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Book Review: Janet Evanovich’s ‘Smokin’ Seventeen’

Janet Evanovich’s latest book in the Stephanie Plum series, “Smokin’ Seventeen,” was released June 21, 2011, supplying another round of sex, absurdity, gossip and murder!

Stephanie’s family and friends finally had enough. It’s time to put up or shut up! Who’s it gonna be — longtime on-again-off-again boyfriend Joe “Officer Hottie” Morelli or dangerously seductive security expert Ranger? Everyone has an opinion per usual, especially Stephanie’s mom who encourages the fearless bounty hunter to dump them both in favor of a former high school football star who recently returned to town. Insert awkward family dinners here, aka let’s lure Stephanie with promises of a delicious home-cooked meal so we can fix her up with some nice young man and solve all her problems! Pass the cannoli Grandma Mazur!

Of course, Evanovich’s novels are never this simple (not that they’re complex either). While Stephanie is weighing her options, she discovers she is on a killers to-do list, a killer who leaves dead bodies in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. Will Stephanie be next? Is the killer someone from Stephanie’s checkered bounty hunter past? And, of course, who’s it gonna be — Ranger or Morelli?

The gangs all here! You get Grandma Mazur and Lula’s inappropriate insanity and one-liners, Morelli’s tight buns, Ranger’s Cuban-American-Batman hotness, Grandma Bella’s evil eye, Connie’s killer curves and mob attitude and Vinnie the weasel. Mix in perma-stoned Mooner driving a bus that serves as a mobile Bail Bonds headquarters, a senior citizen vampire with a set of false fangs, and all the vordo and FTAs your little heart desires, and you’ve got another Stephanie Plum adventure.

It’s a summer family reunion to catch up with old friends and let the story continue. Not to be a total perv (and if I premise a statement with that, obviously I am a pervert) but the nitty gritty sexual aspect of this book is superb.

People don’t start a series with the 18th book, they start at the beginning (hopefully), so I am directing this next part to all Stephanie Plum fans out there … It’s obvious Evanovich phoned-in the last few books in the series and wrote on auto-pilot, or her assistant/ghost writers penned them. I guess that’s what happens when you reach the teens of a book series, using the same ol’ formula, mixed in with New York Times bestseller status. It’s a shame because the beginning of this series was superb!

Author Janet Evanovich

“Smokin’ Seventeen” is not nearly as good as the first 11-12 books in the series, but it’s not as bad as the last few. Evanovich’s voice from the earlier books hasn’t completely resurfaced but at least she made a U-Turn and is headed back in the right Jerseylicious direction.

Since I’m emotionally involved with these characters, I take what I can get.

While the majority of “Smokin’ Seventeen” showed signs of the good ol’ days, it also hinted at the lameness of books 13-16. There’s Stephanie’s lack of character development. There’s the forced and disjointed feeling with some scenes and situations, especially the awkward, rushed ending (no spoilers). Evanovich bumped up the heat with (spoiler alert) Ranger but, in turn, lowered the heat with Morelli to the point their relationship seemed odd.

Evanovich took advantage of the fact we know the background and all the players involved. Some parts of the book were rushed and screamed for more emotion from Stephanie and other characters, especially the love triangle. Some characters were downplayed, including Grandma Mazur who was not nearly as hilarious as usual. I am happy the book wasn’t as bad as the last few but I can’t help but feel Evanovich is still taking her large fan base for granted.

However, I can analyze “Smokin’ Seventeen,” the series as a whole and characters, pick apart Stephanie’s immaturity with men and life choices and her lack of growth, pick apart the absurd scenarios — i.e. a senior citizen skip who thinks he’s a vampire — or I can take the series for what it is: a fun, lighthearted escape with my hero Stephanie Plum and all the usual suspects.
If you want in on the fun, start at the beginning with “One For the Money.” The series is a perfect summer beach read. Work your way through the series and when you hit the teens, around 12 or 13, warning … it’s not going to be as good.

Luckily for Evanovich I, along with thousands, fell in love with Stephanie and the whole gang many books ago so we’re stuck — hook, link and sinker — ready for the 18th book to come out in November and hopefully some development in Stephanie’s love life. Wink wink, nudge nudge. — Kate Vendetta

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Visit Janet Evanovich’s official site at www.evanovich.com or buy the book on Amazon.com!