Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Report: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

It took a Katherine Heigl movie to get me to start reading Janet Evanovich's popular Stephanie Plum series.  I like mysteries, but my taste in them runs more toward the cozy (i.e., small-town incidents resolved by kindly old ladies) than the cold-blooded.  I'd heard that the Plum books fell into the latter camp, a rumor that was confirmed early on in this colorful, streetwise story. 

Stephanie Plum is a recently laid-off lingere buyer in serious need of some money.  Evanovich pulls no punches in describing what it's like to be unemployed in New Jersey.  Yep, Steph is a Jersey girl, a Trenton girl to be exact, right down to her big hair and turquoise eyeliner (more on that later).  There are no comfy accounts of using the free time to catch up on home improvement projects or house-sit for elderly relatives, just unvarnished reports of stale Fig Newton lunches, repossessed vehicles, and, oh yeah, the hunting down of dangerous criminals who just happen to be high school boyfriends.  That's right.  Stephanie's sought gainful employment as a bounty hunter for her sleazy cousin's bail bond business.   So maybe it is a little contrived, a little charmed.  Just not in the way that I'm used to.

I'm not going to get into the plot.  Because I'm not really a plot kind of girl, and even if I tried it would go something like this: shooting-shooting-double-cross-shooting-shooting-drug bust-double-cross-shooting-surprise ending.  I'll just say that it was suspenseful.  And creepy.  So much so that I'm going to focus on the more normal parts, i.e, the fringes.  Here are the highlights:

"I spent some time on my hair, doing the blow-drying thing, adding some gel and some spray.  When I was done I looked like Cher on a bad day.  Still, Cher on a bad day wasn't all that bad.  I was down to my last pair of spandex shorts.  I tugged on a matching sports bra that doubled as a halter top and slid a big, loose purple T-shirt with a large, droopy neck over my head.  I laced up my hightop Reeboks, crunched down my white socks, and felt pretty cool."  (152)  (I feel the need to interject that our heroine wears an alarming amount of biker shorts.  Naturally, this phenomenon led me to check the copyright of the book.  It's 1994, which kind of checks out.)

"I grabbed the ultracool black and purple Gore-Tex jacket I'd purchased when I was of the privileged working class, and I headed for the parking lot.  This was the sort of day to read comic books under a blanket tent and eat the icing from the middle of Oreos.  . . . I pumped myself up by applying fresh lipstick.  There was no great surge of power, so I deepened the blue liner and added mascara and blush.  I checked myself out in the rearview mirror.  Wonder Woman, eat your heart out." (169-170)

Fashion, with a little food and reading thrown in.  Those are where my loyalties lie.

So, will I be embarking on the car chase that inevitably marks the rest of the Plum misadventures?  Probably not.  Although I liked Stephanie 's character and appreciated Evanovich's darkly witty writing, there's just too much grisliness at play for me to comfortably settle into this series.  I might rent the movie version of One for the Money when it comes out though, if only for comparison's sake.

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