cover image The Assistants

The Assistants

Camille Perri. Putnam, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-17254-0

If the characters from HBO’s Girls were capable of larceny and blackmail, they could be the main characters of Perri’s sharp first novel. At age 30, Tina Fontana is the executive assistant to media titan Robert Barlow (think Rupert Murdoch, but with a Texas accent) in New York City. A clerical error on her expense account results in a $20,000 check for Tina, enough to pay off her student loan, which she impulsively decides to do. When a colleague, Emily Johnson, stumbles onto Tina’s once-only scam, she talks Tina into performing the same financial prestidigitation for her. Emily also ends up becoming Tina’s roommate. In no time, they become the victims of numerous blackmail attempts as other assistants want to have their college loans paid off courtesy of an unknowing Barlow. Things escalate beyond Tina’s control, ultimately threatening her relationship with her new boyfriend, Kevin, a hunky lawyer who is also in Barlow’s employ. How Tina extricates herself from the situation forms the moral crux of this entertaining slice of millennial life. Perri has a gift for the glib one-liner, and reserved Tina and glamorous Emily make for a great pairing, resulting in smart and fresh novel. [em](May) [/em]