Someone is killing elderly women in Trenton and leaving them in dumpsters. Since the murders take place elsewhere and the dumpsters disguise any clues that could be useful, the police are at a dead end. One of the victims is the mother of Ranger's client, and he wants Ranger to investigate. So Ranger hires Stephanie Plum to help with the investigation. Then the fun begins.
When the series began, Stephanie was recently unemployed and in desperate need of a job. So she allowed herself to be talked into working for her cousin, Vinnie. Vinnie owns a bail bond agency and needs someone to track down people who fail to appear for their court dates, thus forfeiting the bond that he provided. The bond enforcement agent, or bounty hunter, finds the skipper and takes him or her back to the police station to reschedule. Of course, sometimes the skippers are re-arrested and placed in jail, which explains why they are always hiding from Stephanie and, in some cases, shooting at her.
"As always, we can count on some funny scenes and snappy dialogue among the characters.... Anyone who hasn't read the series from the beginning would be better off to start with ONE FOR THE MONEY and continue for as long as you like."
TAKEDOWN TWENTY finds Stephanie and her sidekick, Lula, on the trail of one of Trenton's most powerful mobsters, Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi. Some love him, othes fear him, and all are unwilling to help Stephanie find him. Though in his 60s, he seems to move like the wind through the Jersey neighborhoods, always one step ahead of his trackers. Could Uncle Sunny be involved in more than running over someone with his car, twice? It becomes obvious that he considers Stephanie a threat when he sends his two henchmen, Moe and Shorty, to take her for a one-way ride to the Delaware River. Meanwhile, the Dumpster killer is still on the loose, and even the most unlikely become suspects.
As always, we can count on some funny scenes and snappy dialogue among the characters. At one point, Lula decides that she wants a genuine Brahmin handbag; upon closer investigation, the purse she bought from a street vendor was actually a Brakmin bag. She planned to return to her former occupation (being a hooker) for a while to earn some extra money. Unfortunately, with the economy in the toilet, there are more hookers than takers. The one offer she got while standing on her corner wanted to know if he could pay her with food stamps!
Stephanie's boyfriend, Joe Morelli, a Trenton cop, is caught in the middle between her and his Grandma Bella. Bella makes several appearances since she is related to Uncle Sunny and wants to protect him from Stephanie, whom she has already cursed thoroughly with the Sicilian evil eye. At one point, Bella ends up in handcuffs and Morelli lectures her, “You can't go around shooting people. It's against the law, and it's not nice.” “I spit on the law,” Bella says. “I do what's right.” And, of course, she determines what is right.
When Janet Evanovich began her Stephanie Plum series in 1994, she couldn't have anticipated that there would or should be an end-game. Obviously, the numbers would never run out. However, TAKEDOWN TWENTY shows some signs of aging, and perhaps a little “nip and tuck” is in order. Being a series fan, enjoying familiar characters and locales, and watching the characters develop and grow, is part of the fun. The characters in this series seem to have stood still in time, continuing to behave and react predictably as the story unfolds. We can be sure that Stephanie will wreck one of Ranger's cars, her gun will be at home with her bullets in the cookie jar, and Lula will be wearing Spandex, brightly colored and two sizes too small.
I don't mean to sound cranky, but I've loved this series and kept hoping that there would be some added dimension. Anyone who hasn't read the series from the beginning would be better off to start with ONE FOR THE MONEY and continue for as long as you like.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on November 22, 2013