When breezing through all of the numbered books in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, it seemed like something happened between the eighth and ninth novels that I’d missed. I even went back and read the end of Hard Eight to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. That’s easy to see happening when reading the Stephanie Plum novels.
When I picked up one of the novels that are now being called “between the numbers”, I had one of those a-ha! moments. Here was information I’d been missing about what had happened between those books.
If you’ve never read a Stephanie Plum novel, this isn’t the place to start. Go back to the beginning and start at One for the Money. It’s just not worth it to try and figure out what’s going on without all of the backgrounds that leads up to this point. You won’t understand the characters and their motivations, even with Evanovich’s abbreviated recap.
Set just four days before Christmas, Visions of Sugar Plums follows the exploits of lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in and around Trenton, New Jersey. Stephanie doesn’t seem to get much right. She’s had a failed marriage, a failed career, a failed engagement. If that isn’t enough, she’s now failing at Christmas. With just four days to go, she hasn’t bought a single present, baked a cookie, or decorated her apartment. She doesn’t even have a tree set up.
Most people would freak out if a good-looking hunk suddenly appeared in their living room. Not Stephanie. Diesel seems to appear and disappear at whim and can open locks. Not a bad talent to have, but Stephanie’s not sure what to make of him. After verifying that he is real and not a hallucination, she allows him to tag along as she tries to track down a skip so she’ll have money to pay for presents. The skip’s name? Sandy Claws.
What follows is a hilarious adventure only Stephanie can have. It combines the elements I’m used to reading in a Stephanie Plum novel quite well. She has a balance of trouble from her family as her previously “perfect” sister enters another crisis. Her mother frets about Stephanie’s social life and deals with her own mother who’s quite… quirky. Stephanie’s father gets a Christmas tree that’s far from perfect.
It’s a Christmas that many families can identify with – far from perfect. Told in the first person from Stephanie’s perspective, it has a humorous edge to it as she seems to take everything in stride. There are times of heightened tension, but it appears that by this point in time Stephanie is resigned to the craziness that continually surrounds her. The description of the scenes where Stephanie encounters the elves are truly hilarious and worth the price of the book alone.
Visions of Sugar Plums is rather short, coming in at just around 186 pages. It’s an easy read and I finished it in one afternoon at the beach. It does feel somewhat abbreviated as if something had been left out. Ranger doesn’t make an appearance in this one at all except for a brief mention. Even Morelli steps in and out only a few times and Lula makes a cursory appearance. If you have no idea who these people are that I’m talking about, then this book is definitely not the place for you to start reading.
The other problem I had was the ending. Although I had a pretty good idea of how Stephanie was going to end up meeting up with the villain, I was still interested in the outcome. It started out fine but seemed to wrap up way too quickly and easily.
For those who are reading the series, you’ll want to check it out to fill in the gaps. Visions of Sugar Plums didn’t suck me in the way other books in the series have. It actually took two tries for me to get into it enough to finish it. But it’s a lot of fun and Stephanie’s in her usual form. Think of it the same way you think of the Christmas specials The Simpsons do, and you have the general feel of this novel.
Previous book in the series (link): Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
Next book in the series (link): To The Nines by Janet Evanovich