Reviewed by Kristin
I really didn’t want to review another Janet Evanovich book. I might have been a little embarrassed that I keep reading them, even as I feel that they are getting even more repetitive than the dozens that have gone before. But I placed the book on hold, took it home, read it over the course of a few days, and actually laughed at the latest Plum exploits. Maybe I should I say that I laughed at the latest Grandma Mazur exploits, because she was at the center of my favorite crazy humor scene in the book. Let’s just say that she has a bucket list. And Ranger is on the list.
In Top Secret Twenty-One, Stephanie Plum is once again on the trail of an FTA (failure to appear): Jimmy Poletti, used-car dealer and dealer of more unlawful things as well. Ranger enlists Stephanie’s help in catching a professional assassin at a Russian vodka trade show. Whenever Ranger asks for Stephanie’s professional help, I wonder what in the world she can do that he cannot. Then again, amidst Russian vodka salesmen, I guess that Stephanie’s feminine attributes are the one thing Ranger does not have.
Grandma Mazur and Joe’s Grandma Bella are at each other’s throats as well. Name calling and pie throwing are fair game in this battle of the senior citizens. Lula is riding shotgun and even dating an FTA so that Stephanie can apprehend him at the end of the evening. Randy Briggs, unlikable short person, is back and needs Stephanie’s protection and apartment. Even as he is an unwelcome houseguest, Stephanie manages to wrangle Randy into dog-sitting as she takes in a homeless FTA who is extremely attached to his ten unruly Chihuahuas.
The book is similar to the previous twenty in the series, but for some reason I found this one to be slightly better plotted. Yes, cars explode, apartments are damaged and the Buick remains pristine as always. When I start wondering about the lack of character development progression, it seems that Stephanie should have matured a little bit by now (or at least made a choice between Morelli and Ranger.) But then again, each book may only be a month or two apart, so it’s entirely possible that the entire series encompasses only a couple of years. After all, Rex the hamster has lived through all twenty-one books and multiple apartment bombings. I guess I’ll hang in there and see how many more laugh out loud moments are in number Twenty-Two.