Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21)
Read from my local library
Used car-dealer Jimmy Poletti has skipped out on his court date and that’s good news for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum who could use the cash. The trouble is, no one knows where Jimmy is hiding and if Stephanie doesn’t find her man, she won’t get her fee. With rent to pay and blown up cars to replace, Stephanie is always skirting close to the line.
In order to lure Poletti out, Stephanie is going to have to take in Randy Briggs, who was helping Poletti fiddle the books. Now Poletti is out to get him and Randy is homeless…and excellent bait. Even if he is three feet of annoying. But the added danger of towing Briggs around town is that, well most of the time Stephanie is in enough danger alone. She doesn’t need anyone else bringing bad juju her way.
To add to the mix, Stephanie’s friend, mentor and occasionally something else Ranger Manoso has found himself in trouble with an old enemy. Ranger dodged the bullet of a mass assassination plot and terrorism trial run and now his building is under federal lockdown and no one is talking. Stephanie has no idea what’s going on but she doesn’t like the thought of Ranger in any sort of danger. It’s all in a day’s work for Stephanie Plum.
I know, I know. I keep saying that my days with this series are done but then I see them at the local library and end up picking them up on a whim again anyway. I keep reading merely to read more Ranger. Most of the more recent books have, quite frankly, sucked. But every now and then there’s one that gives you glimpses of the old magic and fortunately, this one is one of them.
There’s a plot! And it’s actually pretty cool. Well, to be more precise there’s actually two plots and both of them are pretty good. Stephanie is looking for used-car salesman Jimmy Poletti who was pushing a little more than cars and has now missed his court date. Jimmy is on the run and when his associates begin turning up dead, Stephanie ends up with Randy Briggs on her doorstep. He has no desire to be a little person corpse and he thinks that somehow, Stephanie is his only hope. Probably because Randy is basically horrible and everyone has long ago washed their hands of him. I kind of like Randy and it was rather enjoyable to see him again.
The other plot revolves around Ranger, who makes an apprehension for an extradition back to Miami. Things get super complicated and it escalates into a mass assassination attempt on all of Rangeman, which is thankfully thwarted but the building is sealed off and overrun with Feds. It’s discovered this is some sort of revenge attempt on Ranger which, well has probably been a long time coming. Ranger was Special Forces and there was bound to one day be some sort of retribution that involved him. Ranger plays a pretty decent role in this book, and he actually felt more like himself. Some of the more recent books, the character has felt like a weakened or watered down version of the Ranger in earlier books. Stephanie is still with Morelli (mostly) and Joe was actually much better in this one too – no Italian arm waving and wanting antacids and carrying on about Stephanie’s job. He actually shared information with her as well and the three of them (Morelli, Stephanie and Ranger) managed to co-exist quite well without it getting irritating.
Even the animal thing didn’t bother me in this one. And the animal thing always bothers me.
Books like this one make me realise that while she’s not going to hit the heights she did earlier in the series, Evanovich is still perfectly capable of producing a readable story. It might not drive the series forward as such, with character development but I’ve long ago accepted that isn’t going to happen. It really does make me wonder why some of what she has produced is so utterly disappointing, filled with bad jokes, poor reliance on the animals as plot devices and plot structures that are incomplete, go no where or basically don’t exist. Whilst not a fantastic book, this is a very solid read and everything seems to be in place. It’s books like this one that do make it hard to let go, even when some of the others are so bad.
Book #238 of 2014