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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Four to Score, Janet Evanovich's aptly titled fourth novel in her popular Stephanie Plum series, is another hilarious, action-filled mystery featuring the quirky Jersey-girl heroine with a brazen attitude and a fashion sense that calls for spandex biking shorts and a .38. Evanovich knows how to build suspenseful but laugh-out-loud scenes that are witty, gritty, and deliciously wry. Stephanie is a delightful protagonist who is just as appealing when she loses her cool as when she keeps it, dealing with bizarre people and circumstances that range from her unbalanced, man-hungry grandmother to a Mafia funeral to a seven-foot-tall (in heels) transvestite guitarist. In the annals of fast-paced comic crime fiction, Plum is already turning out to be quite a unique heroine who has what it takes for the long humorous haul.
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is out to bring back bail jumper Maxine Nowicki. At first it seems like a relatively simple job: Maxine merely stole her ex-boyfriend's car after a silly domestic spat, so nobody expected her to jump bail over such a misdemeanor. The first stop on Stephanie's hunt is the home of Eddie Kuntz, Maxine's no-neck womanizing boyfriend, who at first wants to fool around with Stephanie and then later decides to hire her. He's hoping to track down some "potentially embarrassing" love letters that he claims Maxine stole from him, and although Stephanie realizes there's something a lot more ugly going on, she agrees to take the side job for Kuntz. She needs the money.
Maxine leaves behind clues in the form of letteredcodesthat grow increasingly more difficult. In her desperation, Stephanie turns to an elderly neighbor's nephew, Sally Sweet, a transvestite who not only gets a kick out of joining the bounty hunter in this game but seems quite naturally adept at the job. Adding to Stephanie's woes is her longtime rival, Joyce Barnhardt, who just joined the same bail-bonds firm and does little besides trail Stephanie around town in order to claim the payoff by bringing in Maxine. However, soon the plot begins to turn deadly as friends and family of Maxine are tortured and murdered, possibly by Eddie Kuntz, or someone else looking for the embarrassing "love letters."
Evanovich makes the most use out of an eccentric and varied cast of wildly off-center secondary characters. Stephanie must not only deal with her own Grandma Mazur, who totes a long-barreled .45, but she must also keep her sometimes partner Lula, the 200-pound black ex-hooker always ready with a stun-gun, in check. One of the funniest, standout comedy-of-errors scenes occurs when this outlandish crew heads down to Atlantic City looking for Maxine in a casino. After they spot their target, the place erupts into instant bedlam, with Grandma hopping up onto a blackjack table, Sally pulling a glock out of his garter, and Lula ready to shoot the place up on a moment's notice — all this as Stephanie cries, "No guns! No guns!" She certainly has her hands full throughout this misadventure.
In a recent interview Evanovich noted that this novel in the series was "the sex book" because Stephanie's longtime, on-again-off-again romance with vice detective Joe Morelli finally ends in carnal fruition (after many previous interruptions). But there's plenty more to this novel than that. Four to Score is bound to score well with anyone who admires a gutsy, charming novel with as many belly laughs as there are engaging plot twists.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentacle, as well as the dark suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including White House Horrors and Hot Blood: Fear the Fever.