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Stephanie Plum

I am writing more on books here than I ever thought I’d write.  I just almost finished reading Janet Evanovich’s Finger Lickin’ Fifteen. I hate to say this but I’m rather disappointed.

What was once a great mix of humor, danger, and sexiness has become just another formulaic silly novel with no further character development, no depth of plot.  The bad guys are, as usual, incompetent and dumb.  The protagonist, Stephanie is, as usual, torn between Morelli and Ranger.  The humor is becoming more crass and, I believe, toxic to the whole Plum franchise.

I read One for the Money on the advice of my sister.  The first Stephanie Plum novels were fresh.  There was a real sense of danger.  I loved the action and the humor.  Stephanie never took herself seriously as a bounty hunter.  She was a lingerie buyer who was out of work and needed something to get by.  Now, after years of being a bounty hunter, she has passed from being lovably clutzy to miserably incompetent.  The same things always happen to her.  The plot skims the surface of the book now.  Once it was a deeper plot.  (No one could accuse any of the Plum novels of having a REALLY DEEP plot.)  The romantic interplay between Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger served to make the books sexy and fun.  It added tension.  It added a depth to the plot.  Lula and Grandma Mazur were there to add some comic relief to Stephanie’s dangerous life.  Her closet alcoholic mother and disengaged father gave her home life a sense of normalcy.  Even if that doesn’t reflect my life I know people like that.  Now Grandma and Lula dominate most of the books.   While there may be danger, there is no real sense of danger throughout this book or even the last one.  Stephanie and Lula are preoccupied with food and sex and the plot seems secondary to that.

The villains in this book are plain incompetent and stupid.  The reader is supposed to believe that they are hit men for the mob.  One is a crazed butcher (literally a butcher with a meat cleaver and everything).  They seem to have no trouble killing Chipotle  (the victim around whom this mystery revolves) but can’t seem to kill the ever-incompetent Stephanie and her friend Lula, the quite large former prostitute.  The only saving grace is the subplot of the book, which, if I finish the book, will probably turn out to be the true main mystery.  There is someone at Rangeman (Ranger’s security company) burglarizing Rangeman clients.  Ranger (for some inexplicable reason) hires Stephanie.  This part I like.  It does, however, give rise to the next point.

Stephanie and Morelli (her most of the time boyfriend, a Trenton cop) have decided to break up…again.  Ranger would like to hook up with Stephanie…again.  They had a fling a while back.  Stephanie refers to it as WOW.  And complicated.  ranger isn’t interested in settling down.  Of course Stephanie isn’t sure she is either, at the moment.  She does know that Morelli would be a good father and husband and everything a girl wants when she’s ready to settle down.  The interplay in this love triangle has been full of witty interchanges between Stephanie and both of her lovers since almost the beginning of the series.  Since then their fling Stephanie has been putting Ranger off and putting commitment with Morelli off as well.  I just want to scream at her, “Grow up and make a choice, already!”  The romance  isn’t cute anymore.  It’s almost annoying.

The humor of this novel is about as crass and classless as it gets.  It seems to be trying to tie in the middle school boy demographic.  Some of the humorous circumstances in the former books were gross, but they all had serious humor (is that an oxymoron?).  One of my favorite scenes from the past novels is when Stephanie and Lula are driving around with a body in the trunk of the car.  Rigor had set in and the body was stiff so they couldn’t close the trunk.  They decided to tie a flag to his feet to warn the people behind them there was something sticking out the back like it was a 2×4 or something. I remember sitting in a public place trying very hard to stifle my laughter so as not to disturb others.  This book has a few moments of good humor but mostly its just gross.  The series seems to have become about a series of humorous happenings loosely tied together with a light mystery and some murders with the occasional car exploding.

I know this is last year’s book but I hear this year’s is worse.

To Janet:  Please, bring back the depth we once loved about the Plum novels.  Bring back some of the seriousness.  I love your novels, not just for the laughter, but also for the tension, which makes the laughter that much sweeter.

  1. August 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    AMEN! This year’s is worse. It’s worse because it’s the same old book. There’s been ZERO growth. I love to read series, but I want to see the characters change over time. I won’t bother reading the next one. At this point, I don’t even care if Stephanie chooses Joe or Ranger. It no longer matters. AND the mysteries aren’t that big of a deal because I no longer care about the characters.

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