Four to Score

High Five

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
(St. Martin’s Press, $24.95, PG) ISBN 0-312-20540-6
The wait is over! Stephanie Plum, Jersey bounty hunter with an attitude, is back. And with her comes the long anticipated answer to the previous book's cliffhanger: Who’s at the door? Is it sexy vice cop Joe Morelli? The enigmatic and highly seductive Ranger? Or someone else entirely? Well, my lips are sealed (but they’re hiding a big, silly grin).

The action picks up three months later and Stephanie has her hands full. Ranger is FTA (that’s bounty hunter lingo for failure to appear). He’s the prime suspect in the shooting and barbecuing of arms dealer Homer Ramos. Now everyone: Joe Morelli, arch enemy and fellow bounty hunter Joyce Barnhardt and a pair of mini-van driving bad guys named Mitchell and Habib, are following Stephanie around in the certainty that Ranger will come to her...eventually.

But we all know Ranger’s too smooth to get caught. He moves in and out of Stephanie’s life (and apartment) like a ghost. Ranger hires Stephanie to do a bit of part time surveillance at the Ramos’ family compound, but, as usual, winds up spending far too much time extricating her from the messes she gets herself into.

Meanwhile, it’s evident Joe’s feelings for Stephanie have moved in a more serious direction. Is it because he is aware of Stephanie’s attraction to Ranger? Or is he finally ready to settle down?

To top it all off, Grandma Mazur decides to move into Stephanie’s apartment, becoming an effective contraceptive device to Stephanie’s burgeoning love life. Grandma is her usual wacky self, although I missed the stunned reactions of Stephanie’s parents to her outrageous behavior.

Add to the mix a dysfunctional dog named Bob, a counterfeit Ranger, a FTA takedown in the middle of a Star Trek convention and my personal favorite: Stephanie and Lula on the hunt for dog poop. (Yes, you read that right). It’s nearly impossible to summarize the frenetic plot of a Stephanie Plum novel and this one is no different. I’ve barely scratched the surface.

But what is it that makes the Stephanie Plum series so terrific? For me, it's got to be the humor. I never laugh aloud while reading, but this series is the exception. I’ve read a few of these books in public and been the recipient of some rather alarmed looks from complete strangers when I've totally lost it.

Then there are the impeccable characterizations. What other author can give such a clearly defined personality to a hamster?

Did I mention sexual tension? Author Evanovich is a master. I’m firmly entrenched in the Morelli camp, but when Ranger makes his first appearance in Hot Six, He’s not referred to as “the bomb” for nothing.

To the uninitiated, I don’t know what I can write that will have enough impact to get you away from the computer and off to the bookstore to get this and the other books in the series. It seems inadequate to simply state you won’t be disappointed. But believe me, you won’t.

As for the rest of us, thank goodness the wait is over. Although Hot Six does end with a bit of a cliffhanger. Not nearly as traumatic as High Five, but it does get me to wondering....Oh, no. Here we go again!

--Karen Lynch

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