As sure as the traffic tie-ups on the Turnpike, summer brings a new Stephanie Plum to slip into your beach bag. Sizzling Sixteen doesn’t plumb new depths in the life of the Trenton bounty hunter, but like the Jersey shore, it’s familiar, fun territory. And you can’t beat the roller coaster rides.
Also inevitably, readers will be divided into two camps: those who fret that their favorite series is running out of steam and those who wouldn’t change a thing. Did anyone complain when Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo tried, week after week, to con her way into Ricky’s act or take a job she was vastly unsuited for? I Love Lucy did not need to apologize for not aspiring to be Masterpiece Theater, and neither should this series. It may be that author Janet Evanovich makes her brand of zaniness seem so effortless that you might think it’s actually easy to make a laugh explode from nowhere at least once per chapter. Fuhgeddaboudit.
You know there will be doughnuts, pot roast, and Cluck-in-a-Bucket (though the fast-food fried chicken has an expanded role—who says there’s no character development?). Grandma Mazur will drop in on a funeral or two.. Buildings will burn, cars will be demolished, and Steph will be pulled like saltwater taffy between Ranger and Morelli.
This time around, though, it’s personal, when Cousin Vinnie, Stephanie’s bail bonds employer, is snatched by a local thug for running up a $786,000 gambling tab. No one is much invested in his safe return, as the vig ups the ransom price tag to over a million. So Ms. Plum, office manager Connie, and former ‘ho Lula take on the case, if only for the sake of job security. Stir in a van full of Hobbit wannabes, an unlucky lucky bottle from deceased Uncle Pip, and cattle and a gator rampaging through the Burg. The only thing missing in this cabana-cool cocktail is one of those colorful paper umbrellas.
So slip on your sunglasses, settle into your sand chair, and let Sizzling Sixteen sweep you out to sea on a wave of sublime silliness.