Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum Series)

Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum Series)

3.8 348
by Janet Evanovich
     
 

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It's five days before Christmas and things are not looking merry for Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum. She hasn't got a tree. She hasn't bought any presents. The malls are jam-packed with staggering shoppers. There's not a twinkle light anywhere to be seen in her apartment.

And there's a strange man in her kitchen.

Sure, this has happened to

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Overview

It's five days before Christmas and things are not looking merry for Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum. She hasn't got a tree. She hasn't bought any presents. The malls are jam-packed with staggering shoppers. There's not a twinkle light anywhere to be seen in her apartment.

And there's a strange man in her kitchen.

Sure, this has happened to Stephanie Plum before. Strangers, weirdos, felons, creeps, and lunatics are always finding their way to her front door. But this guy is different. This guy is mysterious, sexy-and he has his own agenda. His name is Diesel and he is a man on a mission. And Diesel is unlike anyone Stephanie has ever met before in her life. The question is, what does he want with her? Can he help her find a little old toy maker who has skipped out on his bail right before Christmas? Can he survive the Plum family holiday dinner? Can he get Stephanie a tree that doesn't look like it was grown next to a nuclear power plant? These questions and more are keeping Stephanie awake at night. Not to mention the fact that she needs to find a bunch of nasty elves, her sister Valerie has a Christmas "surprise" for the Plums, her niece Mary Alice doesn't believe in Santa anymore, and Grandma Mazur has a new stud muffin. So bring out the plastic reindeer, strap on your jingle bells, and get ready to celebrate the holidays-Jersey style. Visions of Sugar Plums-the world of Plum has never been merrier!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fans of the Stephanie Plum series won't be disappointed with this wonderful adaptation of Evanovich's Christmas tale. Although it's somewhat less creative than some of her other novels, this is still an amusing tale. The story begins with the mysterious arrival of Diesel, a tall, handsome stranger who appears in bounty hunter Stephanie Plum's kitchen. He's caught Stephanie at a bad time: not only is she woefully behind on her Christmas shopping, but she hasn't been able to locate bail-jumper Sandy Claws. As usual, she's got family problems, too. Her sister is pregnant, her grandmother has a new boyfriend and her mother is drinking more than usual. Listeners who aren't familiar with Evanovich's cast of characters may find this adaptation a little hard to follow at first. However, the recitation-complete with a dead-on old lady voice for Grandma and squeals from the elves-is so vivid that listeners will soon recognize the different voices and characters. Actress and veteran audio reader King's command of language and pacing is evident, and the three hour adaptation flies by. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 21). (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stephanie Plum, the least organized bounty hunter and holiday shopper (Hard Eight, 2002, etc.) in Trenton, New Jersey, has never much cared whether 'tis the season to be jolly. Nor is there much hope for this Yule, given the way it's started. Steph's sitting at her ease in her kitchen, sipping morning coffee, enjoying special time with Rex, her pet hamster, when "poof, there he was," all six-feet-plus of him-blond wavy hair, dazzling smile, pecs out of the bodybuilder's Hall of Fame, calling himself Diesel (just the one name, thanks). Sure, says Steph, but who is he? she wants to know; forgive her for not taking too seriously his claim to be "the friggin Spirit of Christmas." Still, there's definitely something strange about this spectral hunk. Unwilling to be a bounty hunter who's not ready to accept fate's occasional bounties, Steph enlists Diesel in hunting her latest Failure to Appear: a toy-maker named (brace yourself) Sandy Klaws. He's wanted on a burglary charge, though it turns out there are extenuating circumstances. Off they go, Steph and her supercharged ad hoc sidekick, who, if he's not actually extraterrestrial, is certainly extra sexy, as several Plum women attest. (Grandma Mazur: "A pip." Sister Valerie: "Dang.") Plotting gets short shrift in this thinnest of Plum puddings, but there's one scene Steph's fans won't want to miss: the Jersey girl chased from a toy factory by a mob of enraged elves. Not for everyone, but come all ye faithful.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429971621
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Series:
A Between the Numbers Novel , #1
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
19,364
File size:
0 MB

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

My name is Stephanie Plum and I've got a strange man in my kitchen.  He appeared out of nowhere.  One minute I was sipping coffee, mentally planning out my day.  And then the next minute Öpoof, there he was.

