Sunday, February 8, 2009

One for the Money - Janet Evanovich

1994; 320 pages. Genre : Crime Fiction. Overall Rating : B-..

    Stephanie Plum needs a job, so she schmoozes her cousin Vinnie and gets hired on as a bounty hunter. Unfortunately, she knows nothing about the vocation, so she needs a gun, needs to learn how to shoot it, and needs to figure out how to haul someone in. Most of all, she needs the $10,000 finders fee for bringing in Joe Morelli; who's a cop accused of murder, a hunk, and who as a kid, conned Stephanie into playing the New Jersey equivalent of "doctor".

What's To Like...
    Evanovich has created a strong, female protagonist in Plum. She can use her brain, which comes in handy as she learns her new profession. Indeed, it was refreshing to see her outfox Joe Morelli in order to bring him in, instead of having to resort to her feminine wiles or (worse yet) romance.

.   There is vein of light humor that runs throughout the book, and wonder of wonders, we're not dealing with someone who suffers from job burn-out. It's also a nice change to follow a bounty hunter instead of a cop or detective in a crime novel. Morelli is another good character study, although it is evident early on that he's not really a murderer.

   .Unfortunately, the great character studies come at the expense of a humdrum storyline. Stephanie gads about, searching for Morelli and bringing in easy, but low-paying bail-jumpers. Meanwhile, no progress is made on the main murder until the tail-end, when the real killer of course blabs all the details to Stephanie right before he intends to kill her. Don't bad guys ever watch Austin Powers movies?
    There are believability issues. The entire New Jersey police force can't find Morelli, but Stephanie manages to do so - not once, not twice, but four times. Then there's her visit to a boxing gym, where the "champ" decides to attempt to sexually assault her for no particular reason and in front of everyone else working out at the gym. Yeah, like that happens all the time.

Cogito, ergo Plum...
    The Stephanie Plum series has been highly successful for Evanovich, and I noted that the latest one (something like #15 or so), "Plum Spooky" was #1 on the NY Times best seller list last week. It may be interesting to see how her character develops along the line. Presumably, she gets more adept at bounty-hunting with time.
    If you're looking for an entertaining story, with a bit of humor and a good, strong, thinking female lead, One For The Money may be your cup of tea. OTOH, this isn't the book to read when you're wanting spine-tingling suspense or wish to solve a whodunit alongside the protagonist. As long as you're more interested in what happens to Stephanie and her bounty-hunting than who-killed-who and why, this is a pleasant read.

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