Monday, 4 July 2011

The Smoke Clears

Since 1994 I have had a relationship with New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. In recent years the relationship has been strained as my enjoyment of the series has wavered.

The first few Plum novels were fantastic – hilarious, well written, with interesting story lines. As the series became more popular, however, the plots got thinner and the laughs more distant. There have been times where I have considered turning my back on Evanovich. But each year when the next instalment is released I immediately rush to read it despite my disappointment in the previous book (and my deep dislike of the ‘between the numbers’ novellas).

Thankfully Smokin’ Seventeen is a vast improvement over books 13-16 and is, in many ways, a return to the form of the earlier Plum books. The story begins at the Vincent Plum Bail Bonds office, which is now a building site. Bodies are being dumped there and the killer is trying to attract the attention of Stephanie. In between collecting bail skips and eating fast food, Stephanie tries to figure out the killer’s identity (although it’s fairly obvious).

Evanovich described this as her ‘sex book’ and there is a lot of it as Morelli’s Grandma Bella puts a "vordo" curse on Stephanie. She is still trying to decide whether she should be with on/off boyfriend Morelli or the enigmatic Ranger. This indecision over these two gorgeous men has dragged on a bit too long.

There is plenty of humour too. Lula fears she is becoming a vampire. Stephanie’s mother attempts to set her up with a man who will cook for her. The biggest weakness in this novel is that Grandma Mazur only has a minor role. But there are plenty of other characters to keep the reader engaged.

In other Plum news, the first book in the series One for the Money has been made into a film starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, due for release in January 2012. The next Evanovich book, Explosive Eighteen, will be out in November 2011.