He was over six feet, with wavy blond hair pulled into a ponytail, deep-set brown eyes, and an athlete's body.  He looked to be late twenties, maybe thirty.  He was dressed in jeans, boots, a grungy, white thermal shirt hanging loose over the jeans, and a beat-up, black leather jacket hanging on broad shoulders.  He was sporting two days of beard growth, and he didn't look happy.

"Well isn't this perfect," he said, clearly disgusted, hands on hips, taking me in.

My heart was tap-dancing in my chest.  I was at a total loss.  I didn't know what to think or what to say.  I didn't know who he was or how he got into my kitchen.  He was frightening, but even more than that he had me flustered.  It was like going to a birthday party and arriving a day early.  It was like Öwhat the heck's going on?

"How?" I asked.  "What?"

"Hey, don't ask me, lady," he said.  "I'm as surprised as you are."

"How'd you get into my apartment?"

"Sweet cakes, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."  He moved to the refrigerator, opened the door, and helped himself to a beer.  He cracked the beer open, took a long pull, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  "You know how people get beamed down on Star Trek?  It's sort of like that."

Okay, so I've got a big slob of a guy drinking beer in my kitchen, and I think he might be crazy.  The only other possibility I can come up with is that I'm hallucinating and he isn't real.  I smoked some pot in college but that was about it.  Don't think I'd get a flashback from wacky tobacky.  There were mushrooms on the pizza last night.  Could that be it?

Fortunately, I work in bail bond enforcement, and I'm sort of used to scary guys showing up in closets and under beds.  I inched my way across the kitchen, stuck my hand into my brown bear cookie jar, and pulled out my .38 five-shot Smith & Wesson.

"Cripes," he said, "what are you gonna do, shoot me?  Like that would change anything."  He looked more closely at the gun and shook his head in another wave of disgust.  "Honey, there aren't any bullets in that gun."

"There might be one," I said.  "I might have one chambered."

"Yeah, right."  He finished the beer and sauntered out of the kitchen, into the living room.  He looked around and moved to the bedroom.

"Hey," I yelled.  "Where do you think you're going? That's it, I'm calling the police."

"Give me a break," he said.  "I'm having a really shitty day."  He kicked his boots off and flopped onto my bed. He scoped out the room from his prone position.  "Where's the television?"

"In the living room."

"Oh man, you don't even have a television in your bedroom.  Someone's really sticking it to me"

I cautiously moved closer to the bed, and I reached out and touched him.

"Yeah, I'm real," he said.  "Sort of.  And all my equipment works."  He smiled for the first time.  It was a knock-your-socks-off smile.  Dazzling white teeth and good-humored eyes that crinkled at the corners.  "In case you're interested."

The smile was good.  The news was bad.  I didn't know what sort of real meant.  And I wasn't sure I liked the idea that his equipment worked.  All in all, it didn't do a lot to help my heart rate.  Truth is, I'm pretty much a chicken-shit bounty hunter.  Still, while I'm not the world's bravest person, I can bluff with the best of them, so I did an eye-roll.  "Get a grip."

"You'll come around," he said.  "They always do."

"They?"

"Women.  Women love me," he said.

Good thing I didn't have a bullet chambered as threatened because I'd definitely shoot this guy.  "Do you have a name?"

"Diesel."

"Is that your first name or your last name?"

"That's my whole name.  Who are you?"

"Stephanie Plum."

"You live here alone?"

"No."

"That's a big fib," he said.  "You have living alone written all over you."

I narrowed my eyes.  "Excuse me?"

"You're not exactly a sex goddess," he said.  "Hair from hell.  Baggy sweatpants.  No make-up.  Lousy personality.  Not that there isn't some potential.  You have an okay shape.  What are you, 34B?  And you've got a good mouth.  Nice pouty lips."  He threw me another smile.  "A guy could get ideas looking at those lips."

