Fearless Jones

Mosely, Walter. Fearless Jones. Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: Walter Mosely was born in the month of January. Read in his honor.

Paris Minton ingeniously builds his used bookstore from discards and sales from local libraries. For a Negro to own his business in 1950s Watts, California, Minton knows he is an anomaly. What he also is, is unlucky. Soon after a beautiful woman in distress hides in his bookstore he is badly beaten and his store, burned to the ground. Who was the impossibly beautiful woman? Who would want to burn down his store and do that has anything to do with the men who beat him? There is only one thing to do, bail his good friend Fearless Jones out of prison and enlist him to solve the mystery. As Minton tells the story he builds the character of Fearless Jones through their friendship, setting up the character development in future stories.
When you read Walter Mosely expect crackling humor, fast paced action, racial truths, and lots of quick-jab violence.
As an aside, one of the things I like about Walter Mosely’s writing is that his characters use the bathroom. Not many authors include the details of common bodily functions.

Lines I liked, “Being challenged by the law was a rite of passenger for any Negro who wanted to better himself or his situation” (p 4), “The best cop I ever saw was the cop who wasn’t there” (p 87), and “These were men who had lived with Satan before coming to God, and they were still willing to venture over to the wrong side of holiness if the situation demanded it” (p 227).

Author fact: I have twelve Mosely books on my Challenge list, including two nonfiction contributions.

Book trivia: Fearless Jones is the first book in the Fearless Jones series.

Setlist: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, and Pat Boone.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fearless Jones as part of the Fearless Jones series. She didn’t say anything beyond that about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Walter Mosely: Too Good To Miss” (p 168).

Black River

Ford, G.M. Black River. William Morris, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of New Jersey becoming a state.

This mystery continues to feature hard nosed Frank Corso. He’s a stoic reporter who happens to be a imposing tough guy. This time he is the only writer allowed into the courtroom during the murder trial of Nicholas Balagula, alleged gangster accused of killing 63 people. It’s the crime of the century in the form of faulty architecture of a hospital. At the same time, a murdered man is discovered buried in his truck by the side of a river. Is this murder related to Balagula’s trial and if so, how? The dead man was paying for his son’s expensive medical school on a blue collar salary. How? Was he on Balagula’s payroll? Corso only gets involved when his former lover, Meg Dougherty, has an accident so life threatening Corso doubts it was an accident at all. Someone wants Meg dead. All clues lead Corso back to Balagula in round about ways.

Author fact: the G. M. stands for Gerald Moody. I have to wonder if he is related to the Moody family in Maine. You know, the ones with famous diner?

Book trivia: You could walk around Corso’s world just by taking note of the real-life landmarks Ford uses: Elliott Bay, Bainbridge, 7th Madison, Portage Bay, Montlake Cut, Union Bay, Lake Washington

Playlist: Chopin, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Ricky Martin, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, and Barry Manilow.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Black River.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Black Path of Fear

Woolrich, Cornell. The Black Path of Fear. Ballantine Books, 1982.

Reason read: Woolrich was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

To read a Woolrich mystery is to be pulled into a compelling, fast-paced drama that has you turning page after page after page to figure out what happens next. In Black Path of Fear, a chance meeting between a newly hired chauffeur and his mob boss’s beautiful wife sets the stage for a story of gangster vengeance and betrayal. Scotty steals Eva away from her marriage and together, they manage to escape to Havana, Cuba. They have escaped, but not undetected. Soon after their arrival, Eva is quietly and cleverly murdered. All evidence points to Scott. He bought the murder weapon hours earlier. Did he murder the gangster’s wife to avoid the jealous wrath of organized crime? Partnering with a mysterious woman primed for revenge herself, Scott is trapped in Havana. How to extricate himself from the crime is the mystery he and his new partner, Midnight, must solve. [As an aside, I loved the character of Midnight. She is the element of spice that makes the plot all that more delicious.]
Someone said the plot is fiendishly ingenious and I cannot help but agree. I read this in three sittings.
Details matter to me. There is a part of Woolrich’s narrative that did not make sense to me. Scott is chauffeuring Eva, Jordan and Roman to a nightclub. He observes how the three get into the car, saying, “they sat on each side of her.” Yet, when they arrive at their destination, he describes their exits as, “she had to alight before them, and they brought up the rear.” How is that possible? If she was in the middle, how did she get out before them? Would the men allow a woman in an evening gown to crawl over one of them? Unless they were in a limousine, which they were not…

Lines I liked, “It’s surprising how much easier it is to be ethical when you are well fed” (p 50) and “A change of opinion doesn’t make any noise” (p 57),

Author fact: I have six “Black” books of Woolrich’s on my Challenge list. I have only read two so far.

