I finally figured out the target audience for this series! My younger cousin is trying to read again–she has a four-year-old and a two-year-old, so I’m doubtful for her chance of success–so I introduced her to this series. To be completely honest, I took three things into consideration when suggesting it: one, in the early part of the series, I always laughed out loud at least once a book, if not more; two, they have a low mental commitment value; and three, if the kids or her puppy damaged my book, I was fine. So when I was standing in line at the library, I saw the latest book was available and thought I’d give it a try. If nothing else, maybe I could do a hate-review, right?
As I noted in a status update, I read this with ambivalence. Sure, some parts were funny, but it was a kind of funny that is part nostalgia and part amusement. But there was a lot that mostly felt sad to me. While written competently, the content felt perfunctory and streamlined. It’s like the cleaned-up, mildly funny tale shared at a ‘bonding’ session where one is required to “tell something funny that happened to you.” It lacks a sense of zany and joie de vivre I associate with the early books.
As always, it relies on a standard set of ingredients:
- Wacky bond skips–Simon Diggery the graverobber; Zero Slick, who accidentally blew up a building cooking meth; and Edward Koot, who shot up a coffeehouse and damaged his own foot.
- Funny animal elements–Diggery’s pet boa constrictor and a dead groundhog, with guest appearances by Bob and Rex. Also includes references to dog poop.
- Innuendo with various men–Morelli, Ranger, and now Diesel
- Fun eating times: doughnuts, Cluck-in-a-Bucket and other assorted fast food
- Grandma at a wake and talking about sex
- Totaling Ranger’s cars–twice–resulting in using Big Blue
- Lulu’s skimpy outfits/the color of her thongs, and her various money-making schemes
It’s pretty much timeless, and that seems exactly the way Evanovich is determined to keep it. No political references, minimal pop-culture references and minimal technology references keep it from rooting it in a timeline. What this mostly reminds me of is a book version of a second-rate sitcom, maybe Three’s Company or something that is apolitical and timeless. A lot of the same jokes, ‘zany’ antics and absolutely no aging/dynamic character change allowed. All you do is change out the secondary characters, have a loose plot based on one scary skip and good to go.
The up side in this book, depending on which type of reader you are, is that it seems a little sex-positive, in that Steph is mostly in a relationship with Morelli but still makes time for Ranger. Of course, long-term fans of the series may prefer that she just picks one, but I think that ship sailed. And again, that might result in actual character progression.
So I’ll vicariously enjoy the early series by lending my books out, but she’ll be out of luck around thirteen or so, when I quit buying them (I know, I know. I couldn’t resist a sale back then). But maybe by then the kids will be school-aged and she’ll be ready for something more substantial.