Saturday, June 30, 2007

"Lean Mean Thirteen" by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is back. Back at Vinnie's Bail Bonds, back in her crap cars, back to being the worst-ever bounty hunter on the planet. Back on the FTA (failure-to-appear) search with her trusty side-kick, ex-ho, Lula. Back between dating Joe Morelli, the hot cop with a steady job and somewhat good reputation, and Ranger, the dark, mysterious man of mystery, who also has a fairly steady job and a not so good reputation. Back at her family's house, eating her mother's home-cooked dinners, listening to her father groan, and trying to keep her Grandma Mazur out of trouble.

Yep, Stephanie's back.

The 13th entry in the Stephanie Plum series opens with our hapless heroine doing a favor for Ranger, one that involves Steph's ex-hubby, Dickie Orr. She and Dickie were married "for fifteen minutes" once upon a time and the divorce was one of the nastiest in history. Of course, Dickie was a notorious cheater, and she did come home to find him on top of Joyce Barnhardt, on their dining room table, to boot. Needless to say, the visit to Dickie does not go well. Words are said. Fists are flung. A scene is made, and everyone will remember that Steph was there and mad as hell.

Then Dickie disappears. Things don't look good for Stephanie, as there are bullet holes and blood in Dickie's house. Everyone thinks she killed him (she'd like to, and the thought has crossed her mind once or twice). To prove her innocence, she sets out to discover the real killer. Along the way, she and Lula attempt to apprehend a few FTAs, including one Carl Coglin, a taxidermist with a penchant for building bombs and a huge grudge against the cable company. There's also Diggery, a petty thief who robs graves. Steph and Lula do their best to bring in the bad guys, and as usual, their best results in a lot of laughs.

Top all this off with Dickie's shady law partners, and you have a typical entry in the Stephanie Plum series.

Are there any revelations in this book? Nope. Does Stephanie get any better at her job? Nope. Do she and Lula spend a lot of time talking about food? You bet! This is basically the same as the previous 12 entries, and that's not all bad. I like the Plum books because they're a known quantity. I know it won't take me much more than a day to read one. I know I'll laugh quite a few times. I know I'll get hungry with all the talk of Tastycakes, Cluck-in-a-Bucket, and mom's lasagna. I know that Lula will be wearing outlandish outfits that are too small for her, and that she'll probably take a shot at at least one person. Ranger will be smoking hot, Morelli will provide food (probably pizza and beer), and Bob will be his big, lovable, doggy self. It's like putting on an old shoe - it fits, it's comfortable, and it makes me feel good.

There are signs that Evanovich is possibly going to move Steph along some, maybe down the road. Ranger comments that if Steph isn't entirely sure that she and Morelli are a couple, he will stop "being nice" and actively pursue her. Whew! I'm looking forward to that, let me tell ya! I thought he already was pursuing her, so you go, Ranger! Steph is leaning towards Joe, I think, but I can tell that while she recognizes that she could be the wife and mother because it's what's expected, she might not be entirely happy with that decision. Ranger might be too mysterious and bad for her, but Joe is too safe. (This is why I have said that she should end up with Diesel, the character from the "In Between the Numbers" books that Evanovich puts out around the holidays - Diesel is the perfect blend of Morelli/Ranger!) Also, Lula is just about able to call herself Tank's girlfriend, which is great! I think Lula is a wonderful person and she deserves someone who will love her (and put up with her).

I was bad and looked at the comments on Amazon. Most readers seemed to like this book, but several of them said we've "been there, done that". I say phooey! If they want Stephanie to mature, become a better bounty hunter, and finally pick a man, that's fine. But they should also realize that if those things happen, it will probably be the end of the series. And to me, that would be very sad indeed.

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