Book Talk: Janet Evanovich: Irrepressible
Janet Evanovich has written (or, in a few cases, cowritten) 46 novels and one graphic novel (with her daughter Alex). Twenty-eight of them comprise the Stephanie Plum Number Series (i.e., One for the Money, Two for the Dough, etc.). But after Twisted Twenty-Six, for some reason, she started giving books in the series non-numeric titles (with a numeric sub-title). Last year’s offering was Fortune and Glory (Tantalizing Twenty-Seven). Hot off the press is this year’s Game On (Tempting Twenty-Eight, 2021, 286 pages).
In Game On, bounty-hunter (or more properly, bail bond enforcement agent) Stephanie is on the trail of Oswald Wednesday, an international computer hacker who is both brilliant and ruthless. But first, she has to deal with a professional “mooner” who dropped his pants at the wrong time and got arrested for indecent exposure. Then there’s the reappearance of Diesel, who is in the same business as Stephanie, but at a global level and with “fixers” who supply him with whatever equipment he needs.
I’ve read all 28 of the numerically-titled books and fully expected that there would be at least one funeral-home viewing by Grandma Mazur (a character who is obviously fashioned after the late Estelle Getty of The Golden Girls television series), calamities involving sidekick Lula (whose unique coiffure is ruined by bats and whose hair stylist has left town), dinner with Joe Morelli at Stephanie’s parent’s house where her mother is frequently driven to the liquor cabinet, boxes of doughnuts and cannoli at her cousin Vinnie’s bail-bond agency, and encounters with Ranger, which usually involve exploding cars and whose dialogue basically consists of “Babe.”
And, of course, this wouldn’t be a Stephanie Plum book without Steph and Lula making an emergency run to Cluck-in-a-Bucket in order to maintain Lula’s full-figure which she squeezes into a size 7 Spandex skirt which is always just a bit too short.
There is, however, one unexpected deviation from the Stephanie-Plum formula. Stephanie’s father, whose dinner-table behavior never consists of anything more than staring daggers at Grandma Mazur and “Pass the potatoes,” actually has a conversation with hacker Melvin Schwartz who is helping Stephanie track down Oswald and tutoring Grandma Mazur in computer crime. Melvin, as part of a group called the Baked Potatoes, has already cracked Oswald’s firewall, and now other members of the group are turning up dead, with their tongues cut out.
Evanovich’s last few books have drawn a few “same-old, same-old” comments from some reviewers, and Game On is no exception. However, I view it like a sweatshirt that I’ve had since high school. It’s comfortable. The plot is just different enough to hold the reader’s interest, and the characters who we’ve come to love are dependable. We’re resigned to the fact that Steph is amenable to marriage with Joe (most of the time), yet enamored with Ranger (all of the time). Diesel, according to Grandma Mazur’s evaluation, is another “hottie” who has entered Stephanie’s “Bermuda Triangle.”
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at email@example.com.