Two for the Dough (Janet Evanovich) (Stephanie Plum 02)

And so the misadventures of Stephanie Plum, New Jersey’s accident-prone bounty hunter not-quite-extraordinaire, continues. This is the second novel in the series, the first was reviewed here.

As previously introduced, Janet Evanovich is an American crime writer. Wikipedia, personal page, and Amazon. She started off as a romance writer under a pseudonym, but came to fame when she moved to crime, winning several awards.

Stephanie Plum, is a fugitive apprehension agent, more excitingly known as a bounty hunter. Kenny Mancuso, a cousin of Plum’s love interest, Joe Morelli, has failed to appear for his court date, and is proving difficult to track down. He has just been discharged from the army, is suddenly flush with cash, and has just shot his best friend. Spiro Stiva, a childhood friend of Mancuso’s, is a sleazy mortician, who hires Plum to retrieve stolen military coffins, and later hires her as his personal bodyguard to protect himself from Mancuso’s incredibly erratic and violent attentions. (There is a particular scene that will make all male readers wince. Certain things should not be posted through the mail is all of the hint that I’m going to give.)

To assist with the investigation of funeral parlours and the business of death, Plum’s completely barmy grandmother (throughout referred to as Grandma Mazur) is enlisted to provide cover. This is a task that she utterly fails at, with Grandma Mazur causing chaos and mayhem wherever she goes. Early-on, Grandma Mazur is an interesting foil to Plum’s activities, but her time in the spotlight should be limited, since as a character she isn’t particularly well developed. Some of the charicaturisation that was lurking in the background in One for the Money is far more evident in Two for the Dough, an issue that becomes far more prevalent as the series continues. (I was going to say develops, but that implies change. Actually, it’s a little harsh to say that, the books are distinguishable, even if the characters become a little set in their ways.)

Joe Morelli provides a much better counterpart to Plum’s hijinks, and assists nicely with the plot development. Ranger, bounty hunter extraordinaire and mystery man, doesn’t have much of a role in this novel, but turns up occasionally to move the story along.

The showdown is well-written, and the story moves along at a nice clip. It’s light and easy-to-read, and shouldn’t be mistaken for more than it is. Judged on its own, it’s a decent light crime novel. Judged with respect to the rest of the books in the series, it’s more of the same. In small doses, that’s not a bad thing. However, it’s entirely possible to have too much of a good thing.

Obligatory Amazon Links

Actually, I’m a little cross at Amazon at the moment, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, their MP3 store is excellent, but is geographically locked to the US. I’m not in the US, and therefore can’t access the store. Damn. Second, they locked my account last night, much to my frustration. However, they have an automated callback system thing, and I talked to an actual person quite quickly to get it unlocked. For that, I’m actually quite impressed.

Two for the Dough isn’t available on Kindle, but there is a box-set of the first three Stephanie Plum novels here: Plum Boxed Set 1, Books 1-3 (One for the Money / Two for the Dough / Three to Get Deadly) (Stephanie Plum Novels).

One for the Money (Janet Evanovich) (Stephanie Plum 01)

There are some authors who are the literature equivalent of a weekend away. They are easily digestible, low-stress, don’t require a lot of higher brain function, and are fine in occasional doses, but you wouldn’t want to do it too often. Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum books fall squarely into that category for me.

Author in brief Janet Evanovich is an American crime writer. Wikipedia, personal page, and Amazon. She started off as a romance writer under a pseudonym, but came to fame when she moved to crime, winning several awards.

One for the Money is the first story in the Stephanie Plum series, which as of writing has nineteen primary titles and a variety of holiday-themed one-offs. It’s a little difficult for me to review, as I’ve read most of the series, and am quite familiar with the characters and the format of the books. (They might be just a little bit formulaic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it ties in with the weekend-away idea from above. They’re light and fluffy and able to be swallowed in a few days. Colin Forbes is another really good example of this, but to a greater extent. I’m sure that he does a global search-and-replace of a few words from title to title.) Back to the point: I’m going to try to balance what I know about the series as to what one might expect encountering the series for the first time.

The character cast is quite static: Stephanie Plum is a rather hopeless bounty hunter who muddles through a series of desperate situations. Joe Morelli, a Trenton New Jersey cop, is her occasional boyfriend and love interest, and spends a lot of time rescuing her from desperate situations. Ranger, an expert bounty hunter, is the third part of the triangle, and plays to the other side of the law than Morelli. Lula, who in the first novel is introduced as a prostitute, will become Plum’s useless off-sider who should be working at filing at the bond office. Plum’s family provide a range of secondary characters: the sleazy cousin for whom she works, the long-suffering stereotypical ethnic father who harumphs over the crazy situations, the worrying mother, and the kooky grandmother who has a fascination with Plum’s line of work, and in particular the weaponry. Character development doesn’t really occur after the first few books.

One for the Money sees Stephanie Plum broke and in employment troubles. She blackmails her cousin Vinnie to give her a job rounding up Failure To Appears for his bond agency. Joe Morelli has skipped bail on a charge of murder, and is hunted by Plum. Up-and-coming boxer Benito Ramirez is connected with the killing, and is a particularly nasty piece of work, having raped and mutilated women, only to have his fame save him. Unable to apprehend Morelli, Plum forms an uneasy alliance with him to take down Ramirez. The writing is fast-paced, the scenes are quite well-written, and the story is a bit darker and grimmer than later books, with far less slapstick.

It’s light, it’s fluffy, it’s easily digested. But be careful–it’s a little addictive. An easy-to-read book from an easy-to-read series.

Oh, and it’s now a film.

Amazon links

One for the money doesn’t appear to be available on Kindle, but there are a variety of dead-tree editions, including an omnibus: Plum Boxed Set 1, Books 1-3 (One for the Money / Two for the Dough / Three to Get Deadly) (Stephanie Plum Novels)