I'm currently taking a break from English teaching to enjoy raising my son. Reviews may also be published on my website www.buriedunderbooks.co.uk and / or on DooYoo under the name brokenangel. Will always return a read and rate.
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New bounty hunter gets to grips with job in comic crime mystery
good pace, entertaining, action packed, sympathetic heroine
reliance on chance and luck might irritate some readers
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This book is the first in a series featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. It was published in 1994 and proved very popular. There are now at least 17 books in the series focused around Stephanie’s adventures as a bail bond enforcer. Although these are sold as crime / mystery stories, they are very comic and are more about the entertainment than the central crimes they feature.
Money, money, money
Stephanie Plum needs money. She’s lost her job and is about to lose her car. Worse, her apartment is rapidly becoming furniture-free. Desperate times call for desperate measures so Stephanie talks her low-life cousin Vinnie into giving her a job. He wants her filing safely in the office, but when she realises the money available for bringing in Failure to Appears Stephanie insists on a more high profile role.
Her first assignment: bring in Joe Morelli, local cop turned homicide suspect. Experienced cop turned outlaw vs. ex-lingerie saleswoman? No problem. Although Stephanie and Joe have a history involving a bakery floor, her lost virginity and a sort-of hit-and-run, this is definitely going to remain professional…
Unfortunately, during the course of her investigations Stephanie attracts the attention of Benito Ramirez, a violent boxing champion with a passion for hurting women. Who can protect her from Ramirez? Morelli could, but she needs to turn him in…
Life in the burg
From the start, I found the writing often made me laugh out loud. A trip to her parents’ home for dinner prompts the comment that: “The clock on the dashboard told me I was seven minutes late, and the urge to scream told me I was home.” The first person narration helps to create a self-effacing persona and an often very entertaining narrative as Stephanie tries to balance visiting her mother, earning a living and not getting herself killed.
Stephanie isn’t the world’s greatest bounty hunter, which can lead to some difficulties (like a suspect using her bullets to arm himself) and she’s not that keen on shooting people, which means that her gun is really more for decoration than protection. She manages to survive using a combination of luck, more luck and help from two men: the mysterious Ranger and the equally devious but more outwardly respectable Morelli. These two are core characters in the later books and their relationships with Stephanie are well established here – they offer a wryly amused helping hand combined with a hefty dose of flirtation and a smidgeon of shock at Stephanie’s latest predicament. In fact, their roles are fairly indistinguishable and just mean that Stephanie has two helpers to call upon. She isn’t exactly a feminist who’s keen to be doing it for herself and is quite happy to accept a bit of support. More importantly, the scene is set for a love triangle to develop in later books.
The story is populated with other entertaining characters. Vinnie, Stephanie’s cousin, is susceptible to blackmail because of his doings with a duck. Grandma Mazur is convinced that she could be a bounty hunter, too, to the despair of Stephanie’s long suffering parents, and Stephanie’s date just wants to sell her home appliances. It is impossible to take any of the characters seriously as they are all very one-dimensional. This has the positive side-effect that serious injuries don’t seem that terrible as the reader has not built up a connection with these characters.
There is a sense of danger in the book and at least one character is very badly hurt, but Stephanie is the kind of character who will only ever be badly hurt enough to warrant a trip to A&E when the action’s over. This means that even when Stephanie is tense the reader can be fairly relaxed, albeit wondering incredulously how she will escape from her latest predicament. Meanwhile, there is plenty to entertain, from the police pool betting on when Stephanie will 'put out' for Morelli, to Morelli’s shock when Stephanie ‘commanders’ his car, to Stephanie’s horror when she accidentally answers Morelli’s phone to Morelli’s grandmother.
There is a large dose of family fun thrown in, too, as Stephanie regularly visits her parents’ house for free food and a lecture on her career choice. The family dynamics are recognisable to anyone who’s been a mother or a daughter and are enjoyably predictable…enjoyable mostly because it’s someone else getting irritated! The humour is farce and slapstick, with each instalment in the series working almost like an extended sitcom episode. The pace is quick and there’s plenty happening throughout the book. The crime itself is suitably resolved and, although it is the start of a series, this is easy to read as a standalone book.
Action packed and often laugh-out-loud funny this is chick lit with a dose of Serious Stuff. Read it for the daft events, odd musings and odder twists. This is recommended for readers who like their crime to be comic. Probably rather less suitable for feminists and those who take prostitution (known as ‘being a ho’ in these books) seriously. This can be read as a standalone book but the rest of the series is equally entertaining, so if you like this you’ll probably like the rest. I think it is definitely worth the £7.99 RRP especially since (once you’ve read the rest of the series and forgotten how it all started) this is worth re-reading for the details you forgot and the details you remembered with a slightly incredulous smile. This is at least a second reading for me and it hasn’t made it to the charity shop yet. Need more convincing? It won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy Memorial Dagger (whatever that is).
My own, slightly older, edition of this book features 290 pages of entertainment in a slightly small font, available from a mere penny (plus P&P) second hand on Amazon.