Sue Grafton was my favorite mystery writer. She wrote the popular alphabet detective series of Kinsey Milhone. Grafton died several years ago before she could complete the alphabet, but she got close.
In the years since, I’ve continue to enjoy the series of David Baldacci (although I missed the Camel Club), Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Craig Johnson’s Longmire. Even though I love these books, I missed Grafton’s Kinsey. I felt like I knew Kinsey, her methods, her quirks and the way she approached life.
I happened to find a film on Prime, One For the Money, and even though the film was panned, I enjoyed it. The film was based on Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. That led me to checking out the first book in the series.
Best-selling author Janet Evanovich created the Stephanie Plum series. Evanovich, like Baldacci, is a prolific writer. There are 28 books in the series, and I have read six of them.
Stephanie Plum is one of the unluckiest of people, she has financial problems, men problems, family issues, and especially car issues. Kinsey Milhone had fewer issues, although men and family problems were on the list. Both struggle to get acceptance in male dominated careers, and both have had their lives threatened on many occasions. Neither are particularly fashion conscious, dressing up is something you have to do for a case, as the preference is comfortable and casual. Both have bombed out in marriage and have a group of rotating men in their lives. Stephanie is close to her family, although they tend to get on her nerves and have too many expectations. Kinsey is estranged from her family, her parents died when she was young and lived with an eclectic aunt. She prefers her independence and is very selective about who she lets into her life. Stephanie has a cast of characters that move in her orbit.
There are over twenty books in each series, so the time element is compressed, meaning the characters have not aged 20 years, although their lives evolve with the events and circumstances of each book. There are 24 numbered books and four books written out of sequence.
Stephanie lives in Trenton, New Jersey, and fell into the bounty hunter job after she lost a job in retail. She took an unlikely job working for her weird cousin Vinnie’s bail bond agency. A former hooker named Lula, also works at the agency, although not as a bail enforcement agent (a classier term than bounty hunter), and frequently accompanies Stephanie in her apprehensions. She also had an on and off relationship with a police detective, Joe Morelli who took her virginity but she hit him with a car in return. Stephanie lives alone with her hamster Rex, but is frequently bumming meals off her parents, and borrows her wisecracking grandmother’s vintage Buick when she is car challenged.
Ranger, is another man in Stephanie’s life. He is a man of mystery, a ninja type bounty hunter-head of a black ops security company. He frequently comes to Stephanie’s rescue, and provides her with vehicles that always bite the dust in quite unusual ways, although he seems more amused by her antics. He entertains obvious desires for her, and she has them in return, but is conflicted about letting them loose.
Stephanie’s life is messy. Easy bail apprehensions usually prove problematic. Her cases also intersect with Morelli’s cases, which provides for legal as well as sexual tension. Stephanie’s mother wants her to live a more traditional life, find a man and a less dramatic profession. Stephanie’s grandmother seems to live vicariously through Stephanie and seems to have passed her the “get into every trouble possible” gene. Stephanie’s father usually keeps his mouth shut and his head down in a houseful of very opinionated women.
One For the Money is not a great film, but it is not a bad one either. Katherine Heigl does a very good job of portraying Stephanie quirks and sweetness. Debbie Reynolds is great as her grandma, although the filmmakers did not quite capture her parents. In the books, the difficult mixture of comedy and violence works, in the film it is awkward. Still, a good viewing. You may even be interested in the books. I was.