New Jersey's wackiest bounty hunter is on the trail of a whole new batch of "skips," and that means fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series are in for a treat. Uppermost on the minds of readers of High Five is the question of just whom Stephanie slept with last time around, Ranger or Morelli. Well, the answers to that and a whole slew of new questions are provided in the next installment in the series, Hot Six. And hot it is, a sizzling miasma of flaming cars, blistering looks, scorching comments, and fiery kisses.
This time out, Stephanie has one of the meanest skips she's ever tried to bring in, a brutal bully who killed his wife. His intense hatred for women easily extends to Stephanie, who barely escapes with her life several times. Her survival is dependent in part on help from Lula, that larger-than-life ex-prostitute turned file clerk, who, as usual, is carrying a mini-arsenal she's all too eager to use. Stephanie's job is made twice as hard by the fact that her usual backup from Ranger isn't there. In fact, Ranger is the leading suspect in a murder case and has skipped bail. Knowing Ranger won't be found if he doesn't want to be, Stephanie lets her nemesis, Joyce Barnhardt, take the case.
It turns out that Stephanie doesn't need to find Ranger; he finds her. And this honor earns Stephanie two determined tails who follow her everywhere she goes: Joyce Barnhardt, and two henchmen named Mitchell and Habib who are working for some unknown boss. At first Mitchell and Habib seem to be a pair of bumbling fools who are more annoying than anything. But before this case is solved, they will demonstrate their true acumen in a very frightening way.
Just when Stephanie thinks her life can't get any worse, she finds herself with an unexpected roommate: Grandma Mazur, who has moved in on the heels of a major disagreement with Stephanie's father. About the same time, Stephanie asks for a favor from one of the detectives on the police force, and in exchange he asks her to watch his dog while he's out of town. The only problem is, he never goes out of town. Nor does he return for the dog. So on top of Grandma Mazur, Stephanie now has yet another roommate: a large, smelly dog named Bob with a penchant for chewing everything in sight and howling like a banshee whenever he's left alone.
Between bringing in her own skips, trying hard to keep Joyce away from hers, doing some side work at Ranger's request, and bumping into Morelli (though never in the way either of them is hoping for), Stephanie's life couldn't get much more bizarre. Or could it? There's still this ongoing confusion between the men in her life, both of whom are vying for her company and attention. And of course, there are the requisite fires, explosions, and sundry vehicles that suffer inexplicable damage -- except for the monstrous old powder-blue Buick, which seems to be indestructible. But even the Buick may come to suffer if Grandma Mazur succeeds in her quest to get a driver's license and hit (perhaps literally) the road.
With the usual collection of wacky characters, both old and new, Hot Six makes for a fun adventure that is equal parts suspense and hilarity. Evanovich trained her writing muscles by churning out sizzling romances for several years before she switched her focus to a dark comedy featuring a wisecracking Jersey girl who went from selling department store underwear to bringing in bail skippers. Neither Trenton, New Jersey, nor the mystery genre has been quite the same since. The fun just doesn't get any better than this. (Beth Amos)
Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury. She lives in Wisconsin and is at work on her next novel.