CBR10 Bingo: Home, Something, Home (Janet Evanovich is from my home state of New Jersey, where the action in this novel also takes place.)
I tend to be fairly generous in my reviews, with most of them falling in the 3- to 4-star range. Even if I don’t particularly care for a book, I appreciate that an individual has put herself out there and offered up something she created for the world to enjoy, and that deserves respect. Sometimes the process of writing a review calls my attention to elements that are worthwhile, which prevents me from being unnecessarily harsh. Nevertheless, I’m giving One for the Money a 1-star review because it pissed me off on multiple levels.
Let’s start with a plot summary. Stephanie Plum is a 30-year-old out-of-work lingerie buyer who, at her mother’s suggestion, hits up her cousin Vinnie the bail bondsman for a filing job. Okay, I need to pause already and reiterate that two of the first characters we meet are a lingerie buyer and a bail bondsman. All we need now is a mob boss and a construction worker to paint a complete portrait of New Jersey career opportunities. As if it isn’t bad enough that the image most people have of New Jersey is based on either The Sopranos or Jersey Shore, we have a heroine running around Trenton in spandex shorts and hoop earrings and going over to her parents’ house for dinner every night. With this level of character development, Stephanie could easily be a Simpsons character.
I’ll bet even Luigi has a more interesting backstory.
Back to the plot. While talking to Vinnie’s assistant, Stephanie learns that there’s pretty good money in skip tracing; i.e., working as a bounty hunter. She sets her mind to going after an alleged murderer who skipped out on a $100,000 bond, meaning she could earn $10,000 if she brings him in. Sure, she has no experience in law enforcement, investigative work, or anything that might prepare her for such a job, but she needs money, so what can she do, besides literally anything else.
Yup, just as plausible.
Clearly this is a plot device and normally I would just roll with it, but the guy she needs to find is Joe Morelli, a former cop and (I’m quoting the dust jacket here), “. . .irresistible macho pig who took Stephanie’s virginity at age sixteen and then wrote the details on the bathroom wall of Mario’s Sub Shop.” He never called her again, but don’t worry, Stephanie got revenge several years later by almost running him over with her car. Whoa! I bet when she finds him she’s going to show him who’s boss and not take any of his shit, right? Right? Guys?
Stephanie manages to find Morelli fairly easily, but since she doesn’t have any experience capturing fugitives and has apparently never seen a movie, she has no plan for bringing him in, figuring he’ll just come along with her to the police. He basically laughs at her and walks away. Tough break, Stephanie!
In pursuing other leads, Stephanie visits a boxing gym in the toughest part of Trenton, where local ruffian and boxing champ Benito Ramriez attempts to rape her. Fortunately, our hero Morelli swoops in and rescues her.
At this point you might think Stephanie would realize she’s not cracked up to be a bounty hunter, but you’d be wrong! I guess we’re supposed to think Stephanie has grit and determination, instead of the truth, which is that she’s a reckless moron. The rest of the novel alternates between Stephanie being stalked and terrorized by Ramirez and humiliated by Morelli. At one point Morelli breaks into her apartment while she is in the shower and handcuffs her naked to the curtain rod while he searches her apartment for the distributor cap to his car. By the way, Evanovich would also have us believe that removing a distributor cap is the only way to keep a car safe at Newark Airport. I know more than a few people who have parked their cars in long-term parking at Newark and returned to find their property intact. If she had bagged on Newark for smelling like the Budweiser factory, I’d be on board.
Back to naked Stephanie. She doesn’t like being handcuffed to the shower curtain (at least, that’s what she says, amiright, guys??). She seethes with anger until the next time she runs into Morelli, when she lets him kiss her instead of shooting him in the goddamn foot or something so she can bring him in and get paid. I almost quit at this point, but I continued because, frankly, it’s an easy read, and I wanted to see if there was some twist at the end to make it worthwhile. There wasn’t. The eventual big reveal was hardly a shocker, and the motivation had something to do with drugs, I think. Whatever. I don’t care.
I can get past the ugly portrait of New Jersey that Evanovich paints. It does take place in Trenton, which is a rough city, even though Evanovich herself is from South River, which is hardly in the same socioeconomic bracket. But Stephanie is the worst female role model since Scarlett O’Hara, and even Scarlett picked up a gun and defended her home from the invading Yankees, and she did it without the help of a douchebag ex-cop or a bounty hunter named Ranger.
Furthermore, the ultra-contrived sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli is just. . . icky. He makes lewd comments to her and she rewards him by sticking her tongue down his throat. In light of the Me Too Movement, it’s offensive. Maybe I’m being unfair holding a novel that was written in 1994 to today’s standards, except that 1) I’m reading it in 2018, so too bad; 2) It was written in 1994, not 1894; and 3) It’s not like there wasn’t any awareness of sexual harassment and discrimination going on in the early 90s.
Throughout the novel, Evanovich attempts to keep the tone light and funny, which would work if it weren’t interspersed with scenes of attempted rape and prostitutes being beaten and left for dead on the protagonist’s fire escape. The flippant attitude towards these events is downright horrifying. Stephanie gets freaked out for about 5 minutes at a time and then is back to making stupid decisions.
In the end, Stephanie does finally get herself out of trouble for the first and only time. I guess we’re supposed to see that as a sign that she’s growing, that she can take care of herself? But one lucky shot hardly makes her a bounty hunter.
This is a goddamn bounty hunter!