Stephanie Plum’s career as a bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey, has honed her skills in breaking and entering, avoiding explosives, running after bad guys, eating fast food on the fly, and adapting to driving any style of car in minutes, if not seconds. Especially the car switching. If you’re a Stephanie Plum fan, you expect her current ride to be blown up, but in NOTORIOUS NINETEEN she goes for the world record. Maybe that’s what the “Nineteen” is all about, although it’s easy to lose count when multiple explosions wipe out parts of parking lots. Big Blue, her grandmother’s enormous and indestructible 1950s Buick, which is Stephanie's dependable fallback, ends up as Trenton cop Joe Morelli’s ride until he can replace his personal car.
"Fans expect comedic interludes, and Stephanie’s visit to the bridal shop for a fitting and Lula’s undercover antics to get in to see an industry mogul are highlights."
It’s been a slow summer for Stephanie's cousin Vinnie’s bail bond service, so she’s trolling for any FTA’s (failure to appear) bond skippers she can get. Vinnie has bonded out an embezzler who has made off with five million dollars from a trendy Trenton retirement facility. He was hospitalized with an emergency appendectomy days before his court date, but mysteriously vanished in the middle of the night from his fourth floor hospital room two days after surgery. There’s nothing on hospital surveillance tapes, no witnesses to the escape, and he was in no shape to take off on his own. He is either on the run with the cash or has been kidnapped. The bounty is so huge that it motivates Stephanie to overcome all obstacles to bring the guy in or die trying. She doesn’t know how close to that vow she will come as the pursuit gets hot and the trail goes cold.
Meanwhile, Ranger, the steamy hot private security specialist who is Stephanie’s mentor (and sometimes a bit more), asks her to back him up undercover as a bridesmaid in a wedding where he’s the best man. Both Ranger and the groom, a former Special Ops buddy from his Marine Corps days, have been receiving notes threatening the bride, groom and wedding ceremony from an unknown party. Attending rehearsal dinners on Ranger’s arm does not sit well with Morelli, Stephanie’s almost fiancé, given her history with Ranger. Morelli has been talking about marriage, and Stephanie’s mother is pushing her to settle down and live a normal life, but the adrenaline rush she gets from her job is holding her back from commitment.
Both assignments lead Stephanie and her sidekick Lula into car chases, junk food binges, breaking and entering, near misses from fire bombs, rockets and murderous bad guys hot on their tail. She runs into old acquaintance Randy Briggs, a midget who works as the security guard at the hospital where the embezzler mysteriously disappeared. Randy is the only one who can fit through a package drop opening at a suspicious medical facility in the woods where the embezzler is suspected to be hiding.
Fans expect comedic interludes, and Stephanie’s visit to the bridal shop for a fitting and Lula’s undercover antics to get in to see an industry mogul are highlights. And then there’s the mayhem that follows Stephanie wherever she goes. After a particularly trying day when Morelli’s car has been blown up and Stephanie has been poisoned, threatened with cremation and forced into a pink taffeta dress, Morelli tells Stephanie, “Cupcake, you are a disaster magnet…You’re like one of those people who keeps getting hit by lightning.” When he goes off into the kitchen to get her a beer, she is half worried he won’t come back.
Stephanie comes as close to dying in horrible ways from both encounters on a fateful Saturday as she ever has in her life. Settling down begins to look better and better as one terrifying event follows another, one of which gets Morelli shot. And then there’s always Ranger, who sends chills up her spine with a look.
There are two bumper stickers in the back of this edition: one says “MORELLI” and the other says “RANGER.” Stay tuned.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on November 30, 2012