Janet Evanovich

From Publishers Weekly...
The mixture of slapstick and gunplay that has put Evanovich's series about a sassy, less than competent New Jersey bounty hunter at the top of bestseller lists once again works its magic in Stephanie Plum's latest caper (after 2005's Eleven on Top). Stephanie, who freely admits her failings as a hunter of fugitives, faces a growing work backlog that threatens the continued existence of her job. Her clumsy efforts to clear some cases, along with the help of her outrageous colleague, Lula, result only in their adding another sad sack to the office payroll—a forlorn shoe salesman who's talked off a ledge by Stephanie's offer of a position as file clerk. Stephanie's ambivalence toward the two men in her life becomes harder to maintain when one of them, the mysterious Ranger, is accused of kidnapping his own daughter. Countless over-the-top scenes, including one at a funeral parlor, will delight longtime fans.

SPOILER: sent in by Richard H.

The story opens with Stephanie Plum, bond enforcement agent, back working for her cousin Vinnie. No real reason is given for why she left her previous job for Ranger. Stephanie, Connie the office manager, and Lula another agent are discussing how many "skips" are piling up so that the office will have to hire another agent. They agree to place an advertisment. Stephanie stops at a bakery to pick up Boston Cream doughnuts and runs into the mysterious Ranger, who picks up the most difficult and dangerous skips for their firm. He is such a hot man the bakery owner worries the about the chocolate melting off her éclairs. He tells Stephanie he is on his way to Miami for business.

Lula and Stephanie attempt to pick up Lonnie Johnson for armed robbery, but arrive to multiple automatic weapons fire and a rocket launcher attack at his apartment. They wisely decide to pick up Melvin Pickle for indecent exposure, but He flees from them and threatens to commit suicide on the 5th floor railing of the mall where he works. The police and tv crews show up. Morelli her sometime cop boyfriend shows up, and her grandma calls her on her cellphone because she's on TV. Finally, Stephanie gets Melvin down by promising him a job at the bail bonds agency. lula and Stephanie then then go to pick up Mary Lee for stabbing her husband. It turns out Mary Lee is in extreme menopause bad humor, which they treat with a trip to the bakery... instant cure with doughnuts.

Stephanie is then confronted by a petite young woman all dressed in black who claims she is Carmen Mancuso, Ranger's wife. She is extremely jealous of Stephanie's relationship with Ranger. Stephanie is floored by this and puzzled by her claim that he has skipped out on her. Things become tense when Carmen is found dead in her car outside the agency where she had been watching Stephanie. The police are called, and everyone suspects Ranger, who shows up at Stephanie's apartment and has to stay there. He claims he has never met Carmen, and was never married to her. There has to be an impersonator who is using his name, his business contacts, his identity. But there is more bad news: His daughter Julie from his first marriage is missing, and eyewitness reports say Ranger picked her up after school in Miami. Ranger tells Stephanie it wasn't him; his ex-wife believes him, but needs him to find their missing daughter.

Working together, Stephanie and Ranger find traces of an ex-security guard named Edward Scrog. His apartment is filled with information and photos about Ranger, Julie and Stephanie. Edward WANTS to BE Ranger, and take over Ranger's life. He is a serious nutcase, but he also has learned to be elusive by studying Ranger. Finally, he calls Stephanie at her home because he needs her to complete the delusion that he is Ranger. Although she is tailed by Morelli and Ranger, and wired with GPS, Scrog manages to taser her and lose her protectors. She wakes up in a motor home, shackled along with Julie. She talks Scrog, who needs money to leave the country, into going after the fugitive Lonnie Johnson from the beginning of the story. She tricks Scrog into thinking Lonnie still has lot of money from his armed robbery. Scrog, delusional, leaves Julie behind while he and Stephanie go to Lonnie's. While there, Stephanie is able to get away, but Scrog manages to move Julie before she can be rescued. Stephanie is again captured by Scrog in her own apartment. A trap has been sent for Ranger, and Stephanie cannot warn Ranger because Scrog has a gun trained on Julie. Scrog shoots multiple times at point blank range at Ranger. But before he can shoot Ranger in the head, Julie jumps on top of Scrog who loses his gun. Julie then picks it up and shoots Scrog in the chest. The police swoop in. Ranger survives.

There are multiple side stories that are hilarious. Evanovich's descriptions of people who find themselves in ridiculous situations is definitely the comedy in her books. Lula and Stephanie have a very funny scene trying to pick up a 72 year old shoplifter who works in a store that sells dildoes and lingerie. Lula can't bust their skip until she finishes her shopping. The old lady avoids arrest by pulling a shotgun from under the counter. A man named Bernard is too ashamed of his half-singed scalp from an accidental fire he started while drunk to go to court. The agents solve his problem by taking him to a mortician prior to court. At home, Stephanie's grandma Mazur drags her to a funeral run by new management. (the old management tried to kill Stephanie in the last book) At one funeral, grandma Mazur causes complete bedlam when she tries to get the lid off the closed casket during the viewing. A description of Grandma Mazur and her band playing a gig at a nursing home cannot be printed in a family forum. For several days they interview at the agency. All kinds of ineligible people have answered the advertisement for an agent, mostly those who watch bounty hunter on TV. Joyce Barnhart makes another appearance as a bounty hunter who can't stand Stephanie.

Stephanie is also attracted to Ranger who is staying in her apartment (and sleeping platonic with her in bed) in spite of her almost-commitment with Morelli the cop. Morelli almost catches them in bed together. The book ends with Stephanie able to tell Morelli that she loves him. Yet she is still conflicted over her love for Ranger, and the realization that she has to find her path in life.