mother insist on tagging along too, Finlay and Vero suddenly have a few too many meddlesome passengers along for the ride.

Within hours of arriving in their seedy casino hotel, it becomes clear their rescue mission is going to be a bust. Javi’s kidnapper, Marco, refuses to negotiate, demanding payment in full in exchange for Javi’s life. But that’s not all—he insists on knowing the whereabouts of his missing nephew, Ike, who mysteriously disappeared. Unable to confess what really happened to Ike, Finlay and Vero are forced to come up with a new plan: sleuth out the location of Javi and the Aston Martin, then steal them both back.

But when they sneak into the loan shark’s suite to search for clues, they find more than they bargained for—Marco, dead in his bathtub. They don’t have a clue who murdered him, only that they themselves have a very convincing motive. Then four members of the police department unexpectedly show up in town, also looking for Ike—and after Finlay’s night with hot cop Nick at the police academy, he’s a little too eager to keep her close to his side. If Finlay can juggle a jealous ex-husband, two precocious kids, her mother’s marital issues, a decomposing loan shark, and find Vero’s missing boyfriend, she might get out of Atlantic City in one piece. But will she fold under the pressure and come clean about the things she’s done, or be forced to double down?

Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice won’t hit shelves until March 5, 2024, but we’re excited to bring you a first look at the prologue to the new story right now! 

Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice cover


 “I can’t look,” I said, clapping a hand over my eyes. I had sworn to myself there would be no more dead bodies. Not that any of the other four had been my fault (at least, not entirely), but I already had enough blood on my hands to last a lifetime—or possibly four lifetimes in a state penitentiary—and I didn’t think I could stomach one more corpse. Especially not this one.

“Tell me when it’s over.” I clutched Vero’s arm with my free hand as we stood on the shoulder of a six-lane highway. A tractor trailer whipped past us, throwing a thick wave of exhaust at our faces. When my children’s nanny didn’t answer, I peeked at her sideways between my fingers. Her long, dark ponytail blew across her eyes and she scraped it away, her attention rapt on the traffic in front of us, her neatly plucked eyebrows pinched in concentration.

“What do you think?” my mother leaned toward her and asked, both of them staring intently at my ex-husband’s back. He toed the gravel beside the white line at the edge of the highway, knees loose, shoulders hunched, hands shaking out the last of his nerves as he prepared to make what was arguably the most stupid decision of his life. And believe me, that was saying something.

“I give him twenty to one,” Vero said.

My mother’s eyes went wide. “You think?” 

“It’s really more like nineteen to one,” Vero said over the whine of a crotch rocket, “but I rounded up because I’m an optimist.”

My mother nodded, too, as if this all made sense to her.

“You two are betting on Steven’s life!” I shouted over the roar of a moving truck.

“We’re not betting,” Vero said. “We’re just calculating his odds of actually making it across—”

“And back,” my mother pointed out helpfully.

Vero suppressed a smirk. “I’ve got to tell you, Finn. It doesn’t look good.”

“You two are not helping!”

“You’re right,” my mother said, touching the cross at her throat.

Vero nodded. “We should probably push him.”

“Have you both lost your minds? The children are watching!”

My mother held up a finger. “That’s an excellent point. I’ll go sit with the children and cover their eyes.”

Both of you wait in the car with the children. I will handle this.” I turned Vero around by the shoulders, back toward my mother’s SUV. My daughter’s face was pressed against the back window, her little brother arched and wriggling against the straps of his car seat to see where we had gone.

I had tried to convince Steven to keep driving. I’d insisted we could buy our son a new nap blanket at the next shopping mall we passed, but when Zach pushed his threadbare blanket out the narrow gap in the open window of my mother’s Buick, wailing as he watched it fly across oncoming windshields and under speeding tires until it finally came to rest, caught on a piece of rebar in the concrete barrier in the median like a battle-worn white flag, Steven had been behind the wheel and there’d been no stopping him. Panic pinging through me as he set his jaw and put his foot down on the gas. I pleaded with him from the third-row seat not to do it as he’d merged onto the next exit ramp, looped around two sets of clover leaves, and retraced our path. My arguments had been drowned out by Zach’s hiccupping wails as Steven had pulled over on the shoulder of the highway and put the SUV in park.

