Warning: All subsequent reviews for this series may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series.
This second effort by author Janet Evanovich in her series featuring Stephanie Plum suffers a bit from the “sophomore jinx,” but not horribly so. She continues the story she began in the first novel, One for the Money with many of the same characters from that story featured here.
Stephanie Plum is a former lingerie buyer who was laid off. With no other job prospects, she went to work as a bounty hunter, tracking down fugitives for her cousin Vinnie’s bail-bond business. She’s still far from a professional, but as one character observes in Two for the Dough, she’s damn lucky.
Her life and her cases focus on the general area of Trenton, New Jersey. Her parents still live nearby as well as her grandmother who lives with them. Stephanie has her own place with her hamster Rex featured prominently as her housemate. Occasionally she receives help on the case from the mysterious Ranger, who’s definitely in a league far above Stephanie but seems to have a soft place for her. More often, she’s hounded by Vice Cop Joseph Morelli, who was actually her first capture and is a man from her past. The two have a love/hate relationship that borders on boyfriend/girlfriend more often than not throughout Two for the Dough.
Stephanie is now on the trail of Kenny Mancuso, who’s related to Joe Morelli. Mancuso was involved in the shooting of his best friend. Once he made bail, he disappeared. A short time later, that friend turned up dead. Mancuso has more than a few screws loose, and soon erstwhile body parts are turning up around Stephanie as she puts together that there’s more going on than what the case initially seems.
To complicate matters further, Morelli is also hot on Kenny’s trail. The two are constantly running into each other, and things are getting steamy. To complicate matters further, Stephanie’s family begins treating Joe as her boyfriend.
As with the earlier novel, Two for the Dough is told in the first person by Stephanie. This makes it interesting and a bit different to read than your standard crime novel. Her observations are often sarcastic in tone and it was very easy to commiserate with her character and the many situations she is put in. At the same time, it makes it a little more difficult to get into the head of other characters, although Evanovich does a good job of having them play off Stephanie. I felt like I knew enough about the other characters and what their perspective was in various situations that the narration being done by Stephanie wasn’t a handicap.
At the same time, I thought Two for the Dough suffered slightly from the “sophomore jinx.”. The case here is a bit more grisly than her last one, with various body parts winding up in Stephanie’s possession. That part of the plot revolves around a funeral home leading up to all of this, but that’s not what made me squeamish. I was also a bit unnerved about the violence directed toward Stephanie’s grandmother. At one point she gets an ice pick through her hand and at another… Well, I won’t give that away. Suffice it to say, where I felt One for the Money was fun, Two for the Dough seems much darker.
The exception is Stephanie’s love life and her developing relationship with Joe Morelli. It’s nice to see the characters advance instead of continuing the same pattern over and over again throughout the novel. It’s believable how they play off each other and how the situation unfolds between them. There are missteps on both their parts and no happily ever after, although the relationship moves along. It builds the suspense nicely for the series as I can’t wait to start the third novel and see where it goes from there.
This isn’t heavy reading. I started it on my overnight shift and finished it in an afternoon of waiting for my kids from the bus stop. It’s great reading when you don’t want something you really have to think about a lot and just want to be entertained. I’m putting this one star below One for the Money although I would say it’s more like a half-star, and that only for some of the moments that made me squirm.
Previous book in the series (link): One for the Money