In my library/computer room, I have a red box mounted on my wall. You know the type—fronted with glass bearing the words “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS” with the little hammer alongside. This box doesn’t contain the lever to my alarm system, or a fire extinguisher, or ten thousand dollars in unmarked, non-sequential bills and a passport under the name Jane Smith. No, it contains something much more vital than that. It contains two unread Stephanie Plum books, soon to be joined by the new release, Plum Spooky (after all, three Plums are better than two). Or it did until I broke the glass over the weekend.
These books are the reading equivalent of chocolate, with a lot of nuts thrown in.
The usual suspects
Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter with more luck than talent, who is occasionally partnered up with a black, plus-sized, trigger-happy ex-ho named Lula, who is the source of many hilarious moments throughout the series. She has an on-again off-again relationship with hot bad-boy-turned-cop Joe Morelli and (usually) fends off the attentions of her mentor, the sexy, enigmatic Ranger. Outside of work Stephanie spends time chasing down her young-at-heart Grandma Mazur, who has been completely and hilariously irrepressible since Grandpa Mazur “got a hot pass to heaven compliments of more than half a century of bacon fat and butter cookies.”
The madcap plot
In Fearless Fourteen, Stephanie makes a routine visit to an FTA (Failure to Appear in court) to reschedule her court date, only to inherit the FTA’s teenage gamer son who calls himself Zook and has a compulsion to tag everything he sees. Zook has a loose familial tie with Morelli, so Stephanie leaves the kid with him while moonlighting by helping Ranger provide security for Brenda, a singer with only one name like Cher or Madonna (only without all the fame and fortune, but at least as much surgery).
Zook’s uncle Dom, who has just been released from jail after serving a nine-year sentence for bank robbery, already resents Morelli for inheriting the house that would have been his had he not been incarcerated, but is further enraged to learn his nephew is staying with Morelli. Not to mention he wants to recover his loot while his partners are turning up dead in Morelli’s house and his sister (Zook’s mother, the FTA) has gone missing.
What follows is a totally madcap adventure involving a treasure hunt, reality TV, potato launchers, a stalker and a flatulent dog, but it’s surprisingly relatable. Anyone who has ever resolved to join a gym but only got as far as buying the new outfit, or buys salsa so they can honestly say they eat vegetables can identify with Stephanie. As outrageous as the situations can be, I think most of us can understand what it’s like trying to reach that balance between the fantasy of effortless competence that’s supposed to go along with adulthood and the reality that many of us do stupid things and couldn’t be bothered cooking a nice meal when there are so many easy take-out options.
Love triangles and fried chicken
I’ll admit that fourteen books (and three “Between-the-Numbers” books) is a long time to keep a love triangle going, but I’m in no hurry for it to end. At the moment, Morelli and Ranger accept the necessity of the other in Stephanie’s life and they’ve been major characters from the beginning of the series. It looks like nothing short of marriage to Morelli will keep Ranger away from Stephanie and I can’t envisage a resolution that won’t cost the series (and us, the readers) one of these hot guys. Morelli is a former womaniser, grown up and evolving into domestic life but with more than enough zing to keep him interesting, while Ranger is sex incarnate with a soft spot for Stephanie and his own agenda. Having both of them in Stephanie’s life almost makes me believe that it’s possible to have it all, so it will be a very sad day if and when Stephanie makes a definite choice.
Another point to suspend disbelief on (other than Stephanie’s car getting demolished in almost every book, and the strength of Lula’s too-tight spandex wardrobe) is that Stephanie’s over thirty and her main form of exercise is chasing down the occasional FTA and running for her life, but she stays hot enough to keep not just one, but two hot alpha males interested while subsisting on a diet of fried chicken and birthday cake. Not that I’m jealous or anything.
Yay or nay?
The series as a whole is perfect emergency reading, having got me through a long international flight and kept me from quitting my job after one of the worst days on record. These books are like chocolate (only without the calories)—completely addictive and can cure anything. While the books can usually be read on their own*, references to Grandma Mazur burning down the funeral home or prising open the lid at a closed casket service may have readers looking for earlier books. Another hazard of reading these books is sudden outbursts of laughter, which may cause the people around you to give you a wide berth or at least a strange look.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Dymocks | Ever After | Fishpond | Galaxy | Intrigue | Rendezvous | Romance Direct | Romantic Reflections | Siren | More
DIGITAL BOOKS: Dymocks | Kindle
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Borders | The Book Depository