More years ago than I care to recall, I picked up a book called Four to Score from my local library. It had a vaguely competent heroine called Stephanie Plum, a hot guy from her past, crime, humour, euphemisms for sex, all that good stuff. Since then, I have felt compelled to read everything ever written by Janet Evanovich. I used to buy everything, but stopped a few years ago, for which reason the following review will make clear.
I recently moved and joined my new local library. Out of habit, I checked their Evanovich collection and saw a few titles I had not read. “What the heck?” I thought, “She’s still writing Stephanie Plum? That horse hasn’t been flogged to death yet?” I picked up book Twenty, reserved book Twenty-One and toddled off home to read.
Halfway through book Twenty I realised I had made a mistake: the plot seemed more familiar than the usual Stephanie Plum fare. A check on Goodreads confirmed my suspicion: I read book Twenty last year and didn’t remember.
I stopped buying Stephanie Plum novels after book Sixteen. In the first half dozen books (but particularly the first two), the crime was tightly plotted, plausible, and solved by hard work as much as luck. Stephanie was reasonably capable and new to bounty hunting, but eager to learn. Once Ms. Evanovich had some measure of success with her Plum novels (the first two won crime writing awards), she started to lean on the goodwill of her audience. The crimes become more loosely plotted, the romantic machinations repeated verbatim each book, the secondary characters became more kooky and one-note. Each book was hotly anticipated, but in my experience, quite literally forgettable.
Look, these books are fun. They take about an hour or two to read (big type, big paragraph spacings) and they require almost no thought on the part of the reader. But if you are new to Stephanie Plum, promise yourself to stop with the single digit titles. And if you are new to Janet Evanovich, do yourself a favour and read her work co-written with Lee Goldberg instead.