The word madcap might best describe the novels of Janet Evanovich. Her heroines seem to be hanging on to life by a thin thread. Far from the typical self-sufficient loner depicted in hard-boiled mysteries and classic detective fiction, the Evanovich heroine is needy. Taking gross incompetence to an art form, Stephanie Plum bumbles from one botched arrest to another and depends on dumb luck and the men in her life to bail her out.
Evanovich writes to entertain the reader. Her character-driven novels combine generous amounts of romance and comedy. The author draws heavily from her own life and her own interests for the plots and settings of the novels. Like Stephanie Plum, Evanovich once owned a hamster, was born in New Jersey, and enjoys driving fast. The author has compared Stephanie to a younger, more attractive version of herself.
Stephanie’s sexual allure is key to the success of the series. The love triangle among Stephanie, Joe Morelli, and Ranger is like a continuing soap opera. The series is reminiscent of Nancy Drew, where the end of each chapter finds the heroine in peril, and the reader speeds through the story only to find once again that the heroine has been saved by her network of fumbling family members and macho protectors. Stephanie’s family members—her fertile sister Valerie, the spry and cocky Grandma Mazur, her long-suffering father and doting mother, and her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie, for whom she works—all provide a constant background noise to further complicate her daily life.
Hard Eight (2002) in the Stephanie Plum series is one of Evanovich’s better titles. It is a little darker, a little more menacing, and slightly deranged. Eddie Abruzzi, local mob boss with a Napoleon complex, seeks a former bar owner associate who may have stolen property belonging to Eddie. Stephanie enters the scene through the back door, as she had been recruited to find the former bar owner’s wife, Evelyn Soder, and her daughter Annie. She has taken on this case for free.
(The entire section is 848 words.)