Great.  The nutcase who somehow got into my apartment was getting ideas about my lips.  Thoughts of serial rapists and sex killings went racing through my mind.  My mother's warnings echoed in my ears.  Watch out for strangers.  Keep your door locked.  Yes, but it's not my fault, I reasoned.  He's a crazy alien.  How do you keep aliens out?

I took his boots, carried them to the front door, and threw them into the hall.  "Your boots are in the hall," I yelled.  "If you don't come get them, I'm pitching them down the trash chute."

My neighbor, Mr. Wolesky, stepped out of the elevator with his arms loaded up with bags.  "Five days to Christmas and the stores are picked clean," he said.  "And they all say everything's on sale but I know they jack up the prices.  They always gotta gouge you at Christmas.  There should be a law.  Somebody should look into it."

Mr. Wolesky unlocked his door, lurched inside and slammed the door after himself.  The door lock clicked into place, and I heard Mr. Wolesky's television go on.

Diesel elbowed me aside, went into the hall, and retrieved his boots.  "You know, you have a real attitude problem," he said.

"Attitude this," I told him, closing my door, locking him out of the apartment.

The bolt shot back, the lock tumbled, and Diesel opened the door, walked to the couch, and sat down to put his boots on.

Hard to pick an emotion here.  Confused and astounded would be high on the list.  Scared bonkers wasn't far behind.  "How'd you do that?" I said, squeaky-voiced and breathless.  "How'd you unlock my door?"

"I don't know.  It's just one of those things we can do."

Goosebumps prickled on my forearms.  "Now I'm really creeped out."

"Relax.  I'm not going to hurt you.  Hell, I'm supposed to make your life better."  He gave a snort and another bark of laughter at that.  "Yeah, right," he said.

Deep breath, Stephanie.  Not a terrific time to hyperventilate.  If I passed out from lack of oxygen, God knows what would happen.  Suppose he was from outer space, and he conducted an anal probe while I was unconscious?  A shiver ripped through me.  Yuck!  "What are we looking at here?" I asked him.  "Ghost?  Vampire?  Space alien?"

 He slouched back into the couch and zapped the television on.  "You're in the ballpark."

I was at a loss.  How do you get rid of someone who can unlock locks?  You can't even have him arrested by the police.  And even if I decided to call the police, what would I say?  I have a sort of real guy in my apartment?

"Suppose I cuffed you and chained you to something.  What then?"

He was channel-surfing, concentrating on the television.  "I could get loose."

"Suppose I shot you."

"I'd be pissed off.  And it's not smart to piss me off."

"But could I kill you?  Could I hurt you?"

"What is this, twenty questions?  I'm looking for a game here.  What time is it, anyway? And where am I?"

"You're in Trenton, New Jersey.  It's eight o'clock in the morning.  And you didn't answer my question."

He flipped the television off.  "Crap.  Trenton.  I should have guessed.  Eight in the morning.  I have a whole day to look forward to.  Wonderful.  And the answer to your question is Öa qualified no.  It wouldn't be easy to kill me, but I suppose if you put your mind to it you could come up with something."

I went to the kitchen and phoned my next door neighbor, Mrs. Karwatt.  "I was wondering if you could come over for just a second," I said.  "There's something I'd like to show you."  A moment later, I ushered Mrs. Karwatt into my living room.  "What do you see?" I asked her.  "Is there anyone sitting on my couch?"

"There's a man on your couch," Mrs. Karwatt said.  "He's big, and he has a blond ponytail.  Is that the right answer?"

"Just checking," I said to Mrs. Karwatt.  Thanks."

Mrs. Karwatt left but Diesel remained.

"She could see you," I said to him.

"Well, duh."

He'd been in my apartment for almost a half hour now, and he hadn't done a full head rotation or tried to wrestle me down to the ground.  That was a good sign, right?  My mother's voice returned.  It means nothing.  Don't let your guard down.  He could be a maniac!  Frightening, right?

"What are you doing here?" I asked him, curiosity beginning to override panic.

He stood and stretched and scratched his stomach.  "How about if I'm the friggin' Spirit of Christmas?"

