The Stephanie Plum books of Janet Evanovich – amusing crime fiction in numerical order

Janet Evanovich is an American author whose amusing crime fiction books about Stephanie Plum are numbered sequentially. For example the first book is called One for the Money, the secondis Two for the Dough and so on – the books currently run to Twisted Twenty-Six although there are some books peripheral to the series that don’t have numbered titles. It certainly means that you always know where you are in the series and how to arrange them on your shelves – Sue Grafton’s alphabet titled books achieve the same thing and they start with A is for Alibi and finish with Y is for Yesterday.

The heroine of Janet Evanovich’s novels is Stephanie Plum. Stephanie is a rather accident prone but well-meaning young woman who lives in New Jersey and comes from a blue collar background. At the beginning of the first book she ends up working for a bail bondsman who is a relative mainly because she can’t think of anything else to do. Her role is to find people who have been released from prison on bail but who fail to turn up at their hearing and thus cost her employer money. She has no qualifications for this role but it offers plenty of opportunity for amusing situations.

Stephanie often uncovers crime or becomes involved in it in some way. She is well meaning and intelligent but often ignored or dismissed by the men around her. She is frequently threatened by the criminals she works with and, at least in the earlier books, that threat can become real. She is in an on/off romantic relationship with Joe Morelli who is a detective in the local police service and she solves his crimes about as often as he has to rescue her from difficult situations. She also has an on/off relationship with Ranger who is the enigmatic owner of a local private security firm and also has to come to her aid frequently. She can’t seem to decide between these two men and neither of them is prepared to commit to a long term relationship although they both appear to love her.

I very much enjoyed the first ten to fifteen books in the series. I did find them funny and I enjoyed the introduction of other eccentric characters such as Lula the ex-sex worker, Granny Mazur and Vinnie the bail bondsman. I did find, however, that as the series progressed they emphasised the amusing at the expense of the plot and that certain events seemed to repeat in each book. I also began to weary of Stephanie continually messing up even if she was usually vindicated by the end of the book. It is difficult for an author who has written a successful series in that people want it to remain much the same but then become tired of the familiar.

I want, however, to recommend these books to you if you like a light-hearted crime novel. They are genuinely amusing but also quite touching in places. The author plays up the characters to make them amusing but there are real issues behind the laughs. Occasionally these books would make me laugh out loud. They are well worth a read and you will always know what order to read them in !

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