(originally from All About Romance)
St. Martin’s Press, $26.95, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312349483
Part of a series
Twelve Sharp, Janet Evanovich’s twelfth Stephanie Plum novel, is light, funny, and peopled with memorable, lovable characters. Readers new to the bounty-hunting world of Plum, Morelli, and the delectable Ranger will be amused and charmed by this novel. Readers like me, however, the loyal readers of Evanovich, the ones who have been with her since One for the Money, are going to be, at best, disappointed.
The storyline is similar to other Evanovich novels. Stephanie and her crew of eccentrics chase down criminals to convince them to reschedule their court dates. Hijinks ensue. There is the mandatory misunderstood con — in this case, Melvin, a man who gets caught trying to self-satisfy in a movie theatre. There is Lula, Stephanie’s ex-ho sometimes partner, who makes a great showing (both literally and figuratively) as she moonlights as a cabaret singer. Sally Sweet, Grandma Mazur, and Joyce Barnhardt all take a turn as well. The Rolling Stones references are particularly well done.
And then there’s Morelli.
And then there’s Ranger.
Evanovich fans are split right down the middle as to which suitor Stephanie should choose. Ranger was a presence more than a character in the early books of the series, but more recently he has started to play a much larger part, both in the novel plot lines and in Stephanie’s life. This entry is no different, as the main crime takes the form of identity theft. A man claiming to be Ranger kidnaps Ranger’s daughter, Julie, then sets about making his life as much like Ranger’s as possible – which includes acquiring Stephanie as prime love interest.
Twelve Sharp is enjoyable. Much more so, in my opinion, than the previous two titles in the series. The adventures feel quirky and new, the characters are colorful, and the sexual tension between Stephanie and her two love interests is razor sharp. I giggled at many scenes, laughed out loud at some, and closed the book smiling. But in the end, it failed to deliver – it was like deja vu all over again.
There are two recurring plot lines in this series. The first is Stephanie’s misfit as a bounty hunter. Her best captures are when the skip is drunk, asleep, or dead. She leaves her gun in a cookie jar in her kitchen. She’s scared of mostly everyone who comes across her desk. And, ultimately, she just doesn’t like being a bounty hunter. Over the course of the series, she has struggled with her career dilemma, occasionally taking other jobs, exploring other avenues. But she returns relentlessly to bounty hunting.
The second plot line is the love triangle between Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger. The “who will she choose?” question has been asked and re-asked for seven books now. Fans will remember the cliff hanger at the end of High Five as the real starting point. Both men are scorchingly hot, both have much on offer. However, from a happily ever after, house and kids and white picket fence point of view, it’s clear who is the right choice. It’s been clear for awhile. But Stephanie continues to waffle.
It is these plot lines for which readers keep returning, these plot lines that generate repeat interest. And it is these plot lines that never change. The characters experience major social, emotional, and physical events, yet never grow, never alter, never learn from their ordeals. Stephanie is the same person in book twelve as she was in book one. This lack of development is not only frustrating, it smacks strongly of exploitation. I feel swindled paying hardcover price for a book I’ve already read four times over.
To conclude, I’m going to paraphrase mercilessly from Elie Wiesel. The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference. At first I loved this series. Then I hated feeling jerked around. With Twelve Sharp I’ve rounded the corner into indifference. Here’s hoping indifference – and the indifferent sales this continual reiteration will provoke – convince Evanovich to put away her abacus and try something new.