Originally published in The Vanguard, the student newspaper of The University of South Alabama.
In the quest to find something interesting and fun to read, most people listen to the recommendations of others. A friend came to me not too long ago and told me to read a series by Janet Evanovich about a New Jersey girl named Stephanie Plum.
There are nine books so far, and Evanovich is contracted for several more. The first book, "One for the Money," establishes the basic premise of the series and introduces the heroine, Stephanie Plum, and several other vital characters.
The story begins in Trenton, N.J., with Stephanie and Joe Morelli, an older boy from the neighborhood.
The first several pages are dedicated to her relationship with Joe from childhood "games" to the time he charmed her pants off when she was a teenager, to a 19-year-old Stephanie running into the 21-year-old Joe with her dad's car.
Her reason? The reader can only assume it was because he never called.
The story flashes forward to Stephanie at age 30. A repo man sent to take her car is following her. She has lost her job as a lingerie buyer and is looking for a new job, but has had no luck so far. (Her mother keeps pushing her to get a job at the tampon factory.)
She makes a deal with the guy to give her one more night with the car and heads for her mom's house for dinner. She's broke, so dinner with her parents is a cheap way to get a good meal, even though spending time with her parents is a reasonable person's idea of hell.
After suffering through dinner, Stephanie decides to figure out what to do to pay the bills. She goes to her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman with "interesting" personal habits. She blackmails him into giving her a job as a bounty hunter even though she has no idea what the job entails.
What follows is a story with the most endearing heroine in print, going through the most hilarious adventures, with the most outrageous outcomes possible.
A great deal of the humor in the Stephanie Plum books comes from the fact that she is completely inadequate for the job, but still manages to solve all her cases.
Luck plays heavily into the equation, as does the sudden arrival of Joe Morelli every time she needs him. And she needs him almost daily, since she hates guns and likes to leave hers in the cookie jar in her tiny apartment, guarded only by her hamster, Rex.
There is also the dynamic of Ranger, a fellow bounty hunter who has a lot of secrets. Stephanie calls him a superhero and always refers to his unknown residence as the Batcave. In later books, the presence of Ranger starts a love triangle centered around Stephanie's obvious attraction to both men and her inability to decide between the intense heat she has with Joe and the intense mystery that surrounds Ranger.
Other characters of note in this series are her parents, her crazy grandmother and Lula, a prostitute-turned-secretary at Vinnie's bonds office.
In addition to "One for the Money," the Stephanie Plum series includes "Two for the Dough," "Three to get Deadly," "Four to Score," "High Five," "Hot Six," Seven Up," "Hard Eight" and the most recent book, "To the Nines," which was released this past July. There is no official word on the release date or title of the 10th book.
This series offers a great escape from reality and will make even the most indifferent readers laugh out loud at the exploits.
Note: The tenth book was fabulous, and fans of the series have just recently been treated to book 11. I am waiting until my next long flight to read book 11, but I may break down and start before then. All reviews so far say the most recent book is the best in the series so far. I can't wait to see if I agree!