Book trivia: Black Path of Fear is a very short novel. Barely 160 pages, it is a quick read.

Playlist: “Jesus Loves Me”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Siboney”.

Nancy said: Pearl said all Woolrich’s stories are filled with “melodramatic plot twists, doom and dread” (Book Lust p 66).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crimes Noir” (p 65). It also could have been included in the adjacent chapter called “Cuba Si!” (p 68). Just saying.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Narrated by Jeff Woodman. Blackstone Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Christmas Present to Myself.

Everyone needs a Christopher John Francis Boone in their life. He is smart, funny, truthful, and loyal to the core. It doesn’t matter that his behavioral problems cause him to be violent when touched or that he hates the color yellow to the point of obstinance. Chris is, at heart, a really good kid who has been dealt a rough hand in life. His mother died of a heart attack and his father is his only family. So when Chris is accused of killing a dog with a garden fork, you feel for him. He knows he is innocent, but he can’t articulate this fact well enough to keep from being arrested and locked up. Eventually the police let him go, but that isn’t good enough for Chris and so begins his crusade to clear his name. The only way to really prove his innocence is to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes and discover who actually stabbed his neighbor’s poodle with a garden fork. This leads Chris down a path of more than one mystery. His journey is both courageous and inspiring.
Everything about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is clever. The way Chris notices even the smallest detail to help him navigate his way through life. The way Chris uses the powers of deduction and reasoning to solve mysteries.
As an aside, it reminded me of Wonder by Palacio.

Author fact: Haddon won the Whitbread Book Award in 2003. He also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and a Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He has a low-pri website here.

Book trivia: the title of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on the 1892 short story by Arthur Conan Doyle and all the chapters are in prime numbers.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time “terrific” and “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p 158) and again in the chapter called “Other People’s Shoes” (p 181).

Fury

Ford, G.M. Fury. Avon Books, 2001.

Reason read: Washington became a state in November. I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the categories of book with a one-word title and title with an emotion in it.

Meet former journalist and perpetual liar Frank Corso. He resembles Stephen Segal as a big man with a black ponytail. Meet Leanne Samples, another liar; only her lies occured under oath as a witness in a death row case. Together, with the fellow outcast and heavily tattooed photographer Meg Dougherty, they try to prove the innocence of a criminal on death row. What a bizarre group of characters. I had to ask myself if I would like any of them. We meet them six days before the execution of Walter Leroy Hines. He was convicted of murdering eight women based on the testimony of one woman who survived…you guessed it, liar Leanne Samples. Fury is a hour by hour, play by play of the unfolding drama. Can they save Hines or did he actually do it because Leanne recanted her recant. The only complaint I have about Fury is the fact that the twist at the end wasn’t a twist at all. As soon as the timeline started to count back up you know there is more to the story. Totally predictable.
One of the best things about Fury is the introduction to Washington state: the Elliott Bay, the Bainbridge Island ferry, Myrtle Edwards Park, Puget Sound, the spring rains that last until August. Is King County Jail on the corner of 5th and James?

I have to ask. Is it possible to tattoo someone from head to toe in 36 hours? I guess it is if the artist is crap…

Author fact: Ford died in 2021. He was 75 years old.

Book trivia: Fury starts a new series for Ford.

Playlist: Billy Preston’s “Nothin’ From Nothin'”, Doobie Brothers, Lynryrd Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, Del Shannon’s “Runnaway”, Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana’s “Smooth”, Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff’s “The Glory of Love”,

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Fury.

BookLust twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Reason read: It’s Sherlock.

