I like books that feature smart and sassy women. Being a smart-sassy (say it fast and you'll know what I mean) person myself, I like whip-crack humor and strong character. Anyone who thinks Jane Austen was writing quaint drawing-room love stories, for example, should go back and re-read Pride and Prejudice, which features some of the best sarcasm in literature.Add a good dose of humor to that mix, and you've got a winning combination.
Enter Stephanie Plum, the protagonist of Janet Evanovich's uber-popular "numbered" series. In One for the Money (the first in the series, obviously), Stephanie appears as a down-on-her-luck Jersey girl who takes a job at her cousin's bail bonds office.
Her experience for the job of bounty hunter includes the ability to wear her hair big, to eat any amount of cake and pizza at the drop of a hat, and a knack for attracting all kinds of trouble. A perfect resume.
Through the series, Stephanie has also had her "man issues," alternating between childhood crush Joe Morelli and tall, dark, and handsome Ranger.
The 18th book in the series (!) features a slightly more seasoned Stephanie. She knows how to use a taser now, when she remembers to charge it. And she has the bounty hunting routine down pat, although that doesn't always mean things go according to plan.
The book opens with Stephanie returning from a Hawaiian holiday of sorts. The initial mystery is who she was in Hawaii with, and why both Ranger and Morelli are sporting wounds from a fight. The troubles just keep multiplying as the bail bonds office deals with construction delays and a slight rat problem, Stephanie's partner (and former 'ho') Lula finds herself in love with a fugitive after drinking a strange potion, and Stephanie ends up rooming with her hated enemy Joyce Barnhardt.
But the central mystery is about a photo that was slipped into Stephanie's bag on the flight from Hawaii. The man that originally had the photo is dead, and now Stephanie is being followed by two fake FBI agents and one very real thug with a knife and a weird accent.
This is a fun romp in a series that feels far from old-hat. The same ingredients are there, but this brew just gets richer with time.
I'm also very interested in seeing how this plays out on film, with One for the Money debuting in theaters in early 2012. I'll have to get over the fact that Katherine Heigl plays Stephanie. I always wanted the role to go to Debi Mazar, one of my favorite NY-Jersey Girls. (2011 - Random House).
Recipe from Janet Evanovich:
Helen's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Helen's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
My sincere thanks to Janet Evanovich for sharing this recipe. And it's the perfect accompaniment to Explosive Eighteen for two reasons. First, it's a recipe for a cake often made by Stephanie Plum's mom Helen, an expert at bribing people with food. Second, it's the type of treat that should be gobbled down quickly, just like any Plum book. Read Evanovich's own instructions below if you don't believe me.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 Tablespoons unsweetened pineapple juice
5 Tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
Unsweetened slices of pineapple
Melt the butter in a nine-inch pie plate. Dump brown sugar into the plate and mash with a fork until it's all mixed with the melted butter and covers the bottom of the plate. Arrange pineapple slices on bottom of plate in a single layer. Mix eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder, and pineapple juice by hand in a small bowl until smooth. Pour mixture over pineapple slices. Bake in a 350-degree oven until a pick comes out clean (maybe 30-45 min.). Remove cake from oven and set on rack for a couple minutes. Put cake plate over the hot cake in the pie plate and CAREFULLY but quickly turn the pie plate upside down. Remove pie plate and let cake cool to room temperature. Pineapple slices should be on top! (If you let the cake cool in the pie plate, you'll NEVER get it out). When cool, spread lots of globs of whipped cream on it...the real stuff, none of that fake stuff in a can! Eat too much. (Recipe courtesy of Janet Evanovich)