Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books

Well, I’ve waded into another long running currently popular series; I am trying to branch out into things I haven’t yet read…and given my experience so far, I think I’ll crawl back to my preferred series. Sorry. As with Joanne Fluke and Sue Grafton, I was careful to read two books in the series to make sure I hadn’t picked the clunker for me; it’s unfair to review an entire series based only on the one book, as for all I know, I picked the one book I couldn’t stand.

The book reviewish take: The series begins with our protagonist blackmailing her slimy guido1 of a cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a job in his bail bonds business just as she runs out of unemployment benefits, money, food and credit with the utility companies. She has no idea what she’s getting into; she’s never fired a gun in her life, and indeed is the sort of girl who clocks assailants upside the head with her purse rather than thinking to retrieve the gun IN her purse and shooting them quickly and effectively2. Not surprisingly given her lack of experience, in book #1 she ends up teaming up with the man she’s supposed to be hunting for her share of his jumped bounty, a vice cop who is purported to have shot someone3.

I have to admit I found the basic concept amusing: the series is set in a seedy blue collar section of Trenton, New Jersey, complete with prostitutes on the beat on the next block over and retired made Mob members next door–no church sodality bringing hotdish or thatched cottages in twee hamlets in Ye Olde Englande here. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that the series has hit its limit, judging by comments on Amazon4. Stephanie Plum strikes me as the protagonist of a cozy mystery who’s somehow gotten stuck in a police procedural style book. She has a hamster for a pet, for pete’s sake, and her mum keeps inviting her home for pot roast and just happening to invite over some nice young man whom she thinks daughter should see more of…and yet daughter keeps working as a bounty hunter.

As with the Kinsey Milhone and Hannah Swensen books, the sheer number of books in the Stephanie Plum series would indicate that there’s a lot of people out there who do like this series. If I had to suggest a readership, I’d guess people who’ve finished the Hannah Swensen books, as Janet Evanovich’s books are a bit more lightly humorous, with family entanglements for the protagonist, than the Kinsey Milhone books.

1or at least that’s what they were called in my family when we were in Philadelphia
2actually, I can sympathize with this, but then I never claimed to be a coolheaded police procedural kind of heroine
3he didn’t, but she doesn’t know that at the time
4don’t look at me. I found two tedious enough, I’m not reading through to book #17


3 thoughts on “Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books

  1. I rather enjoyed the first Hannah Swensen. Whether I’ll continue liking the Series is anybody’s guess — at one point, the Kindle versions went into deep discount bundles and I ended up with just about the entire set for a mere pittance, so I’ll find out.

    I’m not defending the bakery series, however, nor am I praising their excellent writing and complex characters and deep philosophical thoughts. I’m defending the practice of reading series such as you describe. They do have their uses — they appeal to people who are quite grown up in their reading, thank you all the same, but who turn to them as the equivalent of “comfort food”. These books are light reading, and a series usually depends on the reader’s coming to like the characters — reading the books is not unlike catching up on the latest with friends.

    To give you one example, I’ll happily continue reading the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews — they’re light, they’re fluffy, and, yes, they’re formulaic and predictable, but … heck, if I ever discover Meg and her daffy family are real people, I’d cheerfully move to Caerphilly, Virginia just to view them in action. Since this development is unlikely, however, I’ll settle for buying each book as it comes out. (I also consider Andrews a better writer than Fluke, although that’s based on the first 12 Meg Langslow books and just the one Swensen and thus an unfair judgment on my part.) — Mario

  2. Fair enough; it’s not as if I *don’t* ever read series, or comfort reads (Jill Churchill and Hazel Holt, for example) and I’m often almost as rude about the series I *do* like. As for passing overswift judgement, this is why I make a point of reading at least two books from any given series before deciding to continue. (I think I ended up reading five of Pratchett’s books from different series before packing it in.)

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