Thursday, July 18, 2002

Review - Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich

Fans and first-timers to Janet Evanovich, the nationally bestselling mystery writer who lives in New Hampshire, will find the eighth Stephanie Plum novel, Hard Eight, great entertainment.

Stephanie Plum is Trenton, New Jersey's favorite bounty hunter.

She's not the best at what she does, but she provides lots of entertainment for the local police department. Luck is not on her side most of the time. She relies on common sense and talks her problems over with her hamster.

Hard Eight mixes terror-filled action with humor and charm. After a few scares involving various creepy-crawlies, Stephanie tells the bad guy that she's more a fluffy rabbit sort of girl. She soon finds herself attacked by a testosterone-driven man in a pink rabbit suit and his sidekicks Bear, Nixon, Clinton, and The Bag.

Readers can enjoy Hard Eight without having read any of the earlier Plum books. All pertinent information is repeated in each book, such as who Ranger and Morelli are and what they mean to Stephanie, who Stephanie works for and how she got the job, etc. Reading the series in order mainly provides a sense of pace and a deeper understanding of how wacky Stephanie really is.

In Hard Eight, Stephanie reluctantly does a favor for her mother's neighbor, Mabel Markowitz. Stephanie knows she's probably accepting a job beyond her abilities, but she wants to help Mabel. Mabel bakes when she's upset, and her baked goods are overrunning Stephanie's parents' house.

Mabel's granddaughter, Evelyn, has taken a sudden vacation with her 7 year-old daughter and Mabel is worried that something or someone sinister is behind their departure. It could be Evelyn's nasty ex-husband. It could be the bail bondsman who tells Mabel her house is at risk because it was collateral for Evelyn's child custody bond.

Those people worry Stephanie, but they pale in comparison to war-game psychotic Eddie Abruzzi, who owns Evelyn's building and wants something Evelyn has.

Hard Eight has all the usual characters. On-again-off-again fiancÈ cop Joe Morelli appears whenever Stephanie needs a shoulder to lean on. Luscious and mysterious bounty hunter mentor Ranger keeps Stephanie supplied with cars and simply chuckles when Stephanie calls to tell him his car has exploded or been stolen by a young man she was driving to a hotel. Grandma Mazur gets quite a surprise in a donut shop parking lot this time around. Stephanie's sister Valerie is so depressed about being unable to hold a job, being a failed lesbian, and not having a man, that Stephanie helps her get a job with Evelyn's desperate lawyer, who has attached himself to Stephanie as a bounty hunter in training.

As in the previous seven novels, Stephanie continues her innocent destructive streak; it isn't her fault people keep blowing up her cars.

She also maintains her tendency to have numerous bad guys break into her apartment, follow her around, and cause her a lot of grief.

The bad guys even break into her parents' house, harassing Grandma Mazur and forcing Stephanie's mom to get violent.
What is Stephanie's ultimate reaction to all this?

"Things could be a lot worse. I could be living in New Hampshire, where I would be forced to mail order Tastykakes."

Unlike Stephanie, who is extremely happy living in the state that makes Tastykakes and thinks New Hampshire is this side of purgatory because of its lack of junk food, author Janet Evanovich and her family live in Hanover, N.H. Evanovich's husband manages Evanovich, Inc.; her son is in charge of finances, and her daughter is responsible for the extensive Web site

A Stephanie Plum Christmas novel, Visions of Sugar Plums, is due in stores in November.

Book nine in the Stephanie Plum series is expected next summer.

Title: Hard Eight
Author: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-0312983864
Pages: 352
Price: $7.99

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