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by Janet Evanovich
Headline, June 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 075533051X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

You can't blame writers of long-running series for not wanting to change a tried-and-tested formula. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it tends to be good advice.

I've been a long-time fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but had felt the last few had flagged somewhat. If asked to summarise them, I wouldn't have had to ponder too long . . . Stephanie gets stalked by a lowlife, she and Lulu career round Trenton making a hash of bringing bail bond jumpers in, she dithers between hunks Joe and Ranger, and Grandma Mazur wreaks havoc everywhere she goes.

ELEVEN ON TOP takes Stephanie out of her comfort -- or maybe discomfort -- zone. She jacks in her job as a bounty hunter and decides to get a 'proper' job. Not that this proves to be easy, of course -- her short stint at the button factory is over before it's started, and as for the dry cleaners, overseen by mad Mama Macaroni, let's not even go there!

Just when it's starting to look serious, Ranger rides to her rescue, and Stephanie ends up working in the Bat Cave. This gives her access to super-duper computers and extra muscle who help her try to find out which maniac from her past is stalking her and leaving her threatening messages.

The scenes I enjoy best are those in the Plum household (usually over the meal table) and the ones featuring Stephanie and Lulu sparring where the dialogue is dynamite, howl-aloud funny. In fact, I'll happily sprint through the bounty hunter scenes once they're out on the job (how many times can the dynamic due foul up bringing someone in?) and the faintly mushy love triangle with Joe/Ranger (delete where inapplicable) and Stephanie.

ELEVEN ON TOP has some hysterical scenes chez Plum, often featuring Stephanie's sister Valerie, who is about to get married to the really rather gormless Albert, who has the tact of a flying sledgehammer. And there's an amusing running gag where a horrified Stephanie realises she's manoeuvred herself into a corner and will have to play the cello at Valerie's wedding (no, of course she can't play the cello -- pay attention at the back!)

Evanovich on top form is way ahead of the pack when it comes to humorous crime fiction with a dash of something darker. ELEVEN ON TOP is one of her best.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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