Evanovich's technique in Hot Six is characterized by slapstick and parody. Written in the first person singular, so as to increase the immediacy of events for the reader, Evanovich describes fantastically disastrous events that spiral out of Stephanie's control, as opposed to the usual first person detective protagonists, who control events through their proficiency and stoicism. Evanovich raises the reader's expectations by lavishly describing recognizable stock vignettes of detective fiction, such as the aforementioned standoff between protagonist and villain, only to frustrate those expectations with disaster. This frustration of reader expectations serves to heighten the almost manic humor. An even more ludicrous example is Habib and Mitchell's attempted kidnapping of Stephanie's dog, Bob, who, like her hamster, is like the child that Stephanie has never had. Evanovich describes Stephanie's horror as she watches the villain's car race away only to have the car stop dead. The doors burst open, Habib and Mitchell stagger out, followed by a happy and unharmed Bob. But it is not the protagonist's quick thinking that has thwarted the bad guys: it is the cumulative laxative and emetic effects of the two boxes of prunes that Bob had eaten, which puts their car out of commission.
Evanovich, however, does not rely solely on slapstick and parody. She provides a detailed narrative framework on which to mount the hilarious vignettes described above, a...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
In Hot Six, Evanovich succeeds in using humor to analyze serious issues about identity in traditional patriarchal communities, the agreements between criminal organizations as unwritten laws for an underground government, and the inter-generational problem of changing sexual mores. By writing detective fiction, Evanovich adds manic humor by frustrating reader's expectations through a succession of spectacular slapstick episodes without sacrificing complexity of plot line. Through the series, the author has built up a hilarious supporting cast of characters and on-going subplots, all of which add to the reader's enjoyment and amusement. While it is tempting for readers simply to read the work as comic light entertainment, in doing so they might miss out on Evanovich's multifaceted appropriation and adaptation of the traditionally patriarchal, conservative, and sexist hard-boiled detective fiction genre.
1. Is the depiction of inept Pakistani hitman Habib racist? Why or why not?
2. How does the setting add to characterization? How would the work be changed if it were set in a large, anonymous city?
3. To what extent could Stephanie Plum be considered to be a feminist character?
4. Does the humor of Hot Six add to or detract from Evanovich's analysis of social concerns?
5. Consider the attitude of the police to Stephanie's interference in their investigations. Is Evanovich's depiction of the...
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Hot Six is Janet Evanovich's sixth novel about Stephanie Plum, a former lingerie buyer, forced through redundancy to take on a job as a bail enforcement agent, which is a polite way of saying a bounty hunter. The setting for all six of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels is a part of Trenton, New Jersey, known as the Burg. In Hot Six, the Burg is described thus:
The Burg is a residential chunk of Trenton with one side bordering on Chambersburg Street and the other side stretching to Italy. Tastykakes and olive loaf are staples in the Burg. "Sign language" refers to a stiff middle finger jabbed skyward. Houses are modest. Cars are large. Windows are clean.
The Burg is a very close community, based on extended families. As Evanovich writes in High Five: "no one ever really leaves the Burg. You could relocate in Antarctica, but if you were born and raised in the Burg, you're a Burger for life." Due to Evanovich's focus on the closeness of the community, and its influence on Stephanie's character, it is impossible to analyze the specific social concerns in one work without first analyzing the Burg and its inhabitants.
The Burg is a second and third generation Italian-American immigrant community that, while proud of its Italian heritage, fiercely asserts its naturalization as American. This attitude is best represented in the work by Stephanie's father's assertion of the superiority of American goods over foreign imports, a superiority that takes on almost a moral aspect: American equals good, foreign equals bad. Stephanie says: "My father was a second-generation American, and he loved bashing foreigners, relatives excluded." This moralizing tone extends to the level of daily routine: Burg meals are always ready at six in the evening, prepared and served by women, and the kind of food that is eaten is dictated by the man of the house. In this patriarchal society, there is a pressure on couples to get married early and a pressure on daughters to provide their mothers with grandchildren, a pressure that sometimes drives Stephanie insane. Finally, there are many people who suggest to Stephanie that she should get a more feminine job. In Hot Six, the unattractive prospect suggested by Stephanie's mother is a packing job at the Personal Products Plant.
The closeness of the community inevitably means that the Burg gossip mill, or grapevine, soon broadcasts any and all goings on. This is mostly presented in the series as being an irritation and a hindrance to Stephanie's sex life. But there is a sense of claustrophobia in the novels, however humorous Evanovich makes it. The upshot is that everyone knows everyone else's business. It is in this closed space that Hot Six takes place.
The work deals specifically with organized crime and the ways in which the criminal underworld very much represents a hidden government and economy beneath the surface world of the Burg. Stephanie is drawn into this as she finds out that her friend and mentor Ranger, Trenton's finest bounty hunter, has himself skipped bail on a minor charge, one step ahead of being called in for questioning about the murder of Homer Ramos, a son of Alexander Ramos, an international arms dealer. As Stephanie's investigations continue, she discovers that this seemingly isolated incident has come close to starting a crime war over control of Trenton. Evanovich paints a picture of a hidden criminal government and criminal economy, thinly veiled beneath the law-abiding community. While the...
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In writing crime fiction in the first person, Evanovich places herself in a long tradition of American writers, of whom the most famous is probably Raymond Chandler. In Chandler's novels, his protagonist, the private eye Philip Marlowe, is a hard drinker, a loner, cynical about women and love, and very competent at his job. He always moves one step ahead of the police to bring the guilty to justice, and this is especially evident in The Lady in the Lake (1944). Part of the delight in reading Evanovich comes from her self-conscious sending up of this hard-boiled school of writing. When Marlowe is having difficulties, he turns to Old Forester whisky for comfort: when Stephanie finds herself in dire straits, she turns to Boston Creme doughnuts. Marlowe is a loner, a ghostly figure in the background, whose life is never complicated by personal relationships: Stephanie is constantly at the mercy of her hormones, relentlessly teased by both Morelli and Ranger, and frequently hindered when her family loyalties are called upon.
While a knowledge of the hard-boiled tradition of Hammett and Chandler allows the reader to see some of the ludicrous humor in Evanovich's work, there are more profitable comparisons to be made. In having a single, assertive, sexually active female protagonist, Evanovich could be compared with writers like Val McDermid and especially Sara Paretsky. In Tunnel Vision (1994), Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski is, like Stephanie,...
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Over the course of the six Stephanie Plum novels, it could be said that what has drawn readers is a certain lack of development: the reader knows to expect parody, slapstick humor, and a tangle of multiple plot lines when they pick up any Stephanie Plum novel. This is not to say that the novels are poorly constructed or repetitive: rather, this shows Evanovich's constant use of humor to explore serious issues and her gift for convoluted plots. Indeed, reading the books as a series deepens the reader's appreciation, as the ongoing romance of Stephanie and Joe Morelli, the sexual tension between Stephanie and Ranger, and the development of supporting characters like Lula all represent long-term plot developments. However, perhaps the...
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