Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19)
Bantam Books (Random House Inc)
Read from my local library
As always, Stephanie needs a decent level skip that she can chase down and give her bank balance a chance to get back into the black. Geoffrey Cubbin obliges her by disappearing from a hospital ward just days before his scheduled court appearance. Cubbin is charged with embezzling a sum of around $5 million from the assisted-living facility he was tasked with managing. Cubbin had his appendix out and some time between hospital rounds, he disappeared, evading CCTV. The new head of security at the hospital where Cubbin had his operation is Randy Briggs and lets just say at first, he’s none too happy to be having dealings with Stephanie again….or her grandma, who’s poking her nose into every aspect of the investigation.
To further complicate Stephanie’s life, her ‘friend’ Ranger has asked for her assistance on a security case. Both Ranger and someone from his past are receiving threats that could’ve only come from someone they knew well. He wants Stephanie to assist by accompanying him places as his date, an extra set of eyes and ears to keep an eye on things. That puts Stephanie dangerously close to the temptation that is Ranger, when she’s supposed to be loved up with Morelli. And the job looks like more than she bargained for with food poisoning, the bridesmaid’s dress from hell, notes coming her way and a wedding reception that could blow sky high.
Just another day in the life of Stephanie Plum.
Ahhh Stephanie Plum. I’ve made no secret of the fact that this used to be my favourite series – and that the last half dozen or more books have been sliding down a bad scale all the way to terrible. I stopped buying them around 4-5 books ago and started getting them from my local library because quite simply, Stephanie Plum was no longer value for money. I was bored with the slapstick humour, the constant indecision between men, Lula, the food and the constant repetitiveness of the non-existent plots. I went into this novel fully prepared to not really enjoy it at all. Which was why I was pleasantly surprised.
There’s never going to be a huge difference in what happens in these books but I’ve always felt like the last several have really lacked a cohesive plot and a genuine sort of threat for Stephanie to go up against. This book rectifies that – both of the plots that run side by side in this novel, the one of Stephanie tracking down Cubbin and the sideplot with helping Ranger, are both actually very enjoyable. The Cubbin one is a genuine mystery that actually had me curious as to what had happened to him and where he had gone and how he had managed to get out of the hospital after such an operation. I enjoyed the return of Randy Briggs – he’s actually one of my favourite “skip” characters from the past and he has a lot of humour and brings opportunities. I enjoyed him and Stephanie working together, I thought it actually went very well. He’s not stupid and he brings a kind of plausibility that the combination of Stephanie and Lula lack. I don’t know how a 3ft little person does this, but he does. Maybe because Stephanie and Lula are just that inept.
Lula was also mercifully toned down in this novel. I enjoyed her at first but the last half dozen books have contained far too much Lula, almost boosting her above Stephanie. Thankfully in this novel she’s reduced back to frequent sidekick and the moments involving her were amusing more than eyerolling. And thankfully there were no ridiculous moments involving animals! No crocodiles, no geese, no spiders, no monkeys, no rats! I cannot say how relieved I am that nothing of that description appeared in this book. There was also no farting – win!
I’ve long given up hope of Stephanie ever having anything meaningful with Ranger and this book kind of cements why that will never happen. Ranger asks her to do something in this novel to help him but fails to realise just how that will put her in danger. He already knows what a target Stephanie would be should they be in a relationship and this just proves it. But the back-and-forth in this book didn’t feel contrived or slutty. It felt more like the earlier books, before Stephanie started sleeping with both of them at the same time, like in the previous couple. I am still Team Ranger, but I always do enjoy Morelli in the books and in this case I liked both of Stephanie’s interaction and I liked the way in which they interacted with each other. Obviously Morelli and Ranger have forgotten the punch-on they were involved in off-screen in the last book. Although in some ways this would be backtracking it makes more sense to have them not be seriously at odds.
Although not a fabulous novel and not up to the standard of the first 10 or so in the series, Notorious Nineteen is a very positive step forward from the dross that has been the recent installments. It had humour (but not contrived or slapstick humour), it had a bad guy, it had a plot, it had fun, it had Stephanie not being childish, it had less Lula and a sort of harmony to the Morelli-Stephanie-Ranger triangle. We learned a few new things about Ranger (which will always be a win for me). It made me giggle and I enjoyed the read. It was still short, but I didn’t feel like I’d been manipulated at the end.
I doubt I’ll ever really love this series again as much as I used to, but this book at least gives me some hope that I can enjoy the rest of it.
Book #32 of 2013