Here are the short stories that make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:

  • “Silver Blaze” – who killed a jockey and where is the famous horse, Silver Blaze?
  • “Yellow Face” – this was my favorite mystery of the book.
  • “Stock-broker’s Clerk” – What is a true connection and how can it be bought?
  • “The Gloria Scott” – a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We learn of a friendship that comes from a dog bite.
  • “Musgrave Ritual” – my favorite line came from this story, “Pistol practice should be an open air pasttime.” Amen to that.
  • “Reigate Puzzle” – holmes is supposed to be resting after an illness but cannot help getting involved with a murder mystery.
  • “Crooked Man”- it was at this point that I decided it would be exhausting to have a conversation with Shelock Holmes; to have all of his observations and elementary deductions punctuating his every sentence.
  • “Resident Patient” – Watson picks up on Sherlock’s method of deducation.
  • “Greek Interpreter” – it is revealed Sherlock Holmes has a brother, Mycroft. The two brothers share the same powers of deduction so a conversation with them would be twice as annoying.
  • “Naval Treaty” – we meet a college friend of Watson’s.
  • “Final Problem” – the story that makes everyone think Homes has died.

As an aside, what constitutes a fabulous forehead?

Author fact: Doyle studied medicine. I think that education helped his writing.

Book trivia: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is odd in the sense that it was published in 1893 with a ’94 date.

Nancy said: Memoirs of Sherlock Homes was so under the radar or Pearl since she only indexed The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123). Confessional: when I realized I would be reading more than one title within a single book, I started listing out the individual titles. For example, Remembrance of Things Passed has seven volumes (seven titles). I am listing each title separately because there is no way I can read Remembrance in its entirety in one month. So. Same with the Complete Sherlock Holmes. Pearl doesn’t mention each compilation of short stories or novel within but since that’s how I’m reading them, I decided to list them that way. My true confessional is that I have started to list out the short stories and this is where I have gotten myself confused. I haven’t been listing out the short stories in other collections, so why now?

Forty Words for Sorrow

Blunt, Giles. Forty Words for Sorrow. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001.

Reason read: Stories about serial killers scare me. Maybe it is the thought that once a person kills it can become easier and easier for them to do. Maybe Sting was onto something when he sang, “murder by numbers, it’s as easy as one, two, three.” For Halloween, I chose to read Forty Words for Sorrow. In addition, I needed a book with an emotion in the title for the Portland Public Library Reading challenge.

The title comes from a comparison to the Eskimo language. If there are forty words for snow, surely somewhere out there there are forty words that mean sorrow. John Cardinal is a flawed small town Canadian cop fixated on solving the mystery of the disappearance of a teenager girl. Maybe it was the thought of his own daughter that originally drove him, but Cardinal’s obsession to solve the case depleted department resources and ultimately got him transferred out of homicide and into the burglary and petty crimes division. Meanwhile, another teenager goes missing. Then another. Suddenly, Cardinal’s obsession, thirteen year old Katie Pine’s remains are found. Maybe he was onto something after all? Is this the work of a serial killer? This time John is back on the case with a rookie for a partner (is it Lise or Lisa?) who might be investigating him.
This all would be a typical story of a dedicated office with an I-told-you-so attitude but Cardinal is a cop with a complicated life and a dirty secret his partner is determined to uncover. Can he solve the crime(s) before his personal life crashes down around him? His daughter is attending Yale on illegal funds, his wife’s mental instability has landed her in an expensive in-patient hospital, and yet another individual has been found murdered. John asks again, is there a serial killer operating out of the tiny town of Algonquin Bay? Can Cardinal close the case before his colleagues close in on him?
Not a spoiler alert: I appreciate that Blunt leaves the ending open. Cardinal’s crimes are not wrapped up in an all-is-forgiven-because-you-are-a-hero bow. There is room for Cardinal to make a comeback and face his demons.

Author fact: Giles Blunt and I share a birthday.

Book trivia: this could have been a movie.

Playlist: Backstreet Boys, Tupac Shakur, Puff Daddy, Aerosmith, Madonna, Pretenders, Bryan Adams, Neil Young, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, Bach, Pearl Jam, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, “Abide with Me”, Rolling Stones, Anne Murray, and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Blunt’s writing is gripping and that Forty Words for Sorrow was one of her favorites.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Canada, O Canada” (p 51).

Mrs. Westerby Changes Course

Cadell, Elizabeth. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course. William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1968.

Reason read: July is Ice Cream Month. Ice cream makes most people happy. Mrs. Westerby Changes Course is supposed to be a feel-good book even though it is a little dark.

