Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stephanie Plum and Friends Are Back in Sizzling Sixteen

Anyone who has been inside a bookstore within the past decade will remember seeing Janet Evanovich's name splashed all over books. The prolific writer began as a romance author, then began the "Number" series, about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. Since that series began, she has produced at least three other series: the "Full" series with Charlotte Hughes, the "Metro" series, and this past fall a spin-off of the "Number" series with the first book, Wicked Appetite. Stephanie Plum has always been my favorite Evanovich character, although I have read many of her other novels. Sizzling Sixteen is the latest book in that series.

Sizzling Sixteen begins as Stephanie's cousin Vinnie -- the owner of the bail bondsman business where she works -- is kidnapped. Vinnie is a despicable sort of character who is unfaithful to his wife and gambles his money away recklessly. However, he's saved Stephanie's tail in the past, namely by giving her the job she has now. Besides that, the bondsman shop can't operate without his financial backing, and that would put Stephanie out of a job. So she, sidekick (and former prostitute) Lula, and office manager Connie set out to find Vinnie and bring him home. This time, however, Vinnie has gotten himself involved with some dangerous characters with their hands in the Trenton, New Jersey, mob scene. This mafia involvement ups the ante and makes the rescue efforts all the more difficult.

I thought the last few books in the Stephanie Plum series were very readable, but not as enjoyable as earlier books. She seems to have lost a bit of the spunk that drove the series when it began. Although I enjoyed Sizzling Sixteen much more than the previous book, Finger-Licking Fifteen, I can't list it as a favorite. When Evanovich began with One for the Money and Two For the Dough, she was writing edgy, fast-paced, action-packed novels. They also included a bit of romance (in the characters of longtime steady boyfriend Joe Morelli and the darkly-handsome, yet kind-of-scary Ranger). Evanovich is also a master at injecting humor into situations you wouldn't normally think of as funny (funeral homes, explosions, crime). Somewhere along the way, it seems she's become too focused on the fame and money, churning out one book after another of a lesser quality.

Still, Stephanie Plum is Stephanie Plum (and, more importantly, Grandma Mazur is Grandma Mazur!), so I will continue reading and hope the books are eventually restored to the series's former glory. And if Stephanie never makes a choice between Ranger and Morelli? Well, that's okay with me. According to Evanovich's website, this summer a movie version of One For the Money, starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, will be released. For more information, visit the Movie Insider site for the movie; Evanovich sold the rights in 1993 and hasn't been involved in the movie production.

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