I sort of gave up on Stephanie Plum a few books ago. I think I was in the middle of something else when the latest book came out and Mom had to get her copy back to the library before I could read it, and besides, Mom said it was kind of "meh", so I just never really pursued it. But recently Mom read the latest installment and said Janet's got her groove back, so while I'm waiting for the digital copy to become available, I'm catching up on the last few audio-style. (By the way, audio's the way to go with these. The voice actress is great, and it's not like Stephanie is high literature, so if I zone out while I'm driving, I'm probably not missing much.) So here's a quick run down of the last few peeks we've had in to Stephanie's wacky life.
Explosive Eighteen opens with Stephanie coming back from Hawaii - solo - leaving both Morelli and Ranger behind in paradise. She doesn't want to talk about what happened, not even when it turns out that her seatmate never made it on the plane because he was stuffed in to a garbage can in the airport in California. Which wouldn't be a big deal, really, except that somehow she wound up with a photo that the dead guy stuffed in her messenger bag, and now everyone - the FBI, the fake FBI, the dead guy's wacky girlfriend, and a host of other weirdos - is after her.
In the meantime, the bail bonds office is working out of a temporary space that's infested with rats (I'll admit, I fast forwarded through the scene with the rats falling out of the ceiling. I just couldn't. ICK.), Lula has the hots for a big dummy that Stephanie has on her skip list, and Joyce Barnhart (remember her?) is crashing at Stephanie's.
Morelli and Ranger make appearances, of course. Not a lot of sexy times with either of them in this installment - Stephanie's off men because of the Hawaii Incident - but there are enough hungry looks from Morelli and "Babe"s uttered from Ranger to make me happy.
Notorious Nineteen has Stephanie hot on the trail of Geoffrey Cubbin, the accountant at Trenton's ritziest assisted living facility. Cubbin's on trial for embezzling millions when he disappears from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Because Stephanie doesn't quite fit in with the over-80 crowd, she recruits Grandma to go in undercover, and Stephanie, still on a break from men after the disastrous Hawaii trip, is thrown together with Morelli on the hospital side of things, along with three foot tall Randy Briggs, one of Stephanie's long time nemeses.
Also happening: Stephanie's been assigned to guard Ranger, for which she gets paid. Ranger, if you're reading this, I could probably guard you just as well as Stephanie and I would do it for free. Call me. Anyway, Ranger and his buddy are in the middle of being stalked by a former special forces friend, and so Stephanie is tapped to help do security at the wedding, which means a hideous pink taffeta dress. Although it also means Ranger in a tux, so, you know.
I think that might be all we need to know about this book: Ranger wears a tux.
But the tux doesn't sway Stephanie enough; at the end, she's kind of still off men but back, sort of kind of, with Morelli and Bob. Cubbin's been found, or rather, his money's been found and (mostly) returned to the ALF, the wedding gets cancelled in favor of elopement, and Ranger returns to his lair, so all's well that ends well.
Takedown Twenty starts out with a giraffe running through the streets of Trenton. I know that Janet says weird things happen in Trenton, and I believe her, but a giraffe is weird, even for Stephanie Plum. There's a few dead guys, a hit and run, and Stephanie is out looking for Morelli's godfather Uncle Sunny, who happens to be an actual godfather as well. Uncle Sunny's friends aren't talking, and neither is his bimbo girlfriend. Grandma Bella gets in on the action, going around town and giving people - including Stephanie - the eye.
Grandma Mazur shows up too, helping Stephanie and Ranger work the case of the death of the mother of one of Ranger's clients, and Stephanie winds up at the bingo hall with Grandma, Bella, and Ranger, looking for the murderer.
And still, the giraffe roams the streets.
In Top Secret Twenty One, Stephanie's on the hunt for Jimmy Poletti, New Jersey's favorite used car dealer. (Aside: we have a guy in my hometown who is from that area. His commercials are obnoxious. He talks over his female cohort, named Caroline. The hashtag #WheresCaroline was trending for awhile in town when she was replaced for a few weeks by a pair of sultry Latin women who didn't speak. Caroline came back, though, and he still talks over her. And he always ends the commercial with, "It's gonna be HUGE," except he says it YOOOOOOOOGE. I can't stand him. All this to say, I think he'd fit right in with Trenton.)
Anyway, that was a weird digression in to local commercials.
Stephanie's after Poletti, and Poletti's after little Randy Briggs, who is hiding out in Stephanie's apartment, which of course, gets blown up. I wonder if Stephanie has rental insurance. Morellia's around again, with Bob, Lula winds up with a pack of wild Chihuahuas that she and Stephanie found on Stark Street, and perhaps most important of all, someone is after Ranger, so he turns to Stephanie for help.
I have to interject here for a second and say that Ranger is a brilliant man, but I think sometimes he may place a little bit more faith in Stephanie than she deserves. I mean, if I had to pick someone to help guard me, I'm not so sure it would be Stephanie. She and Lula are fun and all, but if someone was really trying to kill me, I'm not so sure they would be the ones I'd turn to.
I need more Ranger. More Morelli's okay, too. I mean, the way he looks at Stephanie and calls her "cupcake" is pretty shiver-inducing. But Ranger's "Babe"? Swoon. No wonder Stephanie can't decide.