Tour’s Books Blog

October 19, 2009

Book Review: Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

Well, I’m back from vacation and I’m starting on my reviews while reading some of the new ebooks from Samhain.  The leaves were nice, not great, but I’m spoiled.  Anyway, it was good reading in the evening – and on Sunday with all the rain and SNOW down around Blandford and Lee and Massachusetts.  In a few days I’ll be at Authors After Dark – the paranormal romance authors soiree being held in Suffern, NY.  I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, let’s get the reviews started.

  • Title: Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
  • Author: Janet Evanovich
  • Type: Humorous mystery
  • Genre: Inept female sleuth; series
  • Sub-genre: Stephanie Plum
  • My Grade: D (2*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available: Everywhere books are sold, your local library and used bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure: This book was acquired through a free online book swapping service

Back in 1994, romance novelist Janet Evanovich changed the mystery genre by launching Stephanie Plum’s adventures in bond enforcement and amateur sleuthing in Trenton, New Jersey – the world’s least exotic local.  What was to become the trademark humor and zany antics weren’t as stressed there, but the bones were laid and both Morelli and Ranger debuted with Lula, Connie, and Grandma Mauser – all interwoven with a worthwhile mystery.  Through the next 4 books the quality just got better and better and Stephanie Plum would launch an entire genre of inept amateur sleuths still being copied today, from Kate Collins to Victoria Laurie to Kyra Davis, the winning formula has been cloned with varying degrees of success.  After Seven-Up, something happened.  Evanovich lost the mystery and focused on the antics more and more with each successive book.  It didn’t matter to sales, but it matters to the fans.  I struggled through To the Nines, the truly awful Ten Big Ones and Eleven on TopTwelve Sharp and Lean Mean Thirteen partly redeemed the series then Fearless Fourteen was so bad I decided to not buy the next book when it was released.  It was hard, but I stuck to my guns and waited till I could get it through an online book swapping service.  Damn, am I glad I didn’t pay for this book!

The good part – no dog poop scenes.  The bad part, Stephanie and Morelli are still acting like dim teenagers about their love lives, Lula and Grandma Mauser are playing the Three Stooges, and apparently Ranger has dropped lots of IQ points and needed Stephanie to figure out the obvious problem with someone targeting his accounts.  Yes, the story opens with Lula seeing a man get his head cup off by a couple of hitmen, so there is a ‘mystery’, barely.  As a ‘mystery’, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is beyond Lightweight and entering Mini-Flyweight.  The plot is gossamer thin and relies on fans just wanting to watch the ‘old gang’ in action.

After Lula sees a man decapitated, she finds herself a target of the hitmen she saw.  The company that makes the barbecue sauce sold under the chef’s name offers a million dollar reward for finding the killers.  Lula decides the best place to do that is the big cook-off being held in Trenton, so she enters them in the contest.  Grandma Mauser gets involved.  When Lula gets attacked at her apartment, she decides to stay to Stephanie, driving STeph insane in just one night.

Meanwhile, Ranger has a problem.  A number of his private accounts have been hit.  The pattern is always the same.  The security system goes off line for exactly 15 minutes and only two rooms are hit.  The codes were changed after each break-in and STILL the system is getting beaten.  Ranger thinks it could be an inside job, but he needs someone with fresh eyes that won’t put everyone on their guard.  Steph has worked there before and everyone knows she’s Ranger’s ‘property’, so she familiar and accepted.  Steph needs help with her captures – as usual.  And she needs the extra money that working for Ranger pays, so she agrees to do it.

That’s it.  Bring on the comic set pieces.  Stephanie getting hit with paint balls while Ranger stays clean, Steph gets paint dumped on her head while Ranger stays clean, the pressure cooker Grandma Mauser and Lula use in her apartment explodes and a fireman who likes to clean in a Dolly Parton wig and blue cocktail dress is Lula’s helper – and the man with the good barbecue sauce recipe.  There’s diarrhea – human and Bob the dog – fart jokes, bail jumpers, exploding cars, and Steph sleeping in Ranger’s bed with no Ranger.  Not much mystery.  Some laughs and suddenly its over.  No tension, no drama, nothing to grab and hold the reader’s interest.  It’s a shell of a book with no substance.

The writing style is classic Evanovich, light, easy, and unfortunately shallow.  The depth and nuance she had in her earlier books is long gone, leached out by adding her ‘between the numbers’ books and other short novels.  And that’s what Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is, a short novel that reads more like a long short story.  I doubt it took more than 4-5 reading hours cover to cover.  The plot was never fleshed out, the only characters that had any significance are her usual cast.  Ms Evanovich never bothered creating any kind of context for the ‘bad guys’, so they’re like ‘Inflate a Thugs’, not real characters.  The murder plot was non-existent and the would be killers after Lula about as threatening as Abbott and Costello.  Come to think of it, this read like the plot of an Abbott and Costello B movie.

Most characters evolve, even those who don’t age, like Robert B Parker’s Spenser.  Steph never grows up, never develops any real skills and seems content to limp along barely making a living at a job she has no natural aptitude for and doesn’t really enjoy.  Whatever soul searching she did in earlier books is gone.  The mystery is gone.  There is nothing to hold the reader except sentiment and some humor.  It isn’t enough.  Either write a quality book or wrap up the series and move on.  This prolonged death watch for a landmark series is just depressing to watch, especially for die hard fans like me.

Finger Lickin’ Fifteen should be borrowed from you local library, a friend or wait for the paperback – though even that will be a waste of money.


1 Comment »

  1. I agree 100%. I made a mistake of reading several titles to catch up on the series and found the plots were not only weak, but repetitive. WOW! What a bore. Don’t bother buying 15 or any others to come forth.

    Comment by toni — August 13, 2010 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

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