One for the Money
Grade : A

Call it women's intuition, call it fate, call it I get a discount at my bookstore, but I had a feeling I would like the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. To begin with, the heroine is frazzled, frizzy-haired and frustrated with her current lot in life. Familiar territory, I thought, plunging right ahead.

Trenton, New Jersey native Stephanie, it turns out, has lost her job as a discount lingerie buyer and is now - along with her hamster Rex - seriously headed toward starvation if she doesn't find a job soon. We empathize with Stephanie, not just because she's drinking beer for breakfast (that's all she has left) but because by now we know of her decades long, lust/hate relationship with one Joseph Morelli, who sweet-talked her into playing choo-choo in his father's garage when she was six, and ten years later, sweet-talked her into much, much more behind the éclair display case at the bakery where she worked after school.

Stephanie finally gets a job, working for her perverted cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman, who promises her 10% of the bond amount for every fugitive she brings back. Imagine her horror when she discovers that her first assignment is to capture Joe Morelli, now a cop and sexier than ever, who has skipped bail after being charged with the murder of an unarmed suspect.

"Out of her element" does not begin to describe Stephanie as she makes her first foray into her new career as a Fugitive Apprehension Agent. Morelli eludes her every single time she manages to find him, including one memorable episode that ends with Stephanie handcuffed to her shower bar - naked. Along the way she also meets a very scary prizefighter named Benito Ramirez, who nearly kills her within two minutes of meeting her. The only character around that doesn't scorn her new job is Rex. She does, however, make friends with a couple of hookers on Stark Street, one of whom we'll be seeing in the next few books, and her mentor is the very private, very dangerous, very mysterious man known as Ranger.

Morelli is guilty only of being in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the wrong people. Stephanie believes him, but it's not just the lure of the $10,000 she'll get for Morelli that spurs her along. Part desperation, part desire for a little revenge on Morelli, Stephanie plunders along as best she can, coming back time and again to her matchmaking family, including the irrepressible Grandma Mazur.

Evanovich made Stephanie come alive within, oh, ten seconds after I began reading One for the Money. Loud, full of bravado, living in a town where everyone knows that she found her husband Dickie playing "hide the salami" with Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie is priceless. I smiled every time something went right for Stephanie and groaned whenever Morelli got away from her. Underneath the tough exterior is a very, very likable woman who will have you cheering every time she gets her man, even if she has to shoot through her own pocketbook in the process.

The rest of the characters, including the minor ones, are well defined. There is never a moment when you think "people don't talk like that" or "I don't know anyone like that." No cardboard cut-outs here - even Stephanie's slightly psychotic family, which in lesser hands could have been a trio of caricatures, is instead, a group of well-meaning people who underneath their frightening little quirks, are human and lovable.

I wish number six in the series were already out. I devoured Stephanie's adventures and certainly look forward to more. Heck, I even look forward to Rex's next feeding.

Reviewed by Claudia Terrones
Grade : A
Book Type: Mystery

Sensuality: N/A

Review Date : October 28, 1999

Publication Date: 2003

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Claudia Terrones

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