Tag Archives: Stephanie Plum

Enough already! An open letter to Janet Evanovich


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A review of Notorious Nineteen, by Janet Evanovich

@@@ (3 out of 5)

Dear Janet (if I may be so bold),

Maybe it’s me, but I doubt that. After you’ve written — what is it? 50? 51? — novels all told, I think you’re losing steam. Notorious Nineteen is, of course, the 19th in your Stephanie Plum series, and it shows. Here are a few of the most prominent signs:

  • Not one but two cars Stephanie is driving are blown up;
  • Lula consumes at least 8,000 calories of junk food in a single day;
  • Ranger rescues Stephanie from imminent death not once but twice;
  • A really bad guy gets blown up trying to kill Stephanie; and
  • Morelli and Stephanie still aren’t ready to get married after talking about it for 10 years.

Truth to tell, some of this is funny as it happens, which is why I kept reading this series of comic novels so long. But the humor is fast fading, and so is the guilty pleasure I’ve taken so long in this series.

I don’t know about you, Janet, but I’m ready to put Stephanie out to pasture at last. Appearances notwithstanding, she’s really pushing 60 now, right? Isn’t it time to lay off the staff on that assembly-line writing factory of yours and see what you can do on your own again?

Think about it. You may not be able to write anything original, but you won’t know unless you try, no?

Your erstwhile fan,

Mal Warwick

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Another hilarious tale about inept bounty hunter Stephanie Plum

A review of Explosive Eighteen, by Janet Evanovich

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

You might think that after 17 novels featuring the same implausible characters acting in similarly stupid ways that the humor in the 18th would pale. Not so. In Explosive Eighteen, the exploits of incompetent bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her sidekick Lula, a former ‘ho, continue to evoke laugh-out-loud embarrassment in public places, and, yes, her ongoing affairs with detective Morelli and bad boy Ranger continue unresolved. As Lula says to Stephanie, “It’s like you’re a reality show, all by yourself.”

Stephanie and Lula set out on the trail of a series of “skips” who have failed to show up in court, among them Stephanie’s old nemesis, Joyce Barnhardt. After a series of misadventures involving the repeated loss of Stephanie’s car (as usual), the two find themselves embroiled in a complex set of relationships with Joyce and a rumored international gang of jewel thieves called the Pink Panthers. It’s pointless to sketch out the story any more than this. The book is worth discovering for yourself.

Here, for example, is Lula in action:

Lancer [a bad guy] “eyeballed the rocket launcher and turned white. “I’m going to have to get tough now. I’m going to have to force you to leave.”

“Do you got one of these babies?” Lula asked him, patting the rocket launcher.

“No.”

“Then how you gonna force us to leave?”

“I have a gun,” Lancer said. And he pointed his gun at Lula.

“I don’t like when people point a gun at me,” Lula said. “It makes me nervous, and it’s rude. Do you see me pointing my rocket launcher at you? I don’t think so.”

Coincidentally, this month the first film built on the Stephanie Plum novels will open, with Katherine Heigl playing Stephanie. Heigl is too blonde, too tall, and too busty to match the character of Evanovich’s imagining, but her skills as a comic actor and her delightfully breezy manner are perfect, and she’s pictured as a brunette in stills promoting the movie. Sherri Shepherd will play Lula, and Debbie Reynolds, Grandma Mazur, one of the series most unforgettable characters. (Grandma Mazur protests: “I’m not so old. There’s parts of me don’t sit as high as they used to, but I’ve got some miles left.” Grandma packs a .45 in her purse. Her hobby is attending viewings at funeral homes.)

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Laugh out loud with Trenton, New Jersey’s irrepressible bounty hunter

A review of Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel, by Janet Evanovich

@@@ (3 out of 5)

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit that, of the seventeen novels in Janet Evanovich’s enduring Stephanie Plum series, this is the seventeenth I’ve read. Clearly, I’m hooked. And I have no excuse.

Stephanie Plum and her feisty sidekick, Lula, a former ho (and proud of it), find themselves in yet another improbable quandary in this latter-day Keystone Kops story. Stephanie is a bounty hunter who works for her odious cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds business. She is despatched from time to time to apprehend Trenton, New Jersey’s most colorful criminals. Together with Lula, she does manage to get her man — eventually, but not until they’ve had numerous unlikely adventures, which usually include the utter destruction of Stephanie’s latest (typically borrowed) car.

In Smokin’ Seventeen, Stephanie is still undecided between the two men in her life. Morelli, a bad boy who has become a police detective (and, of course, a good one); and Ranger, a Latino security specialist with a mysterious past and a thriving security business capable of supplying Stephanie with a succession of expensive cars. Both men are irresistably attractive. So, it would appear, is Stephanie herself, though you would hardly know it to listen in on her interior dialogue.

