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Issue: Winter 2014

Top Secret Twenty-One (2014) book review

Stephanie Plum is At It Again

Stephanie Plum is back again, chasing down a car dealer who has not turned up for his court date. All the usual characters are brought in - Morelli is trying to solve crime, Ranger is trying to avoid assassination, and Randy Briggs is the man who knew too much.

Your intrepid reviewer read this book in practically a sitting. It's the usual Evanovich fare - pacy, amusing, wry, a bit exciting. But. A day after finishing the book I couldn't remember a thing about it.

Evanovich is writing a series and she seems to have written herself into a corner. A lot happens, but nothing seems to develop.

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Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich (June 2014)

Stephanie Plum has declared herself a commitment-phobe. She vacillates between Morelli and the dangerous fascination of Ranger. Evanovich has a problem here, because we suspect that marrying Morelli will be the end of fun and games with Steph.

Engaged, even a bride, Steph can chase bad guys, but once she drops a bundle, she's going to end up a hausfrau. Not a very good one, but then she's not a very good bounty hunter either - just very lucky.

And so Evanovich is stuck with a heroine who would step out of the formula if she got any admirable skills, and who would step out of adventuring if she grew up.

Which brings me back to my point. The stories are fun, but not memorable, because the characters never really move in a meaningful way, even a little bit. Nora Roberts manages it in her J. D. Robb stories about Eve Dallas and Roarke. She keeps the timeline incredibly tight, but there is growth in the characters, and they confront their demons. Evanovich can keep writing Stephanie Plum stories like this one, but how much more can the formula sustain?

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Ali Kayn
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See also: Stephanie Plum reading order and synopses
Alex Barnaby reading order and synopses
O'Hare/Fox reading order and synopses (Evanovich and Goldberg)
Janet Evanovich answers The Usual Questions (interview)
In Death (Eve Dallas & Roarke) reading order and synopses (J. D. Robb)