Pursuing Kenny Mancuso, who fled after inadvertently shooting his best friend, New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum becomes involved in an all-out manhunt for gunrunners and illegal weapons and is pursued by vice cop Joe Morelli.
The plot moooooves. It's funny in the right places. The jeopardy is always present, always real. We know, of course, that somehow Plum will get Mancuso, bad as he is, but no matter. That is a flaw of all series crime novels: the reader knows the hero will prevail. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a next book.
But the plot isn't what fascinated me here. It was the atmosphere. It was the cast of characters. Trenton, NJ is not exactly a tourist Mecca, and the author doesn't try to burnish the city's reputation. It's cold. It's dirty. It's dangerous. A good portion of the book takes place in sundry funeral parlors, not exactly places we like to visit in the best of cities. But the author makes it real--I almost wrote "come alive," but that would be tacky. As for characters, they are all good, from Plum to her grandmother. While the reader probably wouldn't care to socialize with most of those who populate this tale, it is undeniable that they are realistic. Characters and atmosphere: they are what make or break any work of fiction, and they certainly make this an enjoyable turn.
I look forward to catching up with book three, if only to follow the further saga of Plum's Grandma.
If I had to rate the series, I'd choose this one as best or perhaps second-best, so far, although all are superb. Lula and Grandma Mazur, two of Evanovich's best characters, really come alive in this one. Stephanie is still Everywoman in La-La Land while Joe sizzles, Ranger looms dangerously, Stephanie's father and mother remain completely and hilariously in character, Spiro is nicely smarmy, and Mancuso is a REALLY BAD GUY. Highly recommended!
Stephanie reminds me of another bewildered and exploited tracer of lost persons who also possesses a wisecracking mouth, a convoluted love life, and an eccentric and hilarious family, who makes dead-on observations and is so much "at home" in the 'hood that the narrative gives us a complete sense of belonging -- namely, Marcus Didius Falco in Lindsey Davis's fabulous Roman series. And folks, that's high praise.
Many of the regular characters become more fleshed out including Vinnie, Connie, Ranger, and especially heartthrob cop Joe Morelli. The best character in the bunch is Lula-a prostitute introduced in book one who now wants to join Stephanie as a bounty hunter. Think 200+ pound African American in spandex miniskirts. The two of them working together is a blast. Stephanie is also becoming a little more savvy in her job and now sports a stun-gun. But she still has much to learn, which makes the story funny and maybe a little more realistic (no James Bond-types to be found here).
I read the book first, and then listened to the audio version. One thing that is really annoying with many audio books (this one included) is that so many of the readers mispronounce so many words-especially names of places. Also, this book was only made available in the abridged version. But even so, Evanovich will have you coming back for more.