June 18, 2014

Review: Top Secret Twenty-One

Top Secret Twenty-One
Stephanie Plum, Bk 21
Janet Evanovich

Published: 17 June, 2014

Headline Review, Trade, 352p.
ISBN: 9781472201614

Catch a professional assassin: top priority. Find a failure-to-appear and collect big bucks: top score. How she’ll pull it all off: top secret.

Top Secret Twenty-OneTrenton, New Jersey’s favorite used-car dealer, Jimmy Poletti, was caught selling a lot more than used cars out of his dealerships. Now he’s out on bail and has missed his date in court, and bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is looking to bring him in. Leads are quickly turning into dead ends, and all too frequently into dead bodies. Even Joe Morelli, the city’s hottest cop, is struggling to find a clue to the suspected killer’s whereabouts. These are desperate times, and they call for desperate measures. So Stephanie is going to have to do something she really doesn’t want to do: protect former hospital security guard and general pain in her behind Randy Briggs. Briggs was picking up quick cash as Poletti’s bookkeeper and knows all his boss’s dirty secrets. Now Briggs is next on Poletti’s list of people to put six feet under.

To top things off, Ranger—resident security expert and Stephanie’s greatest temptation—has been the target of an assassination plot. He’s dodged the bullet this time, but if Ranger wants to survive the next attempt on his life, he’ll have to enlist Stephanie’s help and reveal a bit more of his mysterious past.

Death threats, highly trained assassins, highly untrained assassins, and Stark Street being overrun by a pack of feral Chihuahuas are all in a day’s work for Stephanie Plum. The real challenge is dealing with her Grandma Mazur’s wild bucket list. A boob job and getting revenge on Joe Morelli’s Grandma Bella can barely hold a candle to what’s number one on the list—but that’s top secret.

As I mentioned in yesterday's quick post - I loved it!  We're back to a real topsy-turvey hide and seek style chase for Ranger and Stephanie.  It doesn't seem like I've been reading these books for more than 10 years (they've been going for nearly 20!) and I still enjoy following Stephanie on her wild and crazy captures. 

Once again, our bad guy is someone from Ranger's past.  Not totally insane like Orin, but not too damn far from it either.  It's amazing how all these bad ass ex-Special Forces/assassins seem to get their evil master plans foiled by a woman who can't seem to cuff a skip without falling into dog dookey or a ripe garbage bin.  Amazing.  {I think this is part of the draw for me} So the latest ghost from Ranger's past is a tattooed Russian thug that has a penchant for knives and a twisted sense of fun - i.e., the item he leaves for Stephanie on the counter - and this time Stephanie is truly pissed as she is truly worried about Ranger's safety (Spoiler - highlight to read: They had to close down and evacuate Rangeman!!!!)

I do find that the messes Steph seems to get caught up in in this book, well every book are - mostly through some seriously bad luck and timing - way beyond the realm of credibility, however they are as entertaining as heck.  One of the funniest things in this book is Grandma Mazur's Bucket List.  It's a hoot and a half, and surprisingly she gets to tick off a few items - be warned, they involve Ranger and Joe's Grandma Bella ;-D   Lula is once again riding shotgun for Steph.  Part sidekick, part bodyguard, Lula seems to have made it her mission in life to stick by Stephanie.  I know she was originally supposed to be a one book wonder (One for the Money), but I'm so glad that Janet Evanovich couldn't resist bringing her back.

And with the highs must come the low.  Now it seems that Randy Briggs is popping up every couple of titles, but I just have to say.... I don't like him!  There, I said it.  And while I don't like him, I can see why he pops back up periodically.  He's abrasive, obnoxious, mean, and a few other words I won't type.  He really does just rub me the wrong way.  However, he's a great foil for Stephanie (and Lula).  He is comedy gold really.  So although this was another Randy based "you've got to help me Stephanie!" story, he really was a necessary evil.  {Guilty pleasure ensued that I got to see him suffer a bit... that's naughty of me, isn't it ;-P}

Sadly there is no Joyce to complicate the matter, and Vinnie and Connie are only there as window dressing.  Unfortunately Joe wasn't a huge part of this story either, it's always nice to see him, but he did hang around quite a bit so it wasn't a total loss.  This story revolves around Ranger and Stephanie, oh, and Randy, and I can't wait for more.  

Reading Top Secret Twenty-One is a great way to spend a few hours.  Just don't take it to work as you won't be able to put it down!

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