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Evanovich's One For The Money

February 27, 2012 - Jodelle Greiner
The movie trailers are out for Janet Evanovich’s “One For The Money”, and it made me remember that a friend of mine in Texas had read the Stephanie Plum series and liked it. It had sounded pretty funny, the way she described it, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

“One For The Money” is the first in the series that now numbers 18 novels (not counting the “between-the-numbers” novels, as the website calls them).

“One For The Money” starts with Stephanie Plum about as low as she can go. She lost her job selling lingerie six months ago and doesn’t have anything else to hock. She needs a job and right now. Since New Jersey isn’t a hotbed of job openings, Stephanie pays a visit to her cousin Vinnie Plum, a bail bondsman. Using a little blackmail, Stephanie convinces Vinnie to give her a chance to bring in a murder suspect that skipped on his court date. Stephanie’s eyes bug out when she learns she’ll get $10,000 for the apprehension. Her eyes bug out again when she hears who the guy is: Joe Morelli.

Morelli grew up in the same Jersey burg Stephanie did, using his Italian charm on all the girls, including Stephanie. Now a vice cop and accused of killing an unarmed man, Morelli is nowhere to be found. Stephanie has one thing going for her: she knows the burg as well as Morelli. The one thing she has going against her is she doesn’t have a clue how to bring in a tough guy like Morelli. So she gets some help from expert bounty hunter Ricardo Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger.

The problem is there’s more to Morelli’s case than a guy winding up dead. And Ranger might have his own agenda, as well. On top of that, Stephanie ticks off a local boxer who likes violence — in and out of the ring. Stephanie’s in over her head and her career as a bounty hunter might be over before it even begins.

What Evanovich excels at is filling her books with off-beat, original characters. Grandma Mazur is about as far from a sweet, cookie-baking stereotype as you can get, especially when she gets her hands on Stephanie’s gun at dinner time. Lula isn’t your typical anything. Both Morelli and Ranger are gorgeous, dangerous, and mysterious. Evanovich populates Stephanie’s world with assorted relatives, friends and enemies; each and every person is unique and more than a little out there. Evanovich even uses New Jersey itself as a character, describing it so well you can almost choke on the pollution. Handled the wrong way, this could be maudlin, but Evanovich’s rapid-pace, wise-cracking style keeps it on the funny side.

But the gem of the works is Stephanie herself. What I liked about Stephanie is how she’s set a course for herself and come hell, high water, or Jersey crazies, she’s going to stick to it. She knows zilch about the apprehension business, but she’s got enough street-smarts and survival instincts to find people who can help her learn. She’s not the perfectly turned-out babe that does everything well and always looks good doing it. Stephanie bumbles through, learns as she goes, and that’s why I like her.


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