have a confession. I can’t wait for the paperback or e-book version
of the adventures of Jersey girl bounty hunter, gun-in-the-cookie-jar
Stephanie Plum. I buy hardback. Janet Evanovich has created a character
so three-dimensional and addicting, I have to get my “fix” ASAP.
But this time . . . I don’t
know. It was a romp; it had me snickering so that I got Coke up my
nose. (No, the other direction, and dark liquid,
not white powder. Honestly, you people have such negative minds!) But
in this Plum-licious adventure, something was missing.
The latest offering is Plum
Spooky. Considering that the last few books took place around
Christmas and Valentine’s Day, with a title like that you’d expect
Let’s see, we got the Easter
Bunny (retired), Sasquatch, and the Jersey Devil. And a weird little
guy who shoots flames out of his butt. With her luck being the way it
is, Stephanie has to stumble around the Pine Barrens of New Jersey,
looking for a psychotic genius who has jumped bail, and encounter all
sorts of weird creatures. Plus, she has to deal with a monkey named
Carl, who often has more intelligence than some people she runs into.
But no Halloween.
Hello—big letdown. I was all set
to see Grandma Mazur dressed up as Princess Leia from the Jabba the Hut
sequence of Jedi.
That’s a big rule for writers: Keep
your promises to readers. No trick-or-treaters, no battle
between Stephanie and her supersized former ho friend Lula for a bag of
Halloween candy. No jack-o’-lanterns lobbed from the top of the
apartment building and smashed to pulp in front of her so Stephanie
ends up in a gloppy mess in the middle of an apprehension gone bad.
Disappointing. The few times she talks about the time of the year, she
says, “September.” Excuse me, but the last time I looked, Halloween was
There are the expected staples
of Stephanie’s world—dinner at her parents’ home ending in disaster,
messing up a few captures of really psycho bail jumpers, Lula’s using
her Glock to hit everything but the guy who’s
shooting at them. The between-the-numbers books always feature Diesel
(bounty hunter/enforcement agent for the supernatural phenomenon set)
enlisting Stephanie’s help to capture yet another Unmentionable (think
weird, un-super superhero type or mythological character). But if
Diesel is such a talented guy, why does he need Stephanie’s help? Can
we say “logic hole big enough to drive the Enterprise through”?
keeping promises to readers means following through on promises set up
in previous books. What about Stephanie’s
relationship with Joe Morelli, bad-boy-turned-cop? Honestly, ever since
he got a house and a dog, he’s a little too domesticated, know what I
mean? Of course, I’d be more disappointed if he didn’t
show up at all, because ever since One for the Money,
I’ve envisioned him as my favorite Italian actor (no, not him, the one
who drove a Corvette on TV in the
In this book, the tough guy
cop can’t tell his mooching, hound dog brother to straighten up, make
up with his wife, and go home. What happened to Joe the vice cop? Okay,
so this is family and you don’t disobey when your Italian mother
expects you to help your brother. But still . . . Instead of their
roller-coaster relationship, Stephanie and Joe have settled into a
holding pattern. All they seem to have holding them together is fun
sex. Isn’t there more to a relationship?
And then there’s Ranger, the
super-secretive security specialist (dang, ran out of S words!) with an
entire fleet of black cars and big tough employees all dressed in
black. There used to be a subtle competition between Joe and Ranger to
see who would win Stephanie. Now, Ranger is tame, too. All he does is
provide bodyguards for Stephanie when she is in over her head, or smirk
and say “Babe” a lot.
The rhythm, the feel of the book
isn’t what I found before. JE has turned to bathroom humor and sex to
get laughs. A guy who erupts fire from his butt when he eats the wrong
food. Carl the monkey responding to most situations by giving someone
the finger. Referring to a former-cop-turned-Chippendale-type dancer as
the “token heterosexual.” The psychotic genius who can’t get a girl
unless someone ties her up for him. Diesel’s continuing unsubtle
attempts to convince Stephanie it’s inevitable they’ll have sex. I
don’t want to go back to previous books and discover it was so “lowest
common denominator” before, and my taste is just more mature. I’m
worried: I got my mother hooked on Stephanie Plum!
Little things have gone from
mildly amusing to disturbing. Stephanie’s mom quietly resorting to the
bottle in the kitchen to deal with stress. Lula taking pills
indiscriminately to deal with a temporary sneezing problem. Stephanie’s
father a nonentity in the house, except to give people weary, disgusted
Then there’s the comment on page
15: “Truth is, I’m a good Catholic girl. The faith has always been
elusive, but the guilt is intractable.” Is that what religious belief
is in Stephanie’s world? Something nebulous that doesn’t provide
anything but guilt? Sad state of affairs. Can it be changed? How much
of a reflection of the real world is this snippet?
Don’t get me wrong. I bow at
Janet Evanovich’s feet in apple green envious admiration. Is she caving
to reader pressure for more and crazier, and depending on more sex and
bathroom humor to bolster the humor and tension? I prefer intellectual
humor that stems from situations, not the vulgar. How soon until we
grow numb to the vulgarity and start producing it ourselves, without
Maybe the time is coming when
the Jersey girl has visited Cluck-in-a-Bucket too many times, and she
can’t fit into her jeans and our expectations. I hope that never
happens. Janet, please don’t let us down!