I think I would like Miss Gail Sinclair if I were to meet her as a real person. As a secretary for a London publishing company she exudes humor and vitality, even if her offer to chauffeur one of the publishing company’s newest author to a cottage in the English countryside turns more than a little crazy. Gail never dreamed she would find herself caught up in a dark drama; let alone come out of it with a budding romance. Recently widowed Mrs. Anita Stratton needs someone to accompany her to her former sister-in-law’s cottage. There, she hopes to collect her family’s heirloom furniture from her husband’s sister, Mrs. Westerby. It’s a strange situation. Widow owns the furniture. Deceased man’s sister owns the cottage. Keep in mind, this is in an era of ear trumpets and good graces. Polite decorum is a must, yet sister-in-law Mrs. Westerby is a loud and obnoxious individual who is always showing up wherever Gail and Mrs. Stratton seem to be. This is not how Gail knows her to be. Tagging behind Mrs. Westerby is her godson, Julian. Why does he need to keep an eye on Mrs. Westerby and why does she act so strange around Mrs. Stratton? The story gallops along so readers won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Author fact: Cadell has written a bunch of books. I am reading three for the Challenge: The Corner Shop, The Toy Sword, and of course, Mrs. Westerby Changes Course.

Book trivia: the cover art for Mrs. Westerby Changes Course combines humor and society. Cute doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Nancy said: Pearl called Cadell a writer of gentle reads.

Book Lust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 50).

Jitterbug

Estleman, Loren D. Jitterbug. Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1998.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Michigan becoming a state.

Confessional: sometimes reading Doyle gives me the sensation of being dropped into a foreign city at rush hour. People are buzzing with energy all around me, all coming and going, going and coming. Worst case in this scenario, I’m blindfolded and spun around until I can’t walk straight. There are so many characters and side plots I’m bumping into everything. So far, Jitterbug is my favorite. It is the least chaotic. I like the viewpoint from the serial killer masquerading as a soldier. Police think the killings are mafia related because someone is targeting citizens who hoard ration stamps. Is it a punishment of sorts? I also liked the time period of life during World War II, a time when desegregation was an attempt to support the war effort, yet racism and prejudice still thrive. Some of the murders are a little hard to take because Estleman lets you into the victim’s life enough so that you begin to care. You learn a little about their struggles before they die and that makes their demise a little harder to take. (Kind of like Game of Thrones when you like a character and are completely bummed when they are killed off too early in the series.) True to form, Estleman brings back well known characters, like my favorite Connie Minor.
Be warned – Estleman uses language of the time to describe ethnic groups. It isn’t always pretty.

As an aside, I loved the reference to Myrna Loy. Who remembers her? Josh Ritter wrote a song titled “Myrna Loy.” Is it about the actress? I’m not sure.

Author fact: Estleman is the author of over forty novels. This is the penultimate one for the Challenge list.

Cars: Auburn, Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge, Ford, GM, Lincoln Zephyr, Model T, Nash, Oldsmobile, Packard Clipper, Plymouth Coupe, Pontiac Torpedo,
Fashion: argyles, bow tie, beanie, bobby sox, cloche hat, coveralls, cowboy boots, cummerbunds, cordovan loafers, denim, evening gloves, fedora, gabardine, galoshes, kupperheimer tropical suit, khakis, leather vests, linen, peg tops, poncho, rayon pajamas, saddle shoes, seersucker suit, tweed, trench coat, wingtips, worsted wool, Wittnauer, zoot suit,

Playlist: Artists – Anita O’Day, the Anderson Sisters, Benny Goodman, Bessie Smith, Billy Eckstine, Billy Holiday, Bing Crosby, Blind Lemon, Bob Eberly, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Earl Fatha Hines, Frank Sinatra, Fritz Kreisler, Glenn Miller, Helen O’Connell, Hot Lips Page, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Dorsey, Kate Smith, King Oliver, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo), McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Red Onion Jazz Babies, Sidney Bechet, Scrapper Blackwell, Xavier Cugat, Yuhudi Menhuhn, and Zue Robertson,
Songs – “Amapola”, “Cielito Lindo”, “Contrasts”, “Cow Cow Boogie”, “Cuban Pete”, “Don’t Be That Way”, “Gimme a Pig Foot”, “God Bless America”, “Green eyes”, “In the Mood”, “Let Me Off Uptown”, “Lost Your Head Blues”, “My Shawl”, “Saint James Infirmary”, “Song of India”, “Swanee”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “South of the Border”, “Tangerine”, and “White Cliffs of Dover”

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series sweeping and gritty.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest, Michigan” (p 25).

