It's business as usual at Vinnie's bonding agency. Stephanie Plum, perhaps the second worst bounty hunter in New Jersey (her recently licensed sidekick Lula edged her out for first place), is staked out waiting for a bond jumper to surface when a woman in black walks up to her car and introduces herself as Ranger's wife. Carmen Manoso claims that Ranger has married her, dumped her, emptied their bank account and fled the scene, all within the last six months. This comes as a major jolt to Stephanie who knows little about the mysterious and secretive Ranger, but finds it impossible to believe he is dishonorable enough to have done this to any woman, including herself.
Carmen, convinced he's shacking up with Stephanie, proves how upset she is by firing a bullet into the rear fender of Stephanie's new Morris Minnie. Carmen proceeds to stake out the bond agency around the clock, waiting for Ranger to show up. Meanwhile, it checks out that Ranger is missing along with his 12-year-old daughter who has been kidnapped from her birthmother and stepfather in Miami, launching an all-points search for Ranger. Stephanie knows little about Ranger's daughter except that he has maintained a good relationship with her and her birth mother. Facts just don't add up, and Stephanie launches a search of her own.
For the first time, Janet Evanovich fleshes out the elusive Ranger. Left to our own devices, most readers have imagined (or fantasized about) what he looks like, who he really is and how he became the head of a global, super-secret private security force. Now we get a glimpse of the private Ranger as he goes to ground until his personal problems are resolved.
Ranger's higher profile doesn't edge out Joe Morelli, who is ever stalwart, sexy and faithful, despite the complicating involvement between Ranger and Stephanie when she finally catches up with him. Fans will welcome the continuing antics of Grandma Mazur, Lula and Sally Sweet. A most unlikely rock-and-roll band gives new definition to the term "moonlighting." Stiva's Funeral Home, under new management after the demise of the former owner in ELEVEN ON TOP, continues as a pivotal setting for the action-filled events triggered by Ranger's disappearance.
The new plot twists, along with familiar characters, pretty much guarantees a continuation of the phenomenal success of the Stephanie Plum series. It was time to learn more about Ranger --- can Janet Evanovich surprise us again?
Reviewed by Roz Shea on June 20, 2006