Friday, May 23, 2014

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Reviewed by Kristin

Going back to the classics—well, the  Janet Evanovich classics anyway—is quite entertaining.  I rarely buy books to keep (libraries, libraries, libraries!) but for several years I was buying Evanovich’s books, so that I could go back and laugh at the hijinks whenever the urge struck me.  For the past several Stephanie Plum books, I have been wondering what in the world happened to the best-selling author that I had enjoyed for years.  To explore this point, I decided to re-read One for the Money to see if my mind was clouded with nostalgia, or if the books truly were better at the beginning of the Plum series.  What I have found is that many of the writing passages are more descriptive and more enjoyable to read than the staccato jokes and repeated crazy situations of the latest books.  For example, a spoiler-free passage from One for the Money:

“I awoke to the steady drumming of rain on my fire escape.  Wonderful.  Just what I needed to complicate my life further.  I crawled out of bed and pulled the curtain aside, not pleased at the sight of an all-day soaker.  The parking lot had slicked up, reflecting light from mysterious sources.  The rest of the world was gunmetal gray, the cloud cover low and unending, the buildings robbed of color behind the rain.”

Great literature?  No.  But I find it much more enjoyable when the author shows me what is happening, instead of telling me in words of one syllable.  Evanovich doesn’t go on for pages with these descriptions, but they make a nice backdrop to laugh-out-loud moments such as when Grandma Mazur is playing with her new .38 Special at the dinner table.  Let’s just say that particular roast chicken carcass will never be the same.  Mrs. Plum may as well go ahead and start her secret drinking in the kitchen now.

In addition to Grandma Mazur providing great comic relief in this outing, the series’ stage is set with Stephanie beginning her career as a bounty hunter.  Here we first learn about Joe Morelli and how he took Stephanie into her garage and played “choo choo” while still in elementary school.  After Stephanie blackmails her cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as a bounty hunter, her first bond is for local cop Morelli. When Stephanie explains that she knows Morelli and sold him a cannoli in high school, office manager Connie replies, “Honey, half of all the women in New Jersey have sold him their cannoli.”

Morelli may or may not be the bad guy in this book, and I won’t say too much so that it’s not spoiled for readers new to the series.  There is another character who is definitely a bad guy, and is the type who will make your skin crawl.  The early books in this series have characters with much more depth than some of the throwaway characters in later books.

Ranger is also introduced in One for the Money:  an ultra-capable guy working in security and wearing all black.  With mysterious sources of income and a never ending stream of black high-end vehicles, Ranger is the one Stephanie goes to when she needs a little help in apprehending a fugitive.  He makes Stephanie shivery in a very positive way, but she is never sure whether or not she wants to be involved with him.  Actually, twenty books later Stephanie’s still not sure whether Morelli or Ranger is the man for her.

My conclusion regarding this re-reading of One for the Money is this:  Yes, it was better written than some of the later books in the series.  I’m not quite sure when the series jumped the shark, but it has.  But for some “before the shark” action, check out One for the Money.  It may hook you and take you on a wild ride.


  1. I need to go back and re-read the first one. I'm a huge Stephanie Plum fan, and still enjoy the newer books. But it does seem like something's missing. Maybe because I know what to expect of the characters, like Grandma Mazur, or Lula--their hijinks aren't a surprise anymore.

  2. Kristin,
    I took a break from writing last November and read/reread all of the Stephanie Plum books one after the other. I agree, One For The Money is one of those new classics; discovering it was like finding a new favorite pair of shoes. All in a row, I still enjoyed the series. Nineteen felt particularly fresh compared to other later ones, but I agree the series changed. I'll keep reading them, though!

  3. This series started out fun, but I think there are only so many times I can bear to read about Lula wearing spandex, riding shotgun and eating Cluck-in-a-Bucket. We had a patron asking for authors similar to Evanovich, so I have been compiling a list to make a descriptive bibliography here at the library. Toni McGee Causey and her Bobbie Faye series is the one that is bringing me back to the laugh-out-loud funny days of early Evanovich. (A review of Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day will be posted soon.)