My Soul to Take

Sigurdardottir, Yrsa. My Soul to Take: a Novel of Iceland. New York: William Morrow, 2006.

Reason read: Denmark’s Parliament granted Iceland independence in December 1918.

The tiny Icelandic town of Snaefellsness is not known for a high crime rate, so when two people are murdered in a similar fashion, the whole town buzzes with alarmed alertness. Why would anyone torture both victims with pins in their feet before killing them? More questions: what does a dead fox have to do with one of the victims? Does the New Age health resort in an old farmhouse have anything to do with either victim? What secrets are hidden in this renovated farmhouse? Thora Gudmundsdottir, lawyer to the owner of the resort, must defend Jonas as the main suspect, but that’s not why she was initially called to Snaefellsness. Her client was planning to sue the previous owners of the farmhouse because they didn’t disclose it was haunted. The ghosts of children are said to moan and wail on the property.
Sigurdardottir is crafty. The introduction of World War II Nazi flags and swastikas gave the plot a darker (and unnecessary) tone. The themes of incest and rape are enough.

Confessional: because Icelandic names do not roll off the tongue so easily for me, and there a lot of them, I needed to keep notes on who was who for most of the story. I found myself asking, “will this person be important later?”

Author fact: Sigurdardottir also writes books for children.

Book trivia: My Soul to Take is book #2 in a series featuring lawyer/single mother, Thora Gudmundsdottir. True to form, I read Sigurdardottir’s books out of order. She also wrote Last Rituals which I should have read before My Soul to Take.

Playlist: “Eye of the Tiger” and “Final Countdown,”

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about My Soul to Take but I should note I missed the word “series.” Ugh.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Iceland” (p 99). Doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Ten Big Ones

Evanovich, Janet. Ten Big Ones.

Reason read: this finishes the Stephanie Plum series for me. The list goes on and one, but I’m done.

It is three months later and Stephanie has broken up with Morelli again. Same old, same old. Grandma Mazur is still attending funerals as a dating ploy. Stephanie’s mom is still plying people with baked goods. Valerie is very pregnant. Lula and Stephanie are still trying to bring in the bad guys. There is always something dangerous and something goofy going on with Stephanie’s collars. For the goofy, this time she needs to bring in a woman addicted to potato chips and other snack items. For the serious, Stephanie and Lula are witness to a deli being robbed then firebombed. The culprit is a member of an increasingly violent gang, the “Red Devils.” Because Stephanie can identify the Red Devil she is a target and must go into hiding…in Ranger’s high-tech posh apartment. How convenient. Speaking of same old, the sexual tension between Ranger and Plum has not diminished. Rex still lives in a soup can (now at Ranger’s) and Bob the Dog still lives with Morelli…
I should mention the title of Ten Big Ones refers to the reward that the city of Trenton was putting out for the capture of cop-killer, Junkman.
If you are keeping track of the vehicles Stephanie destroys: her canary yellow Ford Escape survived book nine. It wasn’t so lucky in book ten. It gets firebombed pretty early in Ten Big Ones.

As an aside, can I just say I love Point Pleasant showing up in Plum novels? I just love that place.

Author fact: Janet Evanovich is onto the 28th installment of the Stephanie Plum series. Is that insane or what?

Book trivia: I think I mentioned this already but it bears repeating because I am sad about it, but this is my last Stephanie Plum mystery.

Playlist: Black Sabbath

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ten Big Ones

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Christie, Agatha. Why didn’t They Ask Evans? New York: William Morrow, 1934.

Reason read: September is Christie’s birth month. Read in her honor.

