Friday, September 10, 2010

CBRII Book 35: Finger-licking Fifteen by Janet Evanovich.

Am I right in assuming that the Stephanie Plum series started the whole 'Chick mystery Lit' genre? It was certainly the first one I read that included all the staples: barely competent but plucky and intuitive lead, minimum of one hot man, a grisly death or two, and a metric fuckload of Wacky Characters.
In Finger-licking Fifteen we have:
Stephanie Plum, who became a Bounty hunter way back in One for the Dough, is completely inept at the actual physicality of being a bounty hunter, but she makes up for it with sheer luck and intuition. She is a complete disaster, always getting her cars blown up and something disgusting stuck to her. This book has four cars lost (a VW and one of Ranger's Porches to a firebug, Lula's Firebird and another one of Ranger's Porches to a bomb), and she ends up covered in paint (twice, or was it three times?) and flour.
The hot men are Joe Morelli, who used to be a bad boy when he and Stephanie went to high school together, but turned himself into a homicide cop. Their on-off relationship is currently off. Which clears the playing field (although he's never shown signs of caring anyway) for the super-mysterious Ranger, who was in the special forces, and then an amazing bounty hunter, but now owns and runs his own security firm. This love triangle has been going on for the past 15 books. At this stage, I'm about ready for Ranger and Joe to declare their love for EACH OTHER and leave Stephanie alone and hopefully a little wiser about making a damn decision and sticking to it, already.
The wacky friends: First, there's Lula, an ex-hooker. She's enormous and brash and she witnessed a man getting his head cut off, so now the killers are after her. Then there's Stephanie's grandmother; scrawny and curious and with no regard for any of society's conventions. Lula's started dating an enormous fireman who used to be a wrestler and likes dressing in women's clothes. There's an assortment of people who skipped bail, including an old man who pulled a gun on his dentist's snippy assistant and a flasher with an enormous penis who apparently is something of a highlight for all the housewives in the area.

Evanovich knows how to write. She knows how to write humour and create endearing characters. She knows she's on a good thing here and what to give the fans. I thoroughly enjoyed Finger-Licking Fifteen.
But after fifteen books (and at least three holiday-themed novellas), it's beginning to stagnate. Actually, Stephanie is beginning to stagnate. Ranger, for instance, has gone from a bounty hunter with a vacant lot as his listed address to the owner of a decent-sized security firm in its own seven-storey building. And, by the looks of it, a never-ending supply of Cayennes. Joe has, possibly surprising even himself, settled into a suburban home with his endearingly mad dog. Lula's constantly got a new scheme. Everybody else, if not entirely happy where they are in life, are actively headed in a direction they believe will take them there.
Except Stephanie. She's still wrestling bail-evaders in garbage. It's not like she hasn't been offered opportunities, she even quit bounty-hunting and worked for Ranger in an earlier book. And, like I said earlier, she's still vacillating between Ranger and Morelli. She's still getting her cars blown up, and her apartment set on fire, or whatever disaster Evanovich will have befall her.
Ultimately, I think this book works best if you think of it as a sitcom. But unfortunately, it's becoming one of those sitcoms that are so afraid of jumping the shark that they end up wearing out their viewer's patience.

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