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It's high time I reviewed a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich as I've read and enjoyed several instalments of the series. After finishing her twelfth romance Evanovich realised that action novels with some romance thrown in would interest her more. In 1994, One For The Money appeared featuring Stephanie Plum in the town of Trenton, New Jersey.
Stephanie used to be a lingerie buyer but when she's made redundant, she starts working for her cousin Vinnie as a bounty hunter or at least tries to. She's barely competent to do the job properly, intellectually as well as physically, but she drudges on as she has to pay her rent and can't find a better job.
I discovered the series when it started in the 90s, from the eighteen novels that have been published up to now, I may have read five or so over the years. I can't remember the number precisely, why that is so, I'll tell you later. Not surprisingly, Twelve Sharp is the twelfth instalment.
What does a bounty hunter do? From the official internet site with information on the job, "Bounty hunters, officially referred to as bail enforcement agents or fugitive recovery agents, capture fugitives in return for a monetary reward which is known as the "bounty". These unofficial law enforcement agents track down defendants who have failed to appear in court. Their primary responsibility involves executing warrants on people who have skipped or forfeited bail".....(An interesting aside: The profession of bounty hunting is legal only in the Republic of the Philippines, and the United States). For Stephanie this means that she goes to Vinnie's secretary, asks for files on 'skips', tracks them down and - if she's lucky - hands them over to the proper authorities.
These small adventures are mini plots so-to-speak sprinkled throughout the stories. The main plot in Twelve Sharp is that a crackpot is impersonating Ranger, an independently working professional bounty hunter and one of the two close friends, lovers and countrymen of Stephanie's. He looks a bit like him, he married and later killed a woman resembling Stephanie as a test until he can get 'the real one' and has kidnapped Ranger's 10-year-old daughter who lives in Miami with her mother and step-father. With Stephanie and the girl he intends to form a family.
He may be a maniac but he's smart and even Ranger who, together with his men, can usually find anyone, has to admit defeat. The only chance he sees to lure his impersonator out into the open and thus to make him find the hiding-place of his daughter is to use Stephanie as a bait. She has to parade up and down the streets, do her bounty hunting stints as if on a stage for everyone to watch. Several of his men do surveillance work, she's fully wired, has a panic button which will call Ranger to her side any time, but will this help? The man seems to always be a step ahead.
The plot is thrilling and well executed. Readers who've already read other books of the series may expect to see Stephanie in mortal danger - again - and they won't be disappointed. Stephanie always gets into mortal danger, partly because she's incurably curious, partly because she isn't the brightest and can't survey a situation completely, meaning that she doesn't always see danger coming even when it's just round the corner.
Having just finished Twelve Sharp I still recall the plot but I know that I'll soon forget it like I've forgotten the plots of all the other Stephanie Plum thrillers I've read. Just an idea: Why buy further books? I could wait for some time and then read the thrillers I've already got on my shelf again, it would be just like the first time. I could save money this way.
Yet, then I wouldn't know what the characters were up to. As it is with all successful series, it's the characters that make faithful readers return. If they're good, it doesn't matter how much time passes between reading one book and another, one is always with them in no time remembering all their kinks and quirks. And kinks and quirks are what you get with the personnel of a Stephanie Plum thriller, after a while you will have forgotten what 'normal' means!
Stephanie herself is rather ordinary concerning her looks and her sense of fashion but she attracts oddballs like light attracts moths. Her boss, his secretary, the other bounty hunter colleagues as well as contacts belong to the B-league, they move to the foreground only occasionally. One of them is Joyce Barnhardt, a schoolmate of Stephanie's. The ink on the marriage contract between Stephanie and her husband wasn't dry yet when Joyce and hubby were already enjoying each other's company on the kitchen table. One colleague, though, has continuously moved up and is now clearly a member of the A-league. It's Lula, a black former ho', with a XXXL body and a love for XS clothes. She doesn't work horizontally any more but still talks as if she did. When it comes to bringing in a skip she's as talentless and clumsy as Stephanie. These two can be seen as the Laurel and Hardy of crime fiction. They only succeed every now and then thanks to sheer luck or the occasional help of sympathising professionals.
Then there is Stephanie's family. They live in the Burg, a part of Trenton where life is lived as it always has been and people are conventional and square. Exceptions prove the rule, of course, as is shown by Stephanie's Grandma Masur, the foxiest old lady you can imagine. Her greatest pleasure is to go to public viewings and she's infamous for prying the lids of coffins open to have a look at the deceased. If a murder victim is laid out, she doesn't only go to the hairdresser's before the event as usual but also buys a new dress. The ideas she's got this time are as mad if not madder than ever.
Every Friday at 6 o'clock sharp the family has pot roast, to come late is a mortal sin. Very often Morelli joins the party, another of Stephanie's schoolmates and off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again etc., etc. boyfriend. His sharing the pot roast with the family is enough for Stephanie's mother to consider her daughter and Morelli engaged.
He's a cop, attractive, seductive and marriage material. There's nothing really speaking against him if there weren't Ranger, the independently working professional bounty hunter. He's a Hispanic, attractive, seductive and deffo no marriage material. He's COOL incarnate but oozes HEAT from every pore. Life isn't fair, legions of chick lit heroines yearn for Mr Right and this Stephanie Plum has two Alpha Males at her finger tips! Will she ever decide herself? Of course not, further Stephanie Plum thrillers would lack a decisive spark. The triangular relationship will go on for as long as Ms Evanovich cares to write about it.
"I love you," I told him.
"Yeah," Morelli said. "I know. But it's nice to hear you say it. I love you, too."
What wasn't said was that I also loved Ranger, but one thing at a time, right?
Recommended for fans of thrillers and silly comedy.
Features characters, action, suspense, and entertainment.