I shooed Vero and my mother back to the SUV to sit with the children. Steven hardly noticed when I tapped on his shoulder and repeated his name. His gaze remained fixed on the woobie as he stood beside the white line and hiked up his pants. He leapt back as a mud-spattered pickup on monster tires screamed past him, a pair of steel truck nuts swinging from its hitch. Delia shouted out the window of the van, “You can do it, Daddy!”

Vero called out, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

My mother gave him two thumbs up through the glass and Zach cheered.

I grabbed Steven by the back of his puffy vest as he rolled up his sleeves. “This is insane! There’s a Walmart at the next exit. We can get Zach another blanket. I’ll rub some apple juice and car grime on it. He’ll never know the difference.”

“He doesn’t want another blanket. He wants that one,” he said, pointing across the highway. “And I’m going to get it for him.”

“What are you trying to prove!”

He whirled on me, his blue eyes blazing against the winter-gray sky, hot breath steaming from his lips. “What am I trying to prove?” He gaped at me as if the answer should have been obvious. “I’ll tell you what I’m trying to prove! I’m . . .” Steven’s tirade cut off. My spine went ramrod straight as flashing blue lights rolled up the shoulder of the highway behind us and a state trooper eased his car to a stop a few yards away. I stole a backward glance at my mother’s SUV and saw Vero sink low in her seat.

Steven frowned at the crisp uniform of the buzz-cut police officer that strode toward us.

“Car trouble?” the trooper asked, removing his sunglasses and tucking them in his coat. A vein bulged in Steven’s temple as the officer smiled at me and gave Steven a suspicious once-over.

Steven crossed his arms over his chest, his lips thinning as he was forced to stare up to meet the trooper’s gaze. “No trouble.”

The officer glanced at the Virginia license tag on the back of my mother’s vehicle. “Where are you folks headed?”

“Pennsylvania,” I supplied helpfully when Steven grunted, “New Jersey.” The officer’s brows knitted, and I rushed to add, “We’re taking the scenic route through West Virginia. A road trip . . . you know, sort of a family vacation.” I grinned back, taking Steven’s arm in mine and pinching him through his sleeve before he could utter a word about why we’d circumnavigated the entire state of Maryland to get here. “See, our son accidentally lost his blanket out of the window as we were driving. He’s two,” I explained, gesturing to the shredded fabric snapping in the wind at the edge of the median.

The trooper planted his hands on his belt, the sides of his jacket spreading around his tight, narrow hips as he squinted across the highway to see it. “I sure hope your husband wasn’t planning on trying to retrieve it.”

“He’s not my husband,” I corrected.

Steven turned to me, frowning with disgust. “Is it really necessary to point that out?”

“And of course he wouldn’t attempt to retrieve it,” I added with a pointed look at him, “because that would be a completely idiotic thing to do.”

“Not to mention illegal,” the trooper said sternly.

“Exactly! I was just telling him the same thing, but my ex—”

“Husband,” Steven interjected.

“—can be a little bullheaded when it comes to listening to me. I told him we should just buy another blanket at the shopping center at the next exit.”

“You can’t just replace something like that!” Steven snapped at me. “Zach doesn’t want a new blanket! That one is comfortable. It’s familiar. It has history! But apparently, history doesn’t mean anything to you.”

“The blanket isn’t worth saving, Steven. Just let it go,” I said through my teeth.

“Well our children believe it’s worth saving! And so do I.”

The trooper stepped in front of him as Steven pivoted toward the highway. “Put one foot over that line, sir, and we’re going to have a problem,” he said in a low voice. “I understand wanting to look like a hero for your kids, but they don’t want to see their father splattered all over the highway, and I’d sure hate to have to arrest you in front of them. Your family is better off if you just let it go.”

“Would it be such a crime to let him try?” Vero called through the open window. My mother clapped a hand over her mouth.

Steven’s jaw clenched. I tugged him toward my mother’s SUV before he could give the trooper one more reason to arrest him. “Thank you for stopping to check on us, officer. It was very kind of you. We’ll just be going.” We had a blanket to replace. Oh, and a stolen car to find, a boyfriend to rescue, and a painfully long road still ahead of us.

Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice will be released on March 5, 2024, but you can preorder it right now. 

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB

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