Top Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich

Women’s Fictions favourite bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum is back. Jimmy Poletti, Trenton, New Jersey’s favourite used-car dealer (who was caught selling more than used cars from his dealership) is missing, and Stephanie must bring him in. But each time she finds a lead and thinks she’s made a break in the case, she comes up against a dead end, never mind that far too many bodies are turning up dead too. As Stephanie gets more and more desperate, she must start to consider turning to desperate measures. And while dead bodies, death threats and assassins are par for the course in Stephanie’s line of work, her Grandma Mazur’s wild bucket list is proving to be her real challenge.

Janet Evanovich has enjoyed a roaring success with the Stephanie Plum series, and I was eager to try her latest release Top Secret Twenty-One. My advice: don’t jump the queue. While the books in many series can be enjoyed as standalones, this was not the case for Stephanie Plum. To get the most out of this series, you need to go to the very beginning and work your way up the ladder. A little while ago I read – and thoroughly enjoyed – the first in the series about the now famous bounty hunter, and I figured this would give me enough of the back-story, the basic premise, to pick up anywhere in the series. But a lot has happened in the nineteen books in-between (particularly where men are concerned), and so I felt a little unsure and disconnected as I tried to fill in the blanks.

In spite of this, Stephanie Plum is a very likeable character: cute, light, and a bit goofy, just what we like in a comedy. Even more than her, I thoroughly enjoyed Grandma Mazur who, to me, was the real comic relief. And while her writing will have you laughing out loud, Evanovich’s plot still has some surprisingly real grittiness to it. Where perhaps it lacked was in the ability to create the tension expected in a good mystery. But then, in my opinion, this is firstly a women’s comedy, and secondly a mystery novel, and women’s fiction wants strong, interesting female characters who are battling their way through their lives one way or another. Stephanie Plum embodies that and is completely relatable.

This is a light, fast and easy read that will appeal to followers of the series. If, however, you aren’t already up to speed, you’ll probably best enjoy starting Stephanie’s journey with her from the beginning of the series.

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TITLE: Top Secret Twenty-One
AUTHOR(S): Janet Evanovich
PUBLISHER: Hachette
RRP: $37.99
ISBN: 9781472201614

Emma is an ardent writer, reviewer and editor. She currently lives in Orange, NSW, where she shares her time between writing, undergraduate studies in Linguistics and French (oui, c’est vrai!), and her “day job” as a yoga teacher. Emma especially enjoys reading women’s fiction, contemporary fiction and the classics.

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