Fans of Stephanie Plum’s escapades will not be disappointed by Janet Evanovich’s latest installment, Smokin’ Seventeen. Chapter one begins with a phone call from Grandma Mazur, who recounts a bizarre dream to Stephanie; moves to the Tasty Pastry Bakery, where Grandma Bella puts the eye on Stephanie; and ends at the site of the former bonds office with Joe Morelli, Vinnie, Connie, Mooner, and Stephanie stand, staring at parts of murder victim number one. As the novel unfolds, the reader is taken over familiar terrain: Yes, there are zany characters, such as 72-year-old FTA, Ziggy Glitch, who thinks he’s a vampire; yes, Grandma Mazur gets kicked out of a viewing; yes, Lula goes on yet another whacky diet; yes, Stephanie’s car blows up; and yes, Stephanie’s love life with cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli, is complicated by enigmatic hottie, Ranger.
If you’re new to the series or haven’t been keeping up, you can still plunge in because narrator Plum briefs us on key bios and background. And, whether you’re new to the series or not, if you haven’t listened to any of the audio/CD/digital recordings, waste no time in checking one out from your local library. Be sure and select those narrated by C.J. Critt. Her characterizations, especially of Lula, are spot-on and have made me laugh out loud. Speaking of laughter, I’ve watched the movie trailer for One for the Money, the first book in the series, and it wasn’t funny. Where are those New Jersey accents? Why wasn’t someone like Cloris Leachman cast as Grandma Mazur? And if only Sandra Bullock weren't a little too old to be playing Stephanie . . . but I digress. Anyway, you can check out the trailer on http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810168438/video/26714574.So, the bottom line is if you’re looking for standard Stephanie Plum fare, read or listen to Smokin’ Seventeen. If you’re like my sister, who’s tired of the franchise and the romantic tug-of-war, skip this one and wait to hear what the grapevine has to say about the next one. As for me, yes, it’s predictable and light, but the pleasure of reading a comic novel, especially one that is set in Trenton, NJ (across the river from Yardley, PA, where I lived for ten years and which does get a shout-out in one of the books) and sharing a Hungarian heritage with the protagonist is worth a few hours of my time.