Warning: All subsequent reviews for this series may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series.
In reading all twelve of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, I’ve found that on occasion she advances the character between books and doesn’t quite fill the reader in on all the whys and whens about the situation. This was very apparent between the eighth and ninth books, and I recently found out that there was a short Christmas novella in between the two stories which filled in a lot of the gaps. But there have been a number of times when the end of one book had lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in the arms of her vice cop boyfriend Joe Morelli and by the time the next book begins, they are on the outs for some unknown reason.
In Twelve Sharp Evanovich does this again. At the end of Eleven On Top, Stephanie has given up the bounty hunter life and gone to work for Ranger. Ranger is a man of mystery who has been Stephanie’s mentor, protector, friend, and on one occasion, lover. They share a very heated chemistry, but Stephanie is torn between the wild ways of Ranger and the stability of Joe, although Joe doesn’t know how far the relationship has gone in the past between Stephanie and Ranger.
At the beginning of Twelve Sharp, suddenly Stephanie is back to working for her cousin Vinnie in his bail bonds business. There’s really no explanation given for this. Considering that the bulk of Twelve Sharp centers on Ranger, it’s a pretty blatant jump that seems like it should have an explanation.
That aside, the bulk of the story here is good. There’s a woman in town who claims to be Ranger’s wife. What?!? That’s pretty much Stephanie’s reaction too. Evanovich gave a little background about him in a previous novel, so I knew he had a daughter. At first, I thought we were dealing with his ex-wife. However, that is soon dispelled as a possible answer as someone going by the name of Carmen Manoso is showing up everywhere Stephanie is, demanding to know where her husband is. The problem is, Ranger has disappeared and Stephanie can’t even point her in his direction to get rid of her.
While all this is going on, Ranger’s daughter disappears. There’s an Amber Alert and it states he’s a suspect in her disappearance. Stephanie is at her wits end with worry and frustration when Ranger appears in her apartment and asks her for help. Now she must skirt the law (and her boyfriend) and deal with two nutcases stalking her while trying to help Ranger learn of his daughter’s fate. All this while trying to lead what is a “normal” life for her and bring in bail jumpers or Vinnie’s out of business.
There’s a lot going on in Twelve Sharp, and I think that’s the one place the book falters. There’s too much going on; too many stories with too many angles. The action is a breakneck pace simply because it has to be. In some ways this is good as the book doesn’t get bogged down in some of the silly secondary stories that were growing weary. Stephanie’s sister Valerie and her family are relegated to the background. Lula, Sally Sweet (my personal favorite), and Grandma Mazur are all tied together in one subplot involving a rock band performing in retirement homes. This also allows for the introduction of the new owners of the local funeral parlor, which creates an interesting change in the social scene of “The Burg”.
The new characters are decent. The character of Carmen Manoso was probably one of the most interesting and in some ways it’s a shame we don’t get to know her more beyond her declaration as Ranger’s wife and continual pointing of a gun out of her SUV at Stephanie. The villain is a psychotic nut-job, and maybe he’s just a little too good in his sane moments for the character to really jell. It does create a terrific air of suspense, though.
The FTA’s she’s pursuing are about what I’ve come to expect from these novels. Stephanie still hasn’t seemed to have learned much in the way of capturing fugitives, and those stories are getting a bit tiresome. Evanovich has to think of other ways for her targets to get away from her other than Stephanie’s constant screwing up the exact same way again and again. It just doesn’t ring true when you have a woman who might not be the best bounty hunter in the business, but seems to have great instincts and very good luck. Stephanie’s old rival Joyce Barnhart is brought back once again, and that also brings in a desperately needed freshness to this part of the story.
As with all the Stephanie Plum books, Twelve Sharp is told in the first person from Stephanie’s perspective. This allows me to be in her head and see the situations as she sees them. I like it for the most part, except for the moments when Stephanie knows something and rather than clue the reader in she becomes elusive. I know it creates an air of suspense, but it can be frustrating and seem out of sort for the rest of the style of the book. Still, the descriptions are very well done, and it’s very easy to picture the scenes as Stephanie is seeing them, in all their crazy glory.
I think Evanovich also has to think about resolving the waffling Stephanie does between Ranger and Joe, at least to some degree. That is getting old too, although it does seem like she is slowly leaning towards Joe. Maybe that’s just my wishful thinking though.
Like all of the Stephanie Plum books, this is terrific light reading. It’s not War and Peace; it’s not even The Godfather. It is a heck of a lot of fun with zany moments and fun characters to follow through all twelve novels. Now, when does lucky number thirteen come out?
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