Monday, June 28, 2010
"Sizzling Sixteen" by Janet Evanovich
Have you ever made one of your favorite recipes, anticipated the mouth-watering goodness of the dish, only to dig in and find you've somehow screwed it up? This is exactly how the latest Stephanie Plum book feels to me - like all the ingredients are there but somehow not put together correctly.
Stephanie's latest caper involves rescuing her sleazy boss, cousin Vinnie. Turns out he's been kidnapped by some goons over possible gambling debts. There's a ransom demand of some $700,000+, and of course no one in the bond office has that sort of dough. They can't go to the cops, either, as Vinnie has had his fingers in some rather illegal pies. What can the gang do? Well, maybe they can use the lucky bottle that Steph's Uncle Pip left her. Looks like a fancy beer bottle, might have something in it, might just be a complete dud. Lula truly believes the bottle will bring them luck, and it does seem to work a little.
And, of course, there are the two men in Stephanie's life, Ranger and Joe Morelli. Both men are present and accounted for, and Stephanie still can't make up her mind which guy to really go with. There are doughnuts, chicken from Cluck-in-a-Bucket, and a pot roast dinner at Stephanie's parents' house. Grandma Mazur demands to see the body at one of the viewings at the funeral home - she hates a closed casket (she does have a point when she asks how can she know the person is really in there? But I still think open casket viewing is creepy, myself).
So what's missing? Good question. As I said, it would seem that all the usual ingredients are here, just not blended well or in the right order. "Sizzling" is a complete misnomer, as well; there's very little heat of any type in this book. More importantly, I think the humor is missing, too. I wondered if I was starting to find Evanovich boring, but then I remembered how much I had liked "Finger Lickin' Fifteen"; I laughed out loud a lot, and so hard during the barbecue scene, that I thought I might pee my pants. Sadly, that type of humor is missing here. There are some cute scenes, and I might have giggled once or twice, but nothing of the usual hilarity can be found in this installment.
What interests me more are some of the reviews on Amazon. There were at least two people who threw out the theory that Evanovich herself did not write this book, that there's a ghostwriter at work, someone who was given all the "facts" and an outline to work from. I'm not sure I believe that myself, but it would be curious to know if they're on the right track. Also, it would appear that Evanovich is publishing her first graphic novel with her daughter, Alex - could Alex be the mystery writer here? It's a good conspiracy theory to work from, especially for those of us disappointed by this book.
Overall, this is probably a solid C rating. It's not horrible, but it's not what I've come to expect from Evanovich. Luckily, I can pick up the next one here at the library, so I'm not out any money!