Sunday, August 07, 2011

BOOKS: Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

I'm stuck on the horns of dilemma. I promised a review of the latest Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich, Smokin' Seventeen. And I said I'd be trotting out five-star reviews this month. And Smokin' Seventeen is not a five-star book. Closer to three than five, in fact. What to do, what to do? Well, since I've reviewed the last three books in the series in a timely fashion, I guess I have to keep up that tradition.

So, why is Smokin' Seventeen a downturn from last year's five-star Sizzling Sixteen? Well, there's the obvious who dunnit. At least to me. And the fact that no real progress is made in the eternal Plum triangle with Joe and Ranger. In fact, the whole book revolves around the Plum ladies (Mom and Grandma Mazur) doing their level best to fix our erstwhile bounty hunter up with the anti-Joe/Ranger. The recently divorced Dave Brewer.

Dave Brewer was the big man on campus during their high school years. He's basically flamed out in adult life, getting caught up in some illegal shenanigans that cost him his wife, house, job and employment opportunities down in Atlanta. He's moved back in with his mother and is into real estate and trying to escape his current living arrangements. Dave seems friendly enough, but he has a skill that the Plum ladies, except Stephanie, swoon over. He's a great cook. And he's fond of invading people's homes and cooking for them. Unasked. A trait Stephanie finds off-putting. That and the time he tried to join her unasked in the shower.

Yep, Stephanie is pretty sure she doesn't want Dave to join her little band of potential husbands. At the same time, she's having difficulties stemming from Joe Morelli's grandmother having given her the eye. In this case, the troubles the little old lady in black has sent her way involves heat. From the general area of loins. About the only guys Stephanie isn't lusting over is Dave. And it doesn't help that cousin Vinnie has been slapping 'graphically enhanced' pictures of Steph and Lula on buses all around town.

Forced into a trailer temporarily while the recently demolished Bails Bond office is being rebuilt, Vinnie starts an advertising campaign built around the somewhat idealized pictures of Stephanie as a buxom bounty hunter. "If You’re Bad We’ll Send our Girls out to Get You." Needless to say, this leads to a lot more business. All the while, Stephanie is dealing with a series of corpses that show up in the lot once occupied by the office, and then in car dumps around town. And the killer has taken to gifting them to Stephanie.

All in all, the book seems like a holding pattern. Nothing much gets done and cars get lost, not blown up. T'is a disappointment to a veteran Stephanie Plum reader. No explanation for homicidal Regina Buttle, who prefers using cars to mow down victims, not getting jailed for the first of her multiple attempts to smash Stephanie. And the Boris the Bear story-line really just petered out. Meanwhile the vampire story-line just seemed never to end.

There are chuckles in the book (the lottery results especially). There always are chuckles aplenty in these books. And there's just about the right amount of Grandma Mazur for the second book running. But otherwise, the feeling I got when finished it at the North American Bridge Championships was ... meh!

All that said, looking forward to next year's birthday and the eighteenth book. It IS a tradition for a good reason, after all.

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