January 25, 2016

Book Review || One for the Money

Original 1994 hardcover
One for the Money
Stephanie Plum, Book 1
Janet Evanovich

Originally Published: 1994
Review Edition: 2012

Penguin, Format B paperback, 290p.
ISBN: 978-0-241-95703-5

Winner of the Crime Writer’s Association John Creasy Memorial Dagger

Stephanie Plum is down on her luck.  She’s lost her job, her car’s on the brink of repossession, and her apartment is fast becoming furniture-free.

Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bond company.  If Stephanie can bring in vice cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli, she stands to pick up $10,000.  But tracking down a cop wanted for murder isn’t easy.  And when Benito Ramirez, a prize-fighter with more menace than mentality, wants to be her friend Stephanie soon knows what its like to be pursued.  Unfortunately the best person to protect her just happens to be on the run. . .

First off, I can't believe that it's been over 10 years since I picked up my first Stephanie Plum book, and over 20 since Stephanie Plum first burst onto the scene in One for the Money!  I wanted to re-read One for the Money for the first time in over 8 years, to see what I think of it.  Has it aged well, or is it just a product of it's time?

What I love about this book (and the series) is that Stephanie is a just a woman.  No superpowers, or kickass abilities.  She screws up - a lot! - and makes a complete fool of herself at times, but she's also warm and funny.  Her attempts to snag FTAs, Morelli in this instance, are just laughable.  She has to be the most inept bounty hunter in history.  She doesn't like guns, has no clue as to how to take down an FTA, but she can lie through her teeth without blinking an eyelash - perhaps her most valuable skill.

However as much fun as this is, there were times when all hints of comedy were absent, and the mood turned dark, but for a book that won a crime writers award, I found it more chick lit than hardened crime. The murder that underpins the story was a good one - even if it took quite a while to wrap it up - but I knew who the antagonists were right off the bat.  There are no red herrings, what you see is what you get.

The world of the Burg is well conveyed.  You get a sense of what the streets must be like, and at times you can almost smell the garbage.  The ease of which you fall into this world made my reading experience so much better.
In regards to the characters that orbit Stephanie's world they were, almost to a T, down to earth and relatable.  Connie is a delight.  Full stop.  I love her and her snarky attitude.  A strong female who doesn't take any crap from anybody.  Vinnie, on the other hand, is such a weasel that it's no surprise that he runs a bail bonds business {I think it was either that, or running a sex shop for Vinnie!}. Devious and underhanded at times, he's a great foil for Connie and Stephanie.  Lula, although not around for most of the book, plays a pivotal role.  A great personality to contrast with Stephanie.

Then there is the obligatory man candy.  Ranger and Morelli.  What can I say?  They are both very hot and very capable men who have vastly different approaches to dealing with Stephanie.  Morelli goes into 'Italian mode', whereby he just rants and tries to get her to stop doing whatever it is that he hates (which inevitably leads to an argument, storming out, etc.).  He's also much more of a jerk in this first book.  Doesn't see anything wrong with surprising a woman in her shower then handcuffing her naked to the curtain rod.  Ranger, however, will just stare at her.  And if that doesn't work, he just sighs and tells her the truth.

On the family front, Stephanie's mum just wants her to get married and give her grandchildren - and to get a real job - while Grandma Mazur, who seems to act younger the older she gets (and is what I imagine Stephanie will be like in her 70's!) has some of the best lines in the book.  You don't see a whole lot of Mr. Plum, but he is the typical long suffering father who has to live with his mother-in-law - enough said.

Now we come to the antagonists.  Evanovitch did such a good job with Ramirez that even reading about him gave me the creeps.  The scene where he's singing out to Stephanie "I've come to play with you, Stephanie" is extremely unsettling and just adds to this psycho's already menacing presence.  If I heard this coming through my front door, swear to God, I'd lock myself in the bathroom.  And then theres that something something he leaves on her door - and it's not tapioca!

Ah, Jimmy Alpha.  What a piece of dog shit!  While this character is not as physically menacing as Ramirez, I found him to be more evil in a way, because he knows what he is doing is wrong.  But in protecting and enabling Ramirez, and looking the other way as he abuses and brutalises the women on Stark St,  he is keeping his cash-cow happy - and lining his own pockets at the same time.  A real piece of work.

Oh, before I forget I have two honourable mentions.  These are two 'characters' that pop up and  also deserve a little bit of the love.  First is Rex. Stephanie's roommate, and confidante, who has a personality all of his own.  So adorable.  Next we have Big Blue. I've never read another book where a car has such a presence.  This '53 powder blue Buick is indestructible!

I think this book does stand the test of time.  Okay, they use pagers, and there's not a laptop or iPad in sight, but the characters make that irrelevant.  If you go into this with the mind set of this being a fun read, with a bit of action here and there, then I think you'll like, if not enjoy, Stephanie Plum and the gang.

Oh, and if you have not seen the 2012 adaptation - don't!  Seriously, for those who love the characters in this book it is not a good idea to see what they did to it.

Let me know if you have read One for the Money.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book ;-D

Until next time,

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