Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Evanovich's latest sticks to script but sparkles (Janet Evanovich)

From The Tampa Tribune --

Evanovich's latest sticks to script but sparkles --

July 5, 2009 --

"Finger Lickin' Fifteen," by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin's Press, $27.95)

If Stephanie Plum lived in the real world, she would be pushing 45 - an age at which the effects of doughnuts and Tastykakes, not to mention the romantic dithering, would be far less attractive.

The demands of realism might also require the hapless bounty hunter heroine of Janet Evanovich's bestselling series of comic mysteries to find a career for which she is better qualified, or at least less likely to blow up so many cars. She would stop mooching dinner from her parents and find an apartment that invites fewer break-ins.

But who wants to read a book like that?

Fans who have expressed disappointment in the past few installments of the numerically titled franchise (the most recent, "Finger Lickin' Fifteen," hit bookstores June 23) would do well to remember that when they complain about the formulaic nature of the stories or the fact that Stephanie never decides between her smoldering Alpha male love interests. This is a series in which seasons pass, but Stephanie Plum is always 30; birthday cake is eaten with abandon, but jeans still (mostly) fit; and a pair of hot, infinitely patient men are perpetually available for sexually charged banter, lifesaving and sometimes more.

If that doesn't sound better than reality, you probably don't need to read these books.

In "Finger Lickin' Fifteen," Stephanie's longtime sidekick, Lula, the plus-size ex-hooker, witnesses the murder of famous TV chef Stanley Chipotle, who was in town for a barbecue cook-off. Along with pistol-packin' Grandma Mazur, Lula enters the contest so they can find the killers and score the million-dollar reward, with predictably messy results. At the same time, Stephanie is moonlighting for Ranger (aka Love Interest No. 2) after a series of break-ins threatens his security business. Her currently off-again cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli, is also on hand, doing his best to get Stephanie out of trouble and back in his bed.

Throw in bungling bad guys, neighborhood eccentrics and wacko bail jumpers and you have the usual Evanovich summer read - a twisted soft serve that is often laugh-out-loud funny.

The recipe is familiar, but the ingredients (slapstick action, screwball characterizations and razor-sharp one-liners) haven't lost their sparkle. "Fifteen" is less steamy than its predecessors, and the ending is abrupt enough to feel anticlimactic, but the prolific author compensates with other kinds of pyrotechnics.

Is it worth paying full price for a few hours of light entertainment? That depends how long the waiting list is at your library. If you do pick up "Finger Lickin' Fifteen," think of it as a work of science fiction about a planet called Trenton, New Jersey, where time stands still, Ranger and Joe will always vie for Stephanie's affections and Butterscotch Krimpets are capable of sustaining human life.

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