Janet Evanovich still makes me laugh, but she's in a rut. Sometimes it feels like she's started writing her Stephanie Plum novels with a checklist. Grandma Mazur talks about her (desire for a) sex life? Check. Car death? Check. Proposition from Ranger? Check. Family dinner (during which Steph's mom chugs "iced tea")? Check. Bob the dog? Check. Appearance by one or more colorful recurring characters? Check (in the person of Randy Briggs, little person and IT-guy-turned-security-guard). Outrageous outfits on Grandma Mazur and/or Lula? You had to ask?
Notorious Nineteen ticks off all the boxes, and arrays them around a reasonable mystery. Geoffrey Cubbin disappeared from a local hospital after an emergency appendectomy, but before his court date. He'd embezzled from the retirement community he ran, and since her cousin Vinnie bonded him out, Stephanie has to find him, dead or alive. It turns out that Cubbin isn't the first person to disappear from Central Hospital in the past few months, and one of the nurses on duty seems to be living far above her income. It's a pretty well-constructed plot, but it's also about 75 pages short of a novel, so Evanovich pads it out with a homeless man trying to retrieve his magic statue from Uncle Sandor's Buick and/or Steph's apartment and Ranger's friend's wedding - in which Steph has somehow ended up as a bridesmaid. It's Jersey, so I don't have to tell you the dress is...unique. These subplots collide with only a tiny bit more coincidence than I like, and Grandma Mazur's costume when she goes undercover at the retirement home is a classic, but the series hasn't managed to combine the kind of humor that makes it a bad idea to read the book in public with a tight plot since about 9 or 10. Evanovich now writes several series. Perhaps it's time for her to slow down a bit so she can string together the set pieces with a little more plot. Then again, I'll keep reading the Plum mysteries because they still make me laugh out loud.