Janet Evanovich Is As Good As Ever

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A monkey has escaped from a bedroom and attached itself to the head of a past-her-prime former singing star and proceeds to hump her head, leaving behind a dollop of some substance that probably isn’t hair gel.

This is classic Janet Evanovich and however improbable, it’s tough not to laugh at it. It’s a variation on the theme that has carried this now 14th Stephanie Plum novel to the best seller lists once again.

The plot of Fearless Fourteen, which really just provides setups for slapstick and sexual innuendo, is that this guy named Dom Rizzi stole a bunch of money from a bank, went to prison where he kept his mouth shut and is now out, ready to cash in on his ordeal. The complication: Dom may have hidden the money in the house his cousin Joe Morelli inherited from their aunt Rose. Dom thought he was getting the house, but Aunt Rose changed her will after his conviction.

As longtime readers of the adventures of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum know, Morelli the cop is her on-again, off-again boyfriend of many years. Stephanie is swept into the case when people start sneaking into Morelli’s house and yard, trying to dig up the loot. Along the way, she becomes a temporary babysitter to the teenage son of Rizzo’s sister, Loretta, when Loretta is captured and held for ransom by bad guys trying to get Dom to give them the money.

And if that weren’t enough, there’s her assignment for her longtime alternate heart throb and man of mystery, Ranger, to help provide security for Brenda, the singer who has the close encounter with the monkey.

It all makes sense more or less as the plot rockets along. Evanovich has supplemented her usual cast of characters – Stephanie’s friend Lula the former working girl, her parents and grandma Mazur – with Walter “Mooner” Dunphy, who’s clearly had a few too many tokes along the road of life; the stalker Gary who she somehow ends up inviting to family dinner and Zook, a graffiti artist, video-game-playing obsessive and Loretta’s son.

It’s not highbrow literature but Evanovich, a former romance writer who wanted a bigger paycheck, has mastered the art of an entertaining read and the value of a little humor. It’s a good take-a-breather book before or after you’ve finished Salman Rushdie’s latest.

Margaret Downing

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