Each of these novels has a plot, but that’s not important. What’s important is that each provides a platform for Evanovich’s humor. which is alternately macabre and slapstick. Pick up any one of these books, and if you’ve got a sense of humor, you’ll find it worth the chuckles.

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Crime in Jersey, Janet Evanovich, and other guilty pleasures

A review of Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

@@@@ (4 out of 5)

You’re sitting in your favorite chair, reading that paperback detective novel you just picked up, and you come across this passage in which the heroine, Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter, and her sidekick, Lulu, a “former ‘ho,” are discussing why their latest attempt to apprehend a fugitive has ended in disaster (as usual). Lulu has an explanation:

“I got bad juju. How else could you explain it?”

“It’s not our juju,” I told Lulu. “It’s our skill level. We’re incompetent.”

“I got a high skill level,” Lulu said. “I just shot a rat off a rafter.”

“You weren’t aiming for it.”

“Yeah. My skill level is so high I do things I don’t even try to.”

So, how can you respond to writing like this? Well, I don’t know about you, but I find exchanges like this irresistibly funny. Likely as not I’ll laugh out loud, as I do so often with Janet Evanovich’s inimitable Stephanie Plum series. Perhaps it’s just my sophomoric nature. After all, I laugh out loud at movies, too. Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s that Evanovich has a rare talent for humor akin to that of Donald Westlake (also a writer of humorous crime stories) or great film comics like Buster Keaton or the Marx Brothers.

Now, if you’re one of the three book readers in the United States who is unfamiliar with the name Janet Evanovich, here are a few choice facts:

  • Janet Evanovich is the author of 37 novels, give or take a couple. She turns them out at a pace that almost rivals James Patterson, with whom she tends to alternate the top spot in the New York Times Bestseller List for fiction.
  • Evanovich joined the ranks of published authors relatively late in life, and very slowly. It was only at age 51 with the debut of her heroine, Stephanie Plum, in One for the Money (1994) that she began to hit her stride. At last report Plum had managed to maintain her age (early 30s) and her figure (clearly enviable) through 17 numbered novels, the latest of which was Smokin’ Seventeen (2011), plus five other books published “Between the Numbers.”

If you read Evanovich loyally, as I do, you won’t learn a lot about anything of consequence, not law enforcement, crime, or even the working-class setting in New Jersey where the Stephanie Plum novels are set. Chances are, though, you’ll have a lot of fun.

ISBN-10: 0312383320

ASIN: B002GJU54E

ASIN: B001QKSWOE

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Sizzling Sixteen, by Janet Evanovich

@@@ (3 out of 5)

You find yourself in Trenton, New Jersey. (Don’t ask why.)

Your cast of characters includes the following:

  • Stephanie Plum, an incompetent, thirty-something bounty hunter (“bond enforcement agent”) of mixed Hungarian and Italian ancestry;
  • Morelli, a handsome homicide detective whose long-standing lust for Stephanie has yielded an on-again, off-again relationship that has never progressed to marriage and doubtless never will;
  • Ranger, an equally handsome, Hispanic former Army Ranger who owns a corporate security company and lusts after Stephanie with equal fervor; Ranger repeatedly loans Stephanie expensive vehicles, which she invariably destroys, only to be saved by him from death and disaster;
  • Lula (not the Brazilian president), a pistol-packing former ‘ho with a taste for doughnuts, fried chicken, and lurid clothing, who now works as a “file clerk” in the bail bond office where Stephanie receives her assignments;
  • Cousin Vinnie, a sex pervert with a truly catholic range of tastes for animals, women’s underwear, and almost anything else of or pertaining to the female gender;
  • Connie, the gutsy bail bond office manager whose family is part of a larger Family;
  • Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s constantly randy grandmother whose avocation is attending funeral home “showings;”
  • Mooner, a high school classmate of Stephanie’s who is, of course, continuously stoned and thus appears to live on another planet;
  • Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie’s nemesis since high school, whose exaggerated surgical makeover has captivated not only Stephanie’s then-husband but Morelli as well; and
  • several more or less normal-seeming people to round out the cast.

Got it? OK. Now, as the playwright of this farce, it’s your job to mix and match these characters, swirl them around a main plot (of sorts) with a couple of cute sub-plots thrown in. But let’s assume you’ve already done all this. What do you get?

You get Sizzling Sixteen — the (count ’em) sixteenth Stephanie Plum novel. Now, if you prefer to read rather than write this sort of thing, you might want to pick it up. Janet Evanovich’s writing is often hilarious, assuming you go in for broad humor (as I do). Just don’t expect to (a) learn anything new, (b) be uplifted or enlightened; or (c) feel good about why you keep reading this stuff!

ASIN: B003GYEGMU

ISBN-10: 0312383304

ISBN-13: 978-0312383305

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