Four to Score

High Five

Hot Six

Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
(St. Martins, $24.95, PG) ISBN 0-312-26584-0
When I reviewed Hot Six, the previous book in author Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, I tried to analyze what I found so appealing about these books. I narrowed it down to two things: the characterizations and the humor. Oddly enough, it was those same elements that caused problems for me in Seven Up.

In her latest adventure, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s FTA (failure to appear) is wily Eddie DeChooch, a Houdini of a senior citizen who seems to slip magically away whenever Stephanie has him in her grasp. Eddie is wanted for trafficking bootleg cigarettes, but the discovery of Loretta Ricci’s bullet-riddled body in Eddie’s back yard shed leads Stephanie to believe there’s a lot more going on here than smuggling.

Stephanie’s old high school friends, the dysfunctional Dougie and Mooner, are back and caught up in the thick of things. When Dougie goes missing, Mooner enlists Stephanie’s help to find him and it’s soon apparent Dougie’s disappearance is somehow connected to Eddie DeChooch. Can Stephanie find Dougie before he winds up like poor Loretta Ricci?

As if Stephanie doesn’t have enough to deal with, her mom is dragging her out to try on wedding dresses for a wedding Stephanie isn’t entirely sure she’s ready for. Her sister Valerie and her two daughters (one of whom thinks she’s a horse) have moved back home from California after Valerie’s husband ran off with the babysitter. Now Valerie wants to try a lesbian relationship.

And there’s no escape for Stephanie outside the Plum household, either. There’s the usual car disaster (who insures this woman?), adventures in mud wrestling, a disappearing rump roast and the usual digestive problems with Bob the dog.

Then there’s the dilemma of Morelli and Ranger. Stephanie has always had the hots for Morelli, in fact they’re practically engaged. But she still can’t stop thinking about what it would be like with Ranger.

It’s the character of Ranger that I had a difficult time with here. Of course he’s intended to be mysterious, but throughout the past several books we’ve been learning little bits about him that make him even more intriguing. In Seven Up, nothing new is revealed. I really needed a bit more background to feel comfortable with some of his actions in this book.

My favorite thing about a Stephanie Plum book is spending time with characters that have become old friends: Sexy Trenton vice cop Joe Morelli, former prostitute Lula, hilarious Grandma Mazur and there looks to be some crazy situations in the offing now that Stephanie’s mom has finally left the kitchen to venture out into the real world.

Although the usual one-liners had me laughing out loud, particularly those of Grandma Mazur, the situational comedy didn’t work nearly as well for me. In previous books, I can remember entire scenes that had me gasping with laughter, but not one scene in particular stands out in my mind in Seven Up.

That’s not to say I don’t recommend Seven Up, I most certainly do. Just ask the woman at the bookstore yesterday who was wandering the aisles in apparent indecision. I plopped a copy of One For The Money in her hands and instructed her to get reading. You really can’t go wrong with Stephanie Plum.

--Karen Lynch

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