It was a satisfying reading weekend: I got to immerse myself in big-hair, 80s, Trenton, New Jersey and its famous, fictional, dysfunctional anti-heroine Stephanie Plum. I’m starting to get vicarious heartburn from her frequent fast food and junk food binges, but at least with this installment we finally see a little action on the Joe Morelli front.
Again, we have cars blown up and unexpectedly wily bond breakers mixed in with witty repartee and untenable situations. In this case, involving a neighbor’s cross-dressing nephew as a puzzle solver makes Stephanie the clueless target of a vicious fire bombing that leaves her without an apartment. Rather than return, again, to the parental fold, she elects to move in with Morelli as his ostensible tenant. From there it de-evolves to bizarre family interactions and a resurrection of childhood behavior that seems particularly strange in an adult woman.
While the whole “pregnancy scare” scene read as very funny, it was a pretty strong knock against Plum’s capacity to function as an adult that she didn’t know a pregnancy test wouldn’t be valid unless she were already past when she was expecting her period. And even though she is now well into her career chasing fugitives, she has done nothing about learning how to handle some of the basic tools of her trade or overcoming her fear of guns.
So while this is still a fun romp, and I enjoyed reading another crazy installment in the series with a lot of laughs, I can see where the formula is going to get old quickly if we don’t see some character development soon. Too much more in this vein, and Stephanie Plum will be just another Jersey caricature foreshadowing the train wreck we can watch on reality TV about the Jersey shore. I can still recommend this book for those who are interested in keeping up with Stephanie’s shenanigans, but don’t expect any sense of personal growth as you watch her stumble through more strange situations.