Book Review

Bad-ass Bounty Hunter, or Just Bad?

1997 Shawn Vidmar

  Could the disappearance of a candy store owner have anything to do with the systematic deaths of several drug dealers in the neighboring suburb? This case sounds like a job for the inept Stephanie Plum in Three to Get Deadly.

   Plum--the former lingerie buyer for E.E. Martin who prefers working for her cousin Vincent Plum, bail bond agent, than the alternative, overseeing the boxing machine at the tampon factory--is back and still stumbling through her bounty hunting career. This time she must track down the beloved corner candy man come saint in the eyes of the burg in which she grew up. It would be like besmirching Mr. Hooper's good name. 

   All the characters the readers fell in love with in Janet Evanovich's first two successes, One For the Money, and Two For the Dough, are back in full force. 

   There is less focus on Grandma Mazur than in Two For the Dough, but Stephanie has a new want-to-be bounty hunter, Lula, "a former hooker turned file clerk [who'd] just recently embarked on a makeover program that included dying her hair blond and then straightening it and re-curling it into ringlets. The transformation had her looking like a 230-pound black kick-ass Shirley Temple." 

   Lula has the distinct ability to disappear when police are present, often leaving Stephanie stranded. But Lula does have the street smarts to track down the adored Moses Bedemier, aka Uncle Mo. 

   As the investigation heats up, not only does Plum's mother become berated by calls from concerned citizens of the burg, "a comfy residential chunk of Trenton where houses and minds are proud to be narrow and hearts are generously wide open," but Plum begins to receive death threats. 

   Laced throughout the story is Plum's desire to rid herself of the vintage 50's powder blue Buick which she calls the Whale. Plum is stung by a crafty used car salesman and her father keeps reminding her that everything continues to be fine with the Buick. 

   Also propelling the story is her chase down of another FTA (failure to appear) of a young man, Stuart Baggett, who has escaped her twice by the time she catches up to him. She gives chase once when she sees him in a mall where she is having highlights put in her hair. The result is orange hair to add to her general disdain for life. 

   Furthermore, Joe Morelli has found some scruples and manners. Morelli and Plum grew up together in the burg. They "had a history that ranged from almost friendly, to frighteningly friendly, to borderline murderous. He'd taken my [Plum's] virginity when I was sixteen, and at eighteen I'd tried to run him down with my father's Buick. Those two incidents pretty much reflected the tone of our ongoing relationship."

   Morelli's is a plainclothes cop, but that is "a misnomer for Morelli, because he's lean-hipped and hard-muscled, and there's nothing plain about the way he fits a pair of Levi's." He tends to show up in time to bail Plum out of a fix, and the sexual tension between the two is almost unbearable.

   Ranger, another strong silent type, also makes more than a cameo appearance in this book.  He "had been my [Plum's] mentor when I'd started in the business and was one very bad bounty hunter. In this case, bad meaning ultracool. He'd been one of those army guys who went around disguised as the night, eating tree bark and beetles, scaring the bejeezus out of emerging third-world insurgents. And he knew things I'd never, ever know."

   Between Ranger, Morelli and Lula, Plum survives the many scrapes she finds herself in. The close knit group of the burg also keep her out of jail. So does she find Uncle Mo? Does she uncover a grisly link to him and the dealers' murders. You'll just have to read this lively sequel in order to find out.  

Three To Get Deadly
Janet Evanovich
ISBN 0-684-88365-2
pp 300

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