Maybe it’s because I burned my brain cells on the likes of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce as an English major, but I prefer reading books that are enjoyable while also not serious, or “light reading.” That’s not to say I dislike fine literature; I just don’t want to spend what little free time I have trying to figure out what the hell “Ulysses” is about.
With that said, Janet Evanovich‘s “light reading” romantic mystery series featuring every-woman Stephanie Plum came out with its 16th book on June 22, 2010, entitled “Sizzling Sixteen.”
Evanovich started the series in 1994, beginning with “One For The Money,” told in the first person perspective of 30-something Stephanie Plum, a recently laid off and divorced lingerie buyer from Trenton, N.J. who barely makes ends meet. In the first book, Plum has to turn to her morally-questionable cousin Vinnie for a job, working as a bounty hunter for his company, Vincent Plum Bail Bonds.
The series features Plum and her colorfully complex friends and family. This includes plus-size, laugh-out-loud-funny former “ho” Lula, who is known for outrageous clothing and an equally outrageous personality, and Plum’s elderly Grandma Mazur, who is oversexed and hilariously crass, whether she’s trying to sneak a peak at the deceased during a closed casket viewing or sneaking off to see a Chippendale’s performance.
At the heart of the series is a bizarre love triangle between Plum, her off-and-on boyfriend, Italian Stallion Trenton plains-clothed cop Joseph Morelli (I’m on Team Morelli), and her mentor/often savior, the Batman/Jack Bauer-esque Cuban-American hottie Ranger (Carlos Manoso). Lula describes Ranger in “Sizzling Sixteen” as “heartstoppin’ hot. I had my way, I’d spread sauce on him and work him like a rib.”
Sounds far-fetched, huh? Well it’s supposed to be, as well as cleverly funny and an entertaining read. The series is full of mysteries, small town gossip, twists, murders, fugitives (known as “FTAs”), and Plum’s often-hilarious attempts at bounty hunting. While mostly light-hearted, each book also features well-written, elaborate whodunits.
Evanovich’s books are also chock full of witty dialogue, including such gems as Lula saying in “Sizzling Sixteen,” that “I don’t know what’s more depressing, this dreary ass funeral home or a titty bar in the morning.” Although Evanovich’s writing won’t win a Pulitzer or be featured in an advanced English course, she’s a New York Times best selling author.
“Sizzling Sixteen” stays true to the formula of its predecessors. Vinnie has been kidnapped by mobster Bobby Sunflower after racking up a $700,000+ gambling debt, which puts his business in jeopardy. As the black sheep of the series, the only people willing to save him are Plum and her co-workers and friends, Lula and full-figured, Mafia-tied Connie Rossoli, to save their jobs.
It’s the same old scenario – Plum in Trenton working as a mediocre bounty hunter, trying to track down outlandish fugitives, which in “Sizzling Sixteen” includes a man wanted for polygamy and a drug dealer with a pet alligator. All the while, Plum is trying to choose between Morelli and Ranger. If you can suspend your disbelief, “Sizzling Sixteen” is a funny, light-hearted read and presents a time-out from your daily grind.
If you’re new to the series, then I recommend that you start at the beginning and work your way through the numbered series. Plum is also featured in “between the numbers” novellas, including “Plum Lovin” and “Plum Spooky,” which are halfway decent but definitely not something I recommend.
On a side note, the film adaptation of “One For The Money,” is set to be released in 2011. Although I’m not happy with the casting, it will be interesting to see Stephanie Plum on the big screen. — Kate Vendetta