Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter working for her lecherous cousin Vinnie in Trenton, NJ. Klutzy Stephanie often mistakes her can of hair set for pepper spray, and forgets to charge her stun gun. It's a wonder she captures anybody. HOT SIX ended with undercover vice cop Joe Morelli proposing marriage - sort of. In SEVEN UP, Vinnie assigns Plum to seize Eddie DeChooch, who's jumped bail on a charge of cigarette smuggling. But Eddie refuses to be brought in until he finds something he's lost, and he's willing to resort to gunplay to make his point. But Stephanie hates guns - she keeps her .38 in a cookie jar. And what has DeChooch lost? All we and Stephanie know is that it has to be kept cold. In the meantime, Plum must mentally grasp Morelli's marriage proposal. They've an on-again, off-again relationship ever since Joe took her virginity on the floor behind the pastry counter of the bakery where she worked at eighteen. Mrs. Plum, whose nightmare is her daughter as an Old Maid, takes Stephanie out to try on wedding gowns when the latter, in a desperate moment at the Plum family dinner table with guest Joe, blurts out "August!". Will it happen, you think? Now seven novels into the Stephanie Plum series, it's evident that Evanovich writes to a fairly rigid formula, at least so far: Plum gets an ostensibly easy assignment that goes terribly wrong when her quarry proves elusive and one or more bodies are discovered; Stephanie has car problems; Stephanie must temporarily put up with an eccentric roommate; Stephanie dotes on her pet hamster, Rex; Stephanie is followed by suspicious characters; Stephanie takes her Grandma Mazur to viewings at local funeral parlors; Stephanie's sidekick in dysfunctional fugitive apprehension is Lula, ex-ho and Vinnie's file clerk; Stephanie has the hots for fellow bounty hunter, the mysterious Ranger. Whatever fantastical situations and characters the author additionally creates seem to be outlandish for their own sakes rather than maturing her heroine's persona. While that's not necessarily bad, it does lend each book a strain of boring predictability. The author needs to expand Stephanie's horizons. And I'm becoming increasingly annoyed that Plum's long-suffering parents remain ciphers. Mind you, I still enjoy Stephanie's adventures immensely. But I'm unwilling to award any more five-star ratings unless Evanovich provides something surprising or very clever.
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