Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Further Misadventures of Stephanie Plum

I've never been big into mysteries, or serials, but several years ago, I started reading the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich and got hooked.

Unlike most mysteries, these are pretty safe to read even in the scariest of circumstances. Along with your flashlight, blanket and bottle of water, you can pack one confidently on your next overnight trip alone to the abandoned house near the graveyard where the triple murder was committed on Halloween night. The biggest danger is that the ghost of the murderer will find you by following the sound of your laughter.

Stephanie Plum is not your stereotypical bounty hunter. She got into the business after being laid off from the lingerie company where she worked. Unable to find a job in her field, she did what any self-respecting Jersey girl would do: she blackmailed her cousin into hiring her at his bail bonds agency. Her co-workers are Lula, former 'ho and current filing clerk; Connie, the office manager/Mafia liason; and Ranger, the ultra-macho, super-sexy, super-scary bounty hunter entrusted with bringing in the most high-bond cases. Stephanie covers the small-time criminals, and something always goes wrong during apprehension. One guy saw her coming, took off all of his clothes and slathered himself in baby oil. Another guy, an amateur taxidermist, denotes an exploding beaver bomb on her, covering her in hair and guts. Even the willing ones are funny: one woman looked forward to her time in jail, explaining that she'd needed some dental work done for a while now.

The main attraction of the books is Stephanie's tangled personal life. Over the course of the series, two men have been vying for her attention: Ranger, mentioned above, and Joe Morelli, a police officer, onetime ladies' man, and Stephanie's high school sweetheart. Stephanie also has to contend with her gossip-fearing mother ("Erna Malecki's daughter has never burned down a funeral home"), her crazy grandmother (her main hobby is attending viewings, and she doesn't let a closed casket deter her), and her father. Her sister made an appearance in the last few books, but is absent from the newest one, Lean Mean Thirteen.

The plot of these books has always been somewhat incidental to me. I come for Stephanie and her hilarious life. These books will never be mistaken for War and Peace, that's true. But they're a fun read, especially for this time of year when your relaxation time is short.