Strangely enough, I re-entered the world of mystery novels on the strength of another random Twitter conversation. I remembered Stephanie Plum fondly from five years ago, when I had read the first book in this series, as a wise-cracking, stubborn woman picking herself up from some unfortunate experiences (divorce and being laid off counting in my mind as the pinnacle of “unfortunate”…). Now that I’ve finished this second installment, I’ve gone back and bought books three and four, and can see a mystery binge continuing through to lucky seventeen (which was just released).
According to Evanovich’s bio, Stephanie Plum isn’t quite auto-biographical, but Evanovich admits “you can take the girl out of Jersey, but not Jersey out of the girl,” consciously or unconsciously echoing something Plum says on a regular basis in the course of her story. I suspect that’s part of why the story is so successful: The author really does live in her character’s head space.
And there’s a lot to like about Stephanie Plum: She’s not afraid to admit she’s almost always in over her head, she’s easily afraid despite her tough gal demeanor, and she is committed to her community–not in some treacly way, but in the sense that she knows everybody in the small-town sense of a close-knit town and is willing to follow gossip to make sure the bad guys land where they deserve. She’s no Nancy Drew with a family history of sleuthing; she doesn’t even aspire to be a PI. She’s just looking to make ends meet in an economically depressed area and be able to hold her head up and support her own independence.
All of this is served up with snappy repartee and some truly hilarious situations–there’s something so keystone kops about the scene where she’s staking out her FTA (failure to appear, in bondsman lingo) and blind-sides a cop as she’s taking off after her fleeing target that I laughed out loud for a good five minutes. I can see this particular cop (with whom she already had a teenaged affair) will be an ongoing fixture, and I’m really looking forward to reading more about the way they (sometimes literally) spark off each other.
Same goes for Grandma Mazur (whom Evanovich claims to hope to emulate in her old age!), who is a nuanced adjunct character also able to inject hilarity into almost any scene in which she takes part. Then there’s Lula… and that’s almost enough said right there about a former hooker turned file clerk who feels turn-about is fair play for the role Stephanie played in saving her life in book one.
As you can see from the wee hours posting here, the book kept me well-engaged all the way through to the end, and excited enough about its resolution (and the promise of more!) to keep me up even later writing this review. I would recommend this to anyone with a taste for a good mystery with witty writing and a strong female lead.