Book Talk: Janet Evanovich, ‘The Recovery Agent’

“The Recovery Agent” (2022, 297 pages in hardback) is the first book in a new series by the author of the very funny Stephanie Plum 28-book series (“One for the Money,” “Two for the Dough,” etc.). In her 27th book (“Fortune and Glory: Tantalizing Twenty-Seven), Ms. Evanovich gave us a peek at Gabriela Rose, the recovery agent.


Gabriela is the protagonist in this departure from the classic Evanovich formula. So, don’t expect a clone of Stephanie. Instead, imagine Indiana Jones as a woman in Prada or L.L. Bean, as appropriate to her environment. Unlike Stephanie, who is always leaving her gun in the cookie jar, Gabriela has an arsenal in her mid-town Manhattan apartment and uses each weapon with practiced skill.


She’s an investigator of insurance fraud as well as an intrepid recovery agent of lost treasure, somewhat reminiscent of Travis McGee from the John D. MacDonald series of the 1980’s. However, in this debut novel, Gabriela is working for her own family that lives in the little town of Scoon in South Carolina which has been devastated by a hurricane. At this point, the story gets a bit complicated.


Gabriela’s family wants her to find a chest that has contents that may lead her to a treasure that can save the town. However, the chest is under the floor boards of a house that once belonged to her grandmother but is now inhabited by Rafer, her ex-husband who received the domicile in the divorce agreement. And the story originated with Margareet, is retold by Annie, and filters down to Gabriela. Apparently, there is something called the Seal of Solomon that is hidden in South America, and it is very valuable.


When Gabriela breaks into Rafer’s house and finds the chest, she is caught in the act by her ex. She explains the plight of the town and her good intentions. He says, “You’re going to get the Seal, sell it to some rich guy, and give the money to Scoon?”


Of course, there’s a treasure map. Of course, Rafer decides that he’ll partner with Gabriela as the map was last in his possession. Of course, they’ll travel to Peru, and be met by unbelievably honorable and trustworthy guides. Of course, they’ll trample through snake-infested jungle, wind their way through maze-like caves, and encounter a native voodoo-like cult from which they’ll liberate the a sacred (and magic?) ring. Of course, they’ll be chased through more jungle, along a river, over waterfalls, and through rapids. Of course, Gabriela will nearly drown, only to be rescued by Rafer.


If that last paragraph sounded very familiar, formulaic, and boring, it was meant to. This is about where I bailed out on the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” However, I kept reading “The Recovery Agent” out for respect for Ms. Evanovich’s other novels.


I admit that the banter between Gabriela and Rafer is amusing, and Gabriela is an interesting deviation from Stephanie Plum. So, you may enjoy the book more than I did. And, yes, I will try the next one to give the new series a fair chance.


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Note: Two weeks ago in this column, I made reference to “the late Sharon Stockdale.” I was terribly misinformed. I’ve recently been assured that Sharon is alive and well and living in Arkansas. I apologize for any distress that my mistake may have caused. Thanks to Yvonne Edmonston.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.

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