Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Perfect summer reading - Janet Evanovich

From Examiner.com --

Perfect summer reading - Janet Evanovich --

By Lauren Walter --
June 29, 2009 --

With “One For the Money,” in 1994, Janet Evanovich introduced the world to fledgling bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. It was a murder mystery with a new edge – funny, irreverent, and featuring a bumbling but loveable heroine. Fifteen years and fifteen volumes later, you can still pick up a Stephanie Plum mystery and relax for a few hours in a world wehre the most important question is who’s getting the donuts. You won’t find realism, graphic gore, and hardcore action, but for the many thousands of devoted fans, that’s a plus. You’ll get the literary equivalent of a Big Mac – it may not be good for you, but it’s tasty and addictive. The formula works and Evanovich delivers full throttle every time.

Plum and her colleagues live and work in a suburb of Trenton, fondly referred to as the ‘burg. Most of her books are set within the ‘burg’s borders; everyone and everything they need is set right within reach. The important things are all within a couple of blocks, Vincent Plum’s Bail Bonds, Pino’s Pizza, Cluck in a Bucket, Stivio’s Funeral Home and Tasty Pastry.

Some backstory: When Stephanie was laid off from her job as a lingerie buyer, and divorced from her cheating husband, lawyer Dickie Orr, she blackmailed her cousin Vinnie for a job as a bounty hunter. In “One for the Money,” Plum was given the task of tracking down Joe Morelli, a molten-chocolate eyed police officer accused of murder. Of course, Plum and Morelli had a history that included a tryst behind the counter of Tasty Pastry when they were both teenagers. Several years later, she ran Morelli over with her car. Readers take great interest in the ‘on and off’ relationship between Joe and Stephanie. On an interesting note, it’s Plum who has the commitment issues, not detective Morelli, a nice twist on relationships.

A good part of the charm of Evanovich’s work is in the colorful characters who surround Stephanie Plum. Her parents are featured frequently, as Friday night requires dining at their home (hopefully with a pineapple upside down cake for dessert). Her mother is often exasperated by Stephanie’s job and her mother, Grandma Mazur’s antics. The eccentric, large living Grandma Mazur invariably brings a sense of amusement to the reader. There are few things more amusing than envisioning a seventy plus year old woman decked out to sing with a rock band (in Twelve Sharp), attempting to get her driver’s license (Hot Six), and invariably tries to peak under the lid of the coffins at Stivia’s funeral parlor.

Even better, Stephanie’s primary sidekick Lula, a plus sized, fast food loving, former ‘ho, current file clerk/junior bounty hunter at the bail bond office provides chuckle after chuckle. The descriptions of Lula’s outfits, which invariably involve animal print spandex three sizes too small often as she scarfs down buckets of fried chicken, are memorable. Her attempts to diet are insanely funny, especially the ‘all the meat you can eat’ diet that resulted in a dog attack featured in “To the Nines.”

As befits a heroine, Stephanie has not one, but two love interests: Joe Morelli, the cop who she’s loved in various capacities since childhood and Ranger, a top of the line bounty hunter and business owner with a perfect body and a limited vocabulary. Both men are prime beefcake and over the course of the series, find themselves competing for her attention.

In each adventure, Evanovich takes the reader on a laugh filled trip through the ‘burg as Stephanie chases FTAs and investigates murder and mystery. Her foibles are always amusing, to the reader and to her men. You can expect cars to explode, food to fly, and Stephanie to intuit the solution. And let's not forget plenty of doughnuts and birthday cake.

If you are looking for light summer reading, I highly recommend picking up a copy of an Evanovich book. This is perfect, by the pool reading. It won’t increase your brain cells, up your IQ, or give you talking points for the next book group meeting. But it will make you smile and give you a great couple of hours of escape.

I’ll be reviewing Evanovich’s latest, “Finger Lickin’ Fifteen” later this week. So check back!

On the fast food book scale, this rates a 5 (the equivalent of a double order of Cluck in the Bucket

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