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Stephanie Plum continues her disastrous bounty hunting career in this eighteenth book in the series. Once again she's ably supported (or should that be hindered) by a motley crew of friends and family and is still the love interest for the sexy cop, Joe Morelli and the dark and enigmatic Ranger though things are rather complicated with both these men at the moment.
Returning from a disastrous trip to Hawaii about which she isn't ready to talk, Stephanie sets about restoring her finances with some easy bounty hunting for Cousin Vinnie, currently operating out of a Winnebago after his office was fire-bombed. As usual, this rapidly go from bad to worse. Stephanie came into possession of a photograph of a man she doesn't know and suddenly she's being pursued by the FBI, fake FBI, a rather dodgy hairdresser and a violent and psychotic killer. How Stephanie will manage to extricate herself unscathed from this mess is anyone's guess.
Price and availability:
This book is currently only available in hardback, retailing at around £9. There is a Kindle edition for £10 and the paperback is due to be published in May 2012. I borrowed my copy from the library.
I've enjoyed the hilarious exploits of Stephanie Plum since her first outing in One for the Money and with the exception of a couple of less than good episodes, the series has maintained a high standard throughout. This is due in no small part to the wonderful cast of characters who grace these page many of whom make return appearances here.
As the book begins, Stephanie is returning to Trenton, New Jersey, from a five star holiday in Hawaii which rapidly turned into a five star disaster. Nothing in Stephanie's life runs smoothly and her journey home is no exception. She's seated next to a snoring man who gets off at Los Angeles and fails to return to his seat. In the meantime, Stephanie arrives home to a barrage of questions about what went on during her holiday plus some additional luggage: a photograph of someone she's never seen before which she's picked up by mistake, she assumes from her neighbour on the plane. When she catches sight of the missing passenger on the news and discovers he's turned up dead in LA, Stephanie very soon finds herself being pursued by all manner of people including the FBI, two men pretending to be from the FBI and a seriously dangerous individual who doesn't pretend to be anything other than a seriously dangerous individual, and they're all after the photograph which, of course, Stephanie has put in the bin and it's been carted off to the local tip.
Whilst Stephanie is trying to shake off all these photo hunters, including an extra player in the shape of Brenda, a less than talented hairdresser, she's also trying to earn some money by bringing in people who've failed to appear in court. It has to be said that Stephanie is not a particularly successful bounty hunter and her attempts yet again are spectacular failures, even with the help of her sidekick, Lula, and even with help she fails to secure a single one.
Though the disaster-prone Stephanie is the main protagonist in the series, Lula deserves a special mention because she's undoubtedly the real star of these books. Lula, is big, black and brash as all get out and she totes a big gun which she isn't afraid to use. She's a retired 'ho' who still dresses like the streetwalker she used to be, having a penchant for very tight spandex outfits a couple of sizes too small and she gets all the best lines.
If you like your crime serious and deadly the chances are this book won't be for you but if you enjoy your death with a dose of laugh out loud humour, then you'll love this book. Although it can be read as a stand-alone, after seventeen previous novels, not to mention numerous novellas, there's a lot of back story, so it's probably best to begin at the beginning.
Although I did enjoy this book, it was probably because of events in Stephanie's personal life rather than the crime she was involved with which certainly took a back seat here. In fact, as the series has progressed, the crime element has definitely become a bit of a weak link. That isn't to say that this and all the other books aren't well written and very funny, however, Hollywood is planning to make a Stephanie Plum film, featuring Katherine Heigl (totally wrong casting in my opinion) and it seems that since the series was optioned, Janet Evanovich has been writing more with an eye on how this would translate onto the screen rather than concentrating on her readers.
I also have a bit of a problem with Stephanie's love life. In the beginning she was having difficulty choosing between Morelli and Ranger and even when she was in a relationship with Morelli, she was still feeling it for Ranger but we're at the eighteenth book and she can't make up her mind which to choose and is now sleeping with them both. That may not seem too awful but for me, it just doesn't sit right with the character of Stephanie who is gradually morphing into a little bit of a slapper. I think it's time Ms Evanovich resolved Stephanie's love dilemma.
On the whole this is another enjoyable episode in Stephanie's chaotic life and despite my slight reservations, it's certainly worth a good four stars.