Bobby Jones cannot play golf to save his life and yet he insists on trying. While out on the links he loses his ball over a fog-shrouded cliff. While searching for it Bobby is shocked to find instead a mangled and dying man. Had he fallen off the cliff in the fog? Was he pushed? Bobby has stumbled onto a mystery. Of course he has! This is an Agatha Christie murder mystery, after all. When the man opens his eyes and with all lucidity asks Bobby, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Bobby is haunted by the question. Exactly who is Evans and what was the question that should have been asked? Bobby shares this strange incident with his friend, Lady Francis Derwent, and together they decide there is more to the story. Their suspicions deepen when Bobby learns a photograph the dead man had been carrying was swapped to hide his true identity. Alex Pritchard is actually Alan Carstairs. Soon there after and out of the blue, Bobby is offered a job in Buenos Ares. When he doesn’t leave England someone tries to poison his beer. It is obvious someone wants Bobby off the case, but who and why? Like a good Scooby mystery, the villain wraps up all the clues.
As an aside, there were details in the story that didn’t make sense. If I found a dying man I wouldn’t ask someone else to stay with the body while I left to go play an organ at my father’s church. I think my father would understand my absence given I had just witnessed a man die in front of me. Also, Frankie gained entry into the suspected murderer’s home by faking a car accident. Under the guise of having a concussion a doctor in on the ruse tells the Bassington-ffrench family Frankie “cannot be moved.” She is to stay with them until she is well. However, in no time at all she is making friends with Mrs. Bassington-ffrench and playing tennis. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable story.

Line I liked, “Ignoring Mrs. Rivington’s treatment of doctors as though they were library Books, Bobby returned to the point” (p123).

Author fact: Christie is touted as one of the best selling authors of all time.

Book trivia: Why didn’t They Ask Evans? was originally published as The Boomerang Clue.

Nancy said: Pearl said Why Didnt They Ask Evans? was on her bedside table, waiting to be read.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the introduction (p ix).

To the Nines

Evanovich, Janet. To the Nines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

Reason read: I started the Stephanie Plum series in January in honor of Female Mystery Month. I am now on #9. To the Nines is the penultimate Plum book on my Challenge List.

The best thing about Evanovich’s Plum series is the consistency of characters and timeline. With every book, Stephanie’s life progresses with little backtracking or inconsistency. Evanovich does a great job catching the reader up, especially if someone is jumping into the series in midstream and hasn’t read books one through eight. Reading the entire series is helpful, but not necessary.
Even though I am irked about Stephanie’s relationships with Morelli and Ranger (more on that later), I appreciate the growth in them. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that at the end of To the Nines Stephanie drops calling Morelli by his last name and moves onto calling him Joe. Is that a subtle hint that she is ready to get more serious? She did just move back in with him and gave up her apartment to her sister. Speaking of Valerie, she just had a baby (out of wedlock) and that definitely has Stephanie’s biological clock ticking a little louder. Enough of that. Onto the plot:
The bounty hunting part of Stephanie’s life takes more of a back seat in To the Nines. This time around, she is more on the side of the hunted. Someone is sending her creepy messages coupled with a calling card of one rose and one carnation. It’s the same message sent to several other victims. Could she be next on this serial killer’s list? This time Ranger and Joe make a concerted effort to protect Stephanie as she tries to figure out who is capable of getting so close to her they can take a lock of her hair?
Spoiler alert: for those interested in Stephanie’s vehicular destruction, her new sunshine yellow Ford Escape survives the entire story.

Things that irked me: what in the world is so special about Stephanie Plum? Why does she have not one, but two very hot men giving her all the attention in the world? What makes them stay around even though she can’t chose between them? In all actuality, Ranger probably isn’t a choice. He’s probably just a plaything, but still…Hmm. I have to admit, I liked Stephanie as a hypocrite. She can flirt with Ranger but still get jealous when she thinks Morelli is up to no good with another girl.
Another thing that irked me was less of an appearance by Rex. He barely factored into To the Nines at all.

Lines I liked, “I know emotion covers a lot of ground, but I couldn’t hang a better name on my feelings” (p 84), “There’s a difference between being trusting and stupid” (p 294).

Author fact: Evanovich has won the John Creasy Memorial Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards.

Book trivia: To the Nines features pineapple upside-down cake, as usual.

Playlist: Eminem and Tom Jones.

Nancy said: To the Nines is not exactly a murder mystery according to Pearl. She did say you will laugh all the way through the series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).

Hard Eight

Evanovitch, Janet. Hard Eight. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month.

