"Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.
Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, and she’s flying back to New Jersey solo. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. And a ragtag collection of thugs and psychos, not to mention the FBI, are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.
Only one other person has seen the missing photo—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.
Over at the bail bonds agency things are going from bad to worse. The bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke. Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their largest skip yet. Lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment. And everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?
Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii. And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated."
I found myself a little lost at the beginning with SP storming back from the airport. It was one of the odder openings, but after she hits Trenton proper and ends up chin-deep in trouble again I felt like I was back in the groove.
However it was the mystery of the abrupt departure from Hawaii, a tan line on her ring finger and her two beau's being left behind that I found myself being drawn to, not the mysterious photograph and the dead guy on the plane (who really didn't have anything to do with the story after the first few pages). I know that seems odd, but all the secrecy surrounding Hawaii and what happened there - with little hints dropped here and there like breadcrumbs - was just distracting. Once I found out what happened regarding Morelli/Ranger and the ring mark, I was way more interested in the crimes at hand.
Beware - in this installment, there isn't a huge Ranger presence, and even Morelli is more on the backburner compared to past books. I do like the fact that Ranger and Morelli have had their bust up, but did it have to happen in Hawaii where it only gets told in a by-the-way manner? That was huge! We fans have been waiting for this inevitable clash since Book 1... and when it did happen it wasn't even part of the story!
Apart from that huge detail, nothing much has changed in the Burg. Vinnie's still running his bail bond business from Mooner's van while his business premises are being rebuilt. Grandma Mazur is still a lovable nut, and Lula is just as crazy as always - just wait till the love potion fiasco - while Morelli and Ranger are still interested in SP. However, Morelli still doesn't know about the reason's for Ranger being there with SP, so there seems to be a more serious conversation that needs to be had in the future. After 18 books I think the storyline regarding this love triangle has reached a point where a choice has to be made soon. We don't want it to go the way of other great series where SP just keeps bed-hopping and ends up with no one.
So, all in all, what did I think? I thought that Explosive Eighteen was a fun read. I enjoyed it more than the last few books where it has been all about the blowing up of cars, falling in garbage and finding dead bodies left, right and on your sofa. The ending is funny, and I could see what happens next as a great opening for Notorious 19.