Warning: All subsequent reviews for this series may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series.
Just in case no one could tell, I have to say I am really enjoying the series of novels by Janet Evanovich centered around the character of Stephanie Plum. Overall they have been very good and a nice read on those nights when I sit for a few hours with not much to do. The books keep me awake and interested. The most recent I read in the series, High Five is no exception, although I might be reading them a bit close together and be picking up on certain things I wouldn’t pick up on if I’d spread them out a bit.
Stephanie Plum was a lingerie buyer for a local department store. Way back when, before the first novel, she was laid off from her job. With no other job prospects out there she turned to her cousin Vinnie who promptly enlister her as a bounty hunter (or “bond enforcement agent”) for his bail bonding business.
Along the way, Stephanie has met a lot of interesting characters. The ones who have continually appeared in her novels are mostly her family, including her parents and her eccentric Grandma Mazur. Also along for the ride quite often is a former hooker, now file clerk for Vinnie, Lula.
Stephanie has two men in her life. Joe Morelli is a cop with whom she shares a past. They have also shared some present too, although they both seem to be dancing around the idea of a real, committed relationship. The mysterious Ranger is a bounty hunter in his own right and has been something of a mentor to Stephanie. All along, he’s been in the background, and while there might have been hints of attraction between the two, Stephanie seemed certain to play on-again, off-again with Joe throughout the novels.
No more. High Five turns Stephanie’s romantic life on its end as Ranger’s interest in her clearly becomes more than just as a friend or professional interest.
At the beginning of High Five, there are not many people skipping out on their bond for Stephanie to track down, and she’s broke. At the behest of her family, she begins trying to track down her Uncle Fred who’s gone missing. In between, she’s doing work for Ranger, who insists she must conform to the standards of the rest of his crew and presents her first with a black Porsche and later a black BMW (I won’t spoil why she needs the second car). Meanwhile, Morelli has asked Stephanie to attend a family wedding. Does this mean he’s ready for more than the casual relationship he’s projected so far? Or is he about to break Stephanie’s heart by hooking up with old flame Terry Gilman?
As Stephanie investigates Fred’s disappearance, the mystery deepens and it becomes obvious it’s not simply a case of an old man becoming confused and wandering off. The suspense is good as it unravels the story slowly throughout the novel, also adding in a bit of suspense when an old nemesis and stalker of Stephanie’s is released from prison. Along the way she also picks up a roommate who’s a dwarf, a man who claims to be Fred’s bookie tailing her, and a new co-worker named “Tank”.
High Five is a good read, although there were parts that really required me to suspend disbelief. The fact that Stephanie is able to do all she does and not get hurt with some of the situations she gets herself into is starting to wear a bit thin, although it provides a heck of a lot of laughs.
The mystery is told in the first person, allowing me to be in Stephanie’s shoes and experience what she is experiencing. It’s something of a unique perspective and I enjoy it as I experience what she does as she questions Ranger’s motives as well as Joe’s commitment to her, or lack thereof. The story unravels through her eyes, with short side-trips to figure out what she’s wearing or eating. In the case of High Five, it seemed like there was a lot of eating going on. I wish I could eat what she does and still manage to attract two hunks like Morelli and Ranger.
Probably the biggest complaint I have is the way the book ends, and it’s something I noticed before too. It has the feeling of an episode of Scooby-Doo where the bad guy stands in front of the hero and lays out the entire mystery before killing them. Only he never quite makes it to shooting the gun and there’s the whole nefarious plot laid out for the protagonist, nice and neat.
While the mystery in High Five took a little more figuring out than some of the mysteries in other novels, it wasn’t overly cerebral and provided tons of enjoyment for me as I read through it. We’ve been passing the books around between the four of us and I have someone chomping on my heels for High Five. I don’t think she’s going to be disappointed as it’s a good novel in the series overall. The books can be picked up at any point and read as Evanovich seems to provide enough background in the characters that new readers won’t get lost, but these novels are so much fun I would tell anyone to start at the beginning and take it from there.
I am looking forward to devouring the sixth novel, and especially learning exactly to who Stephanie placed that phone call at the end of High Five. Evanovich is bringing in a little more suspense, especially in her personal life, and it builds nicely between books.
Previous book in the series (link): Four to Score
Next book in the series (link): Hot Six