Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fearless Fourteen, by Janet Evanovich


As I began this fourteenth tale of the adventures of Stephanie Plum, inadvertent New Jersey bounty hunter, I wondered a little at my own perseverance through a series that is in some ways all too predictable. But then I realized that the element of predictability in a Stephanie Plum novel is not a fault but one of its charms.

Evanovich sets up what might be called an eternal situation--The Burg, Lula, Ranger vs. Morelli, Grandma Mazur, and so on. Out of this stock context, she elaborates new themes. In this one, we've got griefers, we've got an aging celebrity, we've got a psychic stalker, and we've got a kid who goes by the name of Zook and who really likes to advertise himself.

I don't mean to write a dissertation on what Evanovich does, but I did really pay attention this time rather than just speeding on through, easy though it would have been to do so, because I wondered why her novels continue to jump to the top of my reading pile. Isn't it basically the same story told over and over again?

Yes, in some ways it is, and frankly I do get tired of some of the shtick. Ranger or Morelli--who cares? But Evanovich seems infinitely capable of finding comedy in every new thing that comes along, and if you read individual sentences instead just being swept along in the easy flow of the thing, you will be impressed by her comic perception of life, as well as the way she makes dialogue a servant of her humor.

Comedy looks easy, it almost has to to succeed, but it's not. There are not many people who could have gotten fifteen books worth of humor out of Trenton, New Jersey. (Yeah, there's one I haven't gotten to yet, close reader.)It seems obvious now that Trenton was rife with material. Let's just say that it didn't seem so much so before Evanovich came along. One of the most touching tributes that I ever read about Evanovich was when some on-line friends, I think visiting from another country, shared with wonder their glimpses of Trenton. This is not a conversation you would likely have heard before the advent of Stephanie Plum. Let's hope she's around for a long time to come.

6 comments:

  1. Maybe it takes a man to say this, but could part of the reason for her success (other than that she is a gifted writer of comic set pieces) be that she does the repeated-theme thing from a woman's point of view? Don't romance novels do the same thing over and over, in their way? And didn't Evanovich get her career started writing those kinds of books?

    Perhaps she's a pioneer at combining two popular genres that might have seemed irreconsilible.
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  2. Or irreconcilible, for that matter.

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  3. Evanovich's romance background is a good point. Personally, I find the romance elements the weakest links in her plots. Not that I don't like the male characters, but the conflict about the two men seems both stale and irresolvable. Still, I feel sure the romance world taught her how to plot. One thing I like about her writing is the way that some fringe character, who initially seems dubious, ends up being included in the steadily expanding fold of Steph's peeps. They're all 'losers' in any traditional sense, but the good news is that none of them seems to know that. None of these characters would end up in any standard romance novel.

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  4. I've read books 4, 1, 2 and 3 in the series, and there's good romantic tension with Morealli. I'd agree that the Ranger motif seems a bit engineered.

    I've read just those four books, but Lula is obviously the prize addition to Stephanie's ever-expanding entourage. And Stephanie's father fuming "Jesus!" at Stephanie's grandmother's antics can make me laugh just in the recollection.
    ==============
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  5. I don't have a problem with either of her relations with the men, even though Ranger's whole business does bring a fantastical element to the book. It's just the dilemma of choice that she goes through that wears on me after awhile. Although in this one, that is luckily underplayed.

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  6. Ranger came on the scene early enough so that poor Stephanie has been torn by the agony of choice for about ten books now. I don't know if the dilemma has been a constant feature of the series. Sounds as if it's been something close, at least.
    =================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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