Seven Up

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephanie Plum is a bail bond enforcer whose latest assignment should be easy—pick up an ancient mobster who appears to be too depressed to move. But the job turns violent when she finds a recently shot corpse in the old miscreant’s shed, and she too is soon a target. The story follows her steps and missteps as she tries to dodge bullets, bring back the elderly bail jumper, and deal with conflict in her love life. Seven Up is the seventh in the Stephanie Plum series, each of which contains a number in the title, and is perhaps the funniest of the lot, containing several roll-on-the- floor, pop-your-buttons farce scenes.

The hilarious murder story is a popular genre, often dominated by Joan Hess with her tales of crime in rural Maggody, Arkansas. Janet Evanovich has caught up with her Stephanie Plum stories. Set in New Jersey, these novels feature the same outrageous characters in one book after another: fellow enforcer Joyce, butt of all jokes, who gets the good assignments by sleeping with the boss; Stephanie’s grandmother, whose randy sexual comments are balanced by her serious interest in funerals; Moon, a perennial hippie who calls Stephanie “Dude!” and is always stoned; and perhaps a dozen other stock personae. These characters are usually consistent—their predictability is part of the fun—but this tale holds one comic reversal. Sister Valerie, who was always Mrs. Prim and Proper and the Plum parents’ ideal to be held up to black-sheep Stephanie, has been dumped by her husband and decides to become a lesbian.

Seven Up keeps the reader laughing after the last page has been turned. Who did what and to whom takes second place to the comedy, but for the fan of this genre this does not matter a bit.