Monday, October 17, 2011

So-so Seventeen

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich.

Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

Stephanie Plum has been around for some time now. The first book featuring the hapless bounty hunter One for the Money, was published in June, 1994. Seventeen years later (to the month) Smokin' Seventeen was released.

Stephanie's fans (and even many of those who aren't fans)know that Stephanie can seldom apprehend an FTA (Failure To Appear) without injuring herself or the criminal. Also, she can't make it through a book without having at least one car explode.

In this book, the staff of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds are working out of a motor home because the building originally housing the business burned down. Luckily, Vinnie had worked out a deal with the owner of the neighboring bookstore so a heavy cable runs between the shop and the trailer, providing it with electricity so secretary Connie can use the computer.

Stephanie has to deal with her sometime-boyfriend Joe Morelli's grandmother giving her the evil eye (not for the first time) as well as multiple people trying to kill her, along with the usual attempts by her mother to fix her up with a nice boy.

So, business as usual. However, Stephanie's capers just don't seem as funny as they used to. Has the quality of Evanovich's writing changed, or has familiarity bred ennui?

If you read the Stephanie Plum books, what do you think?


  1. Thanks for a good review. It's probably a combination of the two. She writes to a formula and is probably bored with it, but she can't quit because it still makes too much money to walk away from. I loved the first two books in the series, then five pages into the third, thought: This seems too familiar and put it down. But I understand the attraction.

  2. That is an excellent review of the book. I have read ALL of the series. Yes there is somewhat of a pattern but then again it would not be Stephanie. The point of Stephanie is that she not get her FTA and to blow up a car. I have liked all of the books in their own special way. But I do agree that it is getting somewhat less humerous. I do not giggle as much as I did the first 10 or so. Although it will not stop me from reading the next book that comes out...I do hope that she gets the hysterical laughter out of me that she used to get.

  3. I couldn't agree more with this review. Janet Evonavich is incredibly talented, but just like people who enjoy Fast & Furious movies, they expect a certain pattern and that's why they go. I feel she's returning to the same well and casual readers may enjoy that nitch, but longtime fans may sift through the patterns with less fascination than the first time around.

  4. Thanks for the review, Marlyn. I'm definitely a Janet Evanovich fan and have read about 6 or 7 of her Stephanie Plum novels and loved them all! Her plots are interesting, I love her "voice" and humorous tone, and her characters are quirky and fun - real "characters"!

    I haven't read her two latest ones so will have to reserve judgment... I sure hope Evanovich hasn't lost her touch, as she's been one of the authors I've counted on not to let me down!

  5. Marlyn, thanks for this honest appraisal. I admit I got a little bored quite some time ago with Stephanie Plum, but she has legions of fans who love the formula . . . and a publisher who can count on making a certain amount of money from each book. And now there's a movie in the works.

    I know of one author, consistently on the NYT's list who has come to dread writing yet another book in his wildly popular series. He was able to break away a little by beginning another series, but his publisher continues to expect him to produce one a year in the original. I think now he probably is expected to produce in the second series as well, because it has also garnered a lot of sales.

    This is one thing an indie writer can make indie decisions about. A popular series is fun (ala LJ's Jackson books) for both the readers and the writer, but because she doesn't have a publisher pushing her to only write Jackson, LJ can exercise her creative muscles and pen a few standalones.

  6. You's the thing: humans want what is familiar. Yes, we all long for "the new," but ask yourself: why do people watch the same TV series, with the same retread plots, over and over? Why, for that matter, do humans long for book series with the same characters?

    Because they love what is familiar. They like the idea of knowing exactly what will be delivered. It's why Movie producers are making movies of TV Shows that were bad in the 80's--The A-Team, Charlie's Angels (a decade earlier), Dynasty, what-have-you.

    Evanovich is no dummy. She may not be breaking new ground, but she is Locke personified. She found a niche, she found a fan base, and she writes TO that fan base, faithfully. She might be as deep as a petri dish, but I'll still never forget that scene in One For The Money with the chicken. Will I spend big bucks on a Plum? No, but I'll buy 'em used and still read them when my brain wants a "timeout." Given the state of the world, I can forgive Evanovich some "reruns" if they can make me crack a smile.

    Of course...I'm a sucker for "Cakewrecks," too. ;-)

  7. Thank you all for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. It's always good to know that someone is really reading what I've written.

  8. It's a pattern we often see in the world of publishing. An author hits on something and it takes off. We all know--or at least we should--that mainstream publishers love a sure thing. Why? They love it because they can bank on it, and during these tumultuous times, that seems to be more the exception than the rule. Having said that, the author ends up in a repeating rut. I've heard of several who desperately want out of a series but can't jump off because the readers demand more. Can't upset the readers. Can't upset the publishers. So what's one to do? Keep writing, that's what, even though the well's as dry as dirt. I've never read any of Evanovich's work, but I know she's been crazy-popular for quite a long time. But as they say, nothing lasts forever.


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