It is hard for me to dislike Stephanie Plum. No matter how bumbling she is when she tries to catch a fugitive, I have to laugh at her antics. No matter how conflicted she is about the attentions from two different men, I root for her. No matter how food motivated she can be, I like her. I can’t help but bond with a girl who likes peanut butter, potato chip, and pickle sandwiches as I do. But. But! But, as a bounty hunter, she sucks. She still sucks eight books later. Much like trying to collar Eddie DeChooch in Seven Up, Stephanie can’t seem to capture Andy Bender. She goes through four sets of handcuffs trying to bring him in.
A more serious second “job” involves a child custody case. Hired by her neighbor to find a missing granddaughter and great granddaughter, Stephanie inadvertently gets herself caught up in a dangerous battle with a psychopath. She isn’t a detective, but doesn’t dare say no to the family who has lived next door to her parents for years. Even if it means finding snakes in her apartment, tarantulas in her Honda, or a dead man on her couch, Stephanie (and sidekick Lula) go on the hunt for a woman running from a nasty divorce. She even gets her two love interests, Morelli and Ranger, involved in the adventure.
Here are the consistent details: Rex the hamster is still alive and kicking. He has to move to Stephanie’s parent’s house when her apartment becomes a crime scene (again). Grandma Mazur is also alive and kicking. She doesn’t frequent the funeral homes looking for a date as much in Hard Eight, but she’s still feisty. Ranger is still a mystery but Stephanie is slowly cracking that nut. She had sex in the bat cave.

Lines that made me laugh, “”Home is supposed to be the safe place, I said to Morelli. Where do you go when your home doesn’t feel safe anymore?” (p 163). I laughed because Stephanie’s worry is so ironic. Her apartment gets broken into on a regular basis and only now she isn’t feeling safe?

Author fact: I just found out Evanovich has the same birthday as my sister. Interesting.

Book trivia: Hard Eight sets up the relationship between Stephanie’s sister, Valerie, and divorce lawyer Albert Kloughn.

Nancy said: Pearl said Evanovitch’s series couldn’t be called mysteries. You’ll laugh too much.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).

Seven Up

Evanovich, Janet. Seven Up. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.

Has this ever happen to you – you read a book so fast with as little thought as possible and by the time you finish it, you have no idea what you read? Unfortunately, this is what happened to me at the end of Seven Up. Suddenly, I was on the last page and Stephanie Plum was about to sleep with the wrong guy. What? Here’s what I remember: Stephanie’s newest collar is a retired old mobster in his seventies who has a hard time getting an erection. Pun totally intended. Despite Eddie DeChooch’s advanced age, Stephanie can’t bring him in no matter how easy it seems to be. DeChooch is elusive even when she has help. He is only wanted for stealing cigarettes but something seems amiss. Two members of the mafia are also looking for him. Here’s where the plot takes a twist: when Stephanie tries to apprehend DeChooch, she finds a dead body in his shed. Of course she does. Stephanie is notorious for finding dead bodies all over Trenton. As a side plot, Stephanie’s friend Mooner goes missing, and when his roommate also disappears, Stephanie can’t help but think they are involved in the mafia hunt for DeChooch. Of course all of the usual suspects are in the plot: grandmother Mazur, Lula, Ranger, Joe Morelli, and Rex, the hamster. New to the scene is Stephanie’s sister, Valerie. She comes to visit Trenton with her two kids after her husband left her for the babysitter. If you are keeping track of Stephanie’s relationship with Joe, they are engaged and she has “bought” a wedding dress. If you are keeping track of the cars Stephanie kills, two: a Honda and a Cadillac.
Consistencies: Plum still keeps her .38 in a cookie jar, Grandmother Mazur still finds dates by attending funerals, People are still breaking into Plum’s apartment no matter what kind of lock system she has in place, her mother still calls with that night’s dinner menu, and pineapple upside down cake is still her favorite.

Lines to like, “No matter if you are suffering depression or wanted for murder, you still pay your respects in the Burg” (p 33) and “I might be a stay-at-home mother someday, but I’ll always be trying to fly off the garage roof” (p 269).

Author fact: This is the seventh book I have read by Ms. Evanovich. What have I not told you about the author? Did I tell you in some photographs she reminds me of Reba McEntire? It mush be the red hair and perky smile.

Book trivia: Evanovich is up to twenty six Plum books. this is only number seven, obviously.

Playlist: Godsmack and Coolio.

Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t consider Seven Up a mystery. She does think it is hilarious.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).