Warning: All subsequent reviews for this series may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series.
There have been some memorable characters that have uttered the phrase It’s not my fault…. Han Solo, John McClane, and now Stephanie Plum.
For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Stephanie is the heroine of Janet Evanovich’s series of books about a lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter living in Trenton, New Jersey. This might sound far-fetched, and at times it is, but overall it works in a funny and amusing way as we follow along on her latest adventures.
In Ten Big Ones, Stephanie and her co-worker/friend/protégé Lula are pondering what to have for lunch when the man responsible for a string of robberies around Trenton crosses their path. Called The Red Devil for the mask he wears, it comes off at a time when only Stephanie manages to catch a glimpse of his face. During his escape, he also manages to light up Stephanie’s latest in a series of vehicles she has no luck with and she gets to utter those famous words…
To her on-again, off-again boyfriend, vice cop Joe Morelli and her mentor in the bounty hunting field, Ranger. It turns out The Red Devil is part of a gang that’s been making inroads into the badder parts of Trenton and gets Stephanie in their sights through another series of mishaps. Usually, when Stephanie is being stalked by a psychotic killer, he’s satisfied with terrorizing her and leaves her friends and family alone. Not this time. After another run-in with the street gang, a hired killer is brought in, known as Junkman and he likes to kill people with flair.
After Morelli’s house is tagged by the gang, Stephanie is afraid to stay with him or her family. She heads out on her own in a truck borrowed from Ranger while he’s out of town. The GPS system in the truck leads her to a place she feels safe. Is this Ranger’s mysterious “Batcave”? Can Stephanie cool off the street gang and thwart Junkman before she’s snuffed out? More importantly, will she and Morelli work things out or will she end up doing the deed with Ranger?
Told in the first person, it’s quite a different perspective than your usual crime novel. Not only are the books in Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series supposed to provide a good degree of comedy as well as suspense, it really serves to put me in Stephanie’s shoes as she’s wading her way through the muck each book seems to end up in. I particularly noticed the benefits of this differing perspective during her moments after walking out on Morelli and pondering what to do in Ranger’s truck. I could feel the same apprehension, anxiety, and exhilaration the character is feeling as she puts together the information that leads her to Ranger’s “secret lair” and potential safety. I liked the description and observations she makes once in there as it made me feel like I was there looking around with her.
At the same time, some of the things that drive me crazy about the character are still there. At least she pins it down right, that her relationship with Morelli often involves the two of them acting childish. Morelli thinks he wants a stay-at-home wife, but really he doesn’t. He tries half-heartedly to pin Stephanie down into that role numerous times, but the truth is he enjoys the excitement and craziness that surrounds her life, even if it makes him crazy with worry sometimes. As soon as Morelli demonstrates concern by trying to get Stephanie to steer clear of a killer and act like she wants to live a little longer, our gal gets her dander up and suddenly is doing the opposite of what most normal, reasonable people would do. Sometimes I think it would be better if someone did put a bullet in her, just to teach her a lesson. But then, I guess there would be no more books and that would stink.
Back in Ten Big Ones is one of my favorite peripheral characters from earlier novels, the cross-dressing Sally Sweet. He’s no longer a cult rock star but now driving a school bus and trying his darndest to cut down on the cursing that the “little dudes” he’s driving around have picked up on. He also gets drawn into helping Stephanie’s sister Valerie plan her wedding. I really enjoyed the times when he appeared throughout the story, even more than I did in his initial appearance in the series. Stephanie’s family was there with him, but it didn’t seem to go on and on for pages and leave me wondering when the book would get back to the main story, which was a definite improvement over other books in the series.
Ten Big Ones is probably the best-paced of all of the Stephanie Plum books I’ve read. It didn’t seem to get bogged down in extraneous material that didn’t matter to the core plot. The build-up to the ending is good. All of the tension as Stephanie waffles between Joe and Ranger is good as well. Like Nicole I’d like to get my hands on the soap Ranger uses, it’s described so well. The ending didn’t seem too abrupt nor wrapped up too neatly, with the evil-doer explaining his whole nefarious plot to the reader. Rather it flowed right into a startling surprise just as I was wondering how in the world she would manage to get out of it.
This isn’t heavy-duty reading. It’s fun and light, the perfect thing to pick up for fun, and great to share with your teenage daughters, or if you’re a teenager yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed it as I picked it up on several nights at work when I didn’t think I’d stay awake. It didn’t put me to sleep at all and I kept turning the pages trying to figure out how it would end. I’m actually looking forward to the eleventh book, now that it seems like a breath of fresh air came into the series.
Previous book in the series (link): To The Nines by Janet Evanovich
Next book in the series (link): Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich