Monday, July 11, 2011

"Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich

There's not much to say about this series anymore. Stephanie Plum is the worst bounty-hunter in history. Her "partner", Lula, is still a very large black woman trying to cram her voluptuous body into teeny tiny clothing. Grandma Mazur still wants to see the body when she goes to a viewing at the local funeral home, and yes, chaos ensues when the casket is closed. And, of course, Stephanie still hasn't chosen between the two men in her life, Joe Morelli and the enigmatic Ranger.

The only thing that was added to this mix was Dave, an ex-football hero that went to Stephanie's high school. Her mother is desperate to have her little girl married and working somewhere "safe" - or better yet, at home, barefoot and pregnant. Dave is a nice guy with perhaps a bit of baggage; he was accused of some shady business dealings where he previously lived, leading to his wife to take off and the bank to foreclose on his home. So he's back in the Burg and living with his mother. Stephanie's mom is totally taken with him once she learns he can cook - and Stephanie is very taken with the food. Not so much with Dave. After all, she's already got two men in her life and can't make a decision on one - why add another one to the mix?

Yes, there are murders and bodies. Yes, there are skips that must be tracked down and brought in. Yes, Stephanie's bad car karma is back with a vengeance. There's Tasty Cakes and Cluck-in-a-Bucket and all the other sorts of things you expect in one of the Plum books. So how does this one stack up? Well, it's certainly better than "Sizzlin' Sixteen" - but that's not saying much. I was very disappointed with that installment, so anything would have been an improvement. I did laugh out loud this time, which I don't remember doing last time. The writing felt a bit better too, more "Evanovich" and less whoever-wrote-the-last-one (because I'm still thinking it wasn't JE).

But, as has become typical, there were things that could have been better. Such as the "whodunit" thread of the plot; I had the killer figured out almost as soon as that character hit the pages. Yes, I know these aren't deep reading and I'm not criticizing JE for that, but still, it shouldn't be glaringly obvious who your "bad guy" is. And can I just say how much I did not like "the Vordo" - the sexual curse that Morelli's Grandma Bella puts on Stephanie? Good lord, if you want your character to have sex, just have her have sex! The Vordo reminded me too much of another author who I no longer read, and a certain thing she gave her lead character (sort of like the Vordo but it was supposed to be a new "power) that led her to have sex with any and all male characters. Stephanie having sex with Morelli and Ranger in the same book was.... well.....not nearly as hot as it must have seemed when she was writing it. I just found it silly, and even a bit on the icky side.

The thing I noticed the most this time around is that there appears to be two Stephanie Plums. Now, I don't know if she's got a split personality or if JE is setting up who Stephanie will (finally) pick as her man, but hear me out. When our gal is bounty hunting, she's a total goofball who can't seem to get the job done. Cars blow up, people get pinkie toes shot off, etc. But when she's around Ranger, she seems calm and actually able to think - and he asks her for her opinion on work things. Ranger is supposed to be the best of the best at what he does, so why would he ask Stephanie for her opinion on security matters? And yet, she stops and looks at things critically and comes up with actual good ideas - and Ranger listens to her. Morelli just wants her to quit her job, move in with him, and live happily ever after. Ranger treats her as more of an equal and not the bubble-headed-bimbo that she's typically written as. Why, then, is it so hard for Stephanie to "make a decision" about which guy to choose? Honestly, I would have kicked Joe's butt to the curb long ago (but I would have fought to keep Bob the dog).

The 18th book of the series is due out this November, about 8 months before she normally releases a Plum title. Stephanie purportedly will choose a man in that book, but whether it's her choosing a vacation partner, or an actual life-partner remains to be seen. I'll probably read it, but only because I can get it from the library. If I were you, I'd save my money and do the same thing.

1 comment:

Eesti said...

I have read all of Evanovich's books in the Stephanie Plum series. I would rate the other books from very good to great. Smoking Seventeen was a bit disappointing. I don't know if it is because it's the same old story with her love life or the lack of excitement in her work in this book. I was also surprised to learn the the next book in the series Explosive Eighteen is coming out November 22, 2011. Maybe the next will be truly explosive. Lets hope so.