Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen

I'm a fan of Janet Evanovich's numbered Stephanie Plum novels. Clearly "chick" books, they take place mostly in Trenton & are so silly & slapstick (& occasionally surreal) that guys - especially from Jersey - can enjoy them. There's nothing about Stephanie to indicate she's especially good-looking, or good in bed, but she attracts two contrasting, muscular good bad boys who, when they are in bed with her, perform oral sex on Stephanie then boink her to multiple orgasms   while she mostly just lays there & enjoys it.  Why are these guys  attracted to her? Kind of difficult to say. I suppose it's why Evanovich sells millions of books.   But up to Smokin' Seventeen one of the running gags was how infrequently Stephanie had sex. In Smokin' Seventeen she has lots of sex, apparently due to a curse put on her by one of her stud muffin's Italian grandma that's supposed to turn Steph into a slut.

It's the weakest of all the Plum novels. Smokin' Seventeen isn't very funny, although all the characters are behaving to form. The sex passages must be a throwback to Evanovich's earlier incarnation as an author of romances for Bantam.

Evanovich supposedly has a rigorous six or eight-hour-per-day writing routine, when she's not on a book-shilling tour. But I don't get it.  It should take only six weeks to knock off a Plum novel. Half of the book writes itself when Evanovich pastes in the standard gags & routines readers expect, involving the regular cast of characters, everyone acting according to form. These gags do little to advance the story.  The plots aren't much. The characters are barely three-dimensional & each book adds only minimally to their development; grow them too much & they'll stop being who they are. Evanovich isn't a great writer, her prose doesn't make you want to read a paragraph twice just to savor it.

Took a long time for this series to "jump the shark," but I think it finally has. Stephanie Plum is not a  complex character.  In fact, when she's not bounty hunting she's boring. She has no interest in music, movies, sports.   She's not a great sleuth. She's become a more confident bounty hunter, but she still isn't  that good at it. Many of the laughs are from her failures to apprehend, often because her stun gun doesn't work. The older she becomes  (although the books don't track her in years) the more pathetic she  seems.She's going nowhere, stuck in a crummy apartment at the edge of a crummy city in a nowhere job. She's not dedicated to her vocation & craft like, say, female P.I,'s V.I. Warshawski & Kinsey Millhone. dogged, brilliant investigators who take great pride in their abilities, charge substantial fees for their work,  & whose dedication to their vocation makes long-term relationships problematic, although both try to have them. Stephanie doesn't like to cook, admits to not having a very nurturing, maternal disposition, & can't choose between her two hunks (one of whom wouldn't get married anyway, & the other who would expect her to give up her mostly penny ante bounty hunting & have babies).


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