New Jersey's most inept bounty hunter is back to bring in her man in the latest mystery by Janet Evanovich, the phenom former romance writer whose quirky characters have catapulted this rollicking mystery series to the top of the bestseller charts.
Stephanie stands to make a quick five grand, which she needs to make payments on a hot new car to replace the one wrecked in HOT SIX, by picking up an elderly bond jumper named Eddie DeChooch. Eddie is a geriatric, nearly blind, hard of hearing, over-the-hill-in-bed guy (by Grandma Mazur's estimation) with the kind of connections people have grown to expect in Trenton, New Jersey. When Stephanie and her sometimes partner, Lula, check out his duplex, everything seems in order --- until they open a backyard storage shed and find the remains of a Meals-on-Wheels food service lady with five bullet holes in her chest.
DeChooch may be over-the-hill but he's still good at jumping out of windows and escaping from funeral home viewings and mud wrestling clubs, not to mention train wrecks. Nobody can catch the old geezer, including the two men in Stephanie's life --- fiancee Joe Morelli and the sexy and dangerous Ranger. Joe and the Trenton police force can't arrest the guy who cruises the Burg in a white Caddie, while Ranger imposes an offer Stephanie can't refuse in exchange for help in bringing the guy in.
Meanwhile, Mom and Grandma Mazur are having Stephanie fitted for her wedding dress, and Stephanie's perfect sister Valerie drops in from California, children in tow, after her perfect marriage blows up when her husband runs off with the baby-sitter. Evanovich is at her funniest when she portrays Stephanie's family and personal life. For the first time, she fleshes out Stephanie's menopausal mother and has Stephanie doing some self-examination of her romantic quandary --- a new wrinkle that brings an added dimension to the book, without becoming dark and introspective.
Stephanie's two old school buddies, druggies Walter "Moon Man" Dunphy and Dougie "The Dealer" Kruger, are ensnared in the plot when DeChooch uses them to transport something important for the widow of a dead gangster. And thereby hangs the harebrained plot, as slapstick as ever --- maybe even more so. We know as soon as we hear that Stephanie has a hot new car that at some point she'll be back driving the indestructible 1953 Buick, because we know that the new car's half-life is measured in days if not hours. We know that Grandma Mazur's obsession with funeral homes will become a centerpiece for action. We know that Joe Morelli and Ranger will continue to confuse and bedazzle Stephanie. We know that Stephanie's parents will provide us with major laughs from America's most dysfunctional family since Edith and Archie Bunker.
We know all of this and we demand that Evanovich serve it up to us in faster, wilder and more hilarious adventures. Can she still deliver? In a recent book group discussion, a reader was talking about a new mystery writer who adds comedic elements to the plot. Someone asked, "Where does this book fall on the Evanovich Laugh Out Loud scale?" The reader replied, without batting an eye, "Oh, probably about a seven." When you're considered the measurement against which other writers are compared, the pressure is on. It's still hard to beat the explosive reaction readers have to Grandma Mazur's line in the first book, ONE FOR THE MONEY, which captured the hearts and funny bones of the growing list of fans. "I shot him right in the gumpy!" is the standard to which even Evanovich must be held. So, how does SEVEN UP measure on the Evanovich scale? Oh, probably about a 9.5.
Reviewed by Roz Shea (HOST BKPG ROZ) on June 17, 2002