My mouth dropped open.  The friggin' Spirit of Christmas.  I must be dreaming.  Probably I'd dreamed I'd called Mrs. Karwatt, too.  The friggin' Spirit of Christmas.  That's actually pretty funny.

"Here's the thing," I said to him.  "I have enough Christmas spirit.  I don't actually need you."

"Not my call, Gracie.  Personally, I hate Christmas.  And I'd prefer to be sitting under a palm tree right now, but hey, here I am.  So let's get on with it."

"My name's not Gracie."

"Whatever."  He looked around.  "Where's your tree?  You're supposed to have a stupid Christmas tree."

"I haven't had time to buy a tree.  There's this guy I'm trying to find.  Sandy Claws, wanted for burglary, and now he's failed to appear for his court appearance, so he's in violation of his bond agreement."

"Hah!  Good one.  That's a prize-winning excuse for not having a Christmas tree.  Let me see if I've got the details right.  You're a bounty hunter?"

"Yes."

"Very sexy."

I did another eye-roll.

"And you're after Santa Claus because he skipped."

"Not Santa Claus," I said.  "Sandy Claws.  S-a-n-d-y C-l-a-w-s.

"Sandy Claws.  Cripes, how would you like to have that name?  I bet he uses kitty litter."

This was coming from a guy named for a train engine.  "First, I have a legitimate job.  I work for Vincent Plum Bail Bonds as a bond enforcement agent.  Second, Claws isn't such a weird name.  It was probably Klaus and changed at Ellis Island.  It happened a lot.  Third, I don't know why I'm explaining this to you.  Probably, I had a stroke and fell down and hit my head and I'm actually in ICU right now, dreaming all this."

"You see, this is typical of the problem.  Nobody believes in the mystical anymore.  Nobody believes in miracles.  As it happens, I'm a little supernatural.  Why can't you just accept that and go with it?  I bet you don't believe in Santa Claus either.  Maybe Sandy Claws didn't have his name changed from Klaus.  Maybe he had his name changed from Santa Claus.  Maybe the old guy got tired of the toys-for-kids routine and just wanted to go hide out somewhere."

"So you think it might be Santa Claus living in Trenton under an assumed name?"

Diesel shrugged.  "It's possible.  Santa's a pretty shifty guy.  He has a dark side, you know."

"I didn't know that."

"Not many people know that.  So if you could catch this Claws guy, you'd get a Christmas tree?"

"Probably not.  I haven't got money for a tree.  And I haven't got any ornaments."

"Oh man, I'm stuck with a whiner.  No time, no money, no ornaments.  Yadda, yadda, yadda."

"Hey, it's my life and I don't have to have a Christmas tree if I don't want one."

"Everyone wants a Christmas tree.  If you had a Christmas tree, Santa would bring you stuffÖlike hair curlers and slut shoes."

"Give it up.  I'm not getting a tree.  End of discussion.  And you're going to have to leave because I have things to do.  I have to work on the Claws case and then later I promised my mother I'd be over to bake Christmas cookies."

"Not a good plan. I have a better plan.  How about we find Claws and then we shop for a tree?  And on the way home from the tree, we can see if the Titans are playing tonight.  Maybe we can catch a hockey game."

"How do you know about the Titans?"

"I know everything."

I did yet another eye-roll and brushed past him.  I was doing so many eye-rolls, they were giving me a headache. I'd planned to take a shower, but there was no way I was getting into the shower with a strange man sitting in my living room.  "I'm changing my clothes, and then I'm going to work.  You aren't going to pop into my bedroom, are you?"

"Do you want me to?"

"No!"

"Your loss."  He returned to the couch and television.  "Let me know if you change your mind."

An hour later we were in my Honda CRV.  Me and Supernatural Man.  I hadn't invited him to ride along with me.  He'd simply unlocked the door and gotten into the car.

"Admit it, you're getting to like me, right?" he asked.

"Wrong, I don't like you.  But, for some unfathomable reason, I'm not totally freaked out."

"It's because I'm charming."

"You are not charming.  You're a jerk."

