Friday, April 1, 2011

Read Alike: Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich sets her humorous Stephanie Plum mysteries in the wilds of urban (Trenton) New Jersey, but they have very much of a small town, neighborhood feel. As the series progresses, we meet the area’s characters from the residents of Stephanie’s old neighborhood to the families and friends of the dead, (thanks to her Grandma Mazer's frequent visits to the neighborhood funeral homes). The environment created for Stephanie opens endless opportunities for humorous characters and situations, but also establishes a sense of belonging and continuity.

This cast of characters appeals to a wide range of fans. While Stephanie is in many ways a modern woman, her incompetence as an officer of the court makes her an object of both sympathy and humor. Her sidekicks often hinder the investigations and create havoc. The varied cast of villains is more incompetent than evil and locating them and solving any mystery simply creates a backdrop for dialog and Stephanie's antics.

The mystery element is of lesser importance in this series so readers who are fans of figuring out “who-done-it” may prefer other authors. Evanovich combines aspects of several mystery subgenres: the whimsy of the cozy amateur with a bit more violence, the authority of the police procedural as Stephanie is an officer of the court, and the investigative style of a rather inept Private Investigator.

Start with the first, One for the Money, where Stephanie, fired from her job as a department store lingerie saleswoman, cashes in on her cousin Vinnie's good will and resorts to trying her hand at bail-bond work. This sets the stage for the on-going series of witty, edgy, and humorous (sometimes over the top) Mysteries with a slightly romantic tone. Be prepared to laugh out loud throughout this series.

If you enjoy your mysteries with humor, a little romance and a varied cast of heroes and villains may we suggest:

The Miracle Strip by Nancy Bartholomew
When a supposed friend asks for help after the corpse of a mobster turns up in her bedroom, Sierra Lavotini, an exotic dancer in Panama City, Florida, turns sleuth, only to find herself assaulted, shot at, harassed by the police, and abandoned by her "friend".

Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer
Against all odds, hairdresser Bubbles Yablonsky has returned to school, but while on her way to journalism school, she happens upon a crime scene and finds herself drawn into a murder investigation.

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
Sophie Dempsey wants to help her sister film a video and then get out of Temptation, Ohio. Mayor Phin Tucker wants to play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. But when Sophie and Phin meet, they both get more than they want.

Bad Manners by Marne Davis Kellog
Running back home after news of her affair with a politician leaks out, Lilly Bennett a 50-something U.S. Marshall in a Wyoming tourist town starts up her own international security consulting business and finds her first client in a murdered head of a ranching dynasty.

How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin
Society columnist and former debutante Nora Blackbird gets back in high society's good graces when she discovers the murdered body of a wealthy Philadelphia art collector.

Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews
Meg Langslow and her boyfriend Michael's romantic Monhegan Island getaway is overshadowed by a hurricane that maroons everyone there, including Meg's intrusive family, and a murder in which her father is named the chief suspect.

Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak
As part of her research for talk show host Dr. Cookie Lahven's upcoming book "How to Avoid Getting Dumped All the Time," Wollie Shelley is dating forty men in sixty days, but her assignment is complicated by an unexpected corpse.

Following Polly: A Novel by Karen Bergreen
While stalking Polly Linley Dawson around Manhattan, Alice Teakle, the ultimate neurotic and charming heroine, stumbles on the object of her attention dead on the floor of a boutique and is quickly accused of her murder.

Evanovich also writes several other series and has stand-alone novels. Like her Stephanie Plum mysteries all of Evanovich’s stories involve humorous characters and situations. One for the Money has been made into a movie scheduled to be released some time in 2011.

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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