You can tell by the incendiary titles --- SIZZLING SIXTEEN, SMOKIN’ SEVENTEEN and the pending publication of EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN in November --- that Stephanie Plum’s private life is definitely heating up, even if her professional life is almost stone cold. But all that is about to change.
"SMOKIN’ SEVENTEEN is another romp through the impossible world of Stephanie Plum and her Merry Band of Unconventionals."
Trenton, New Jersey’s arguably worst bounty hunter tracks down no-show bond jumpers for her cousin Vinny’s bond service. She gets paid only when she cuffs and delivers them to the cops, and when one is a dancing bear and another is an old guy who’s convinced he’s a vampire, things can get dicey. The normal bond cases have gone to other agencies since Vinny’s office burned to the ground in SIXTEEN, so Stephanie, her sidekick (and former hooker) Lula, and the office manager, Connie, are conducting what business is left out of a tricked-out bus owned by a former escapee, Moonie. The bus is wired for Internet, but it’s also his only mode of transportation, so it moves around a bit, which causes Vinny’s office staff to have to hunt it down.
Stephanie’s Monday has not started well. Her mother and grandmother have been pushing her to make up her mind between her long-time cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli, and the sexy but commitment-challenged security professional, Ranger. They think these two guys have had their chance to secure a future for Stephanie, so her mother has set her up with Dave Brewer, a former high school classmate who just came back to town. Their mothers know each other, he has expressed interest in seeing Stephanie, and mom and grandma are getting tired of waiting for grandchildren. Stephanie is grumbling to Lula about a blind date with this classmate she doesn’t remember as they stop off for a breakfast bag of donuts to start the day. Lula agrees. It’s time to settle down, find a marriageable man and start living a normal life. Lula suggests she have a sort of “bake-off or throw down.” Her former profession leads her to recommend a contest between who, including this Dave Brewer, is best in bed, which Stephanie immediately vetoes.
Things get worse when Grandma Bella, Morelli’s Italian grandmother, walks into the donut shop. She makes a beeline for Stephanie, words are exchanged about Stephanie’s relationship with her sainted grandson, and suddenly Grandma Bella shoots her the stink eye with threats of boils, blubber and B.O.
When they arrive at work, the bus is gone from the vacant lot, which is now ringed with police cars and yellow police tape. Both Morelli and Ranger are studying the ground from which a body part is protruding. Stephanie is in no mood to see either of them, and it’s just another day in the burg crime-wise. So Stephanie and Lula hunt down the bus, pull out a file and set off to capture the old vampire guy. As the week progresses (and a huge pimple on Stephanie’s forehead grows), more bodies appear, two with notes attached, addressed to Stephanie. The notes resemble gift tags, but look more like threats. The bodies turn out to belong to underworld figures with no apparent connection to anyone at Vinny’s, much less Stephanie. Is it the curse?
Then she runs into Grandma Bella again --- this time when she’s been seen with Ranger. Grandma proceeds to curse her with the VORGA curse, which turns out to contain what could be life-altering consequences for everyone concerned. It also leads to the cliffhanger of all cliffhanger endings, at least in the romance compartment of Stephanie’s complicated life. Faithful readers don’t have long to wait for the conclusion, because EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN comes out just in time for Thanksgiving.
SMOKIN’ SEVENTEEN is another romp through the impossible world of Stephanie Plum and her Merry Band of Unconventionals. And the big news: One for the Money, based on the first book in the series, will be in theaters in January 2012. Bookreporter.com once ran a contest to cast the movie that looked as if it would never be made. Well, here it is --- starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, Sherri Shepherd as Lula, TV star hotties Jason O’Mara as Morelli and Daniel Sunjata as Ranger, and film legend Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur. What I wouldn’t give for a first edition of that book!
Reviewed by Roz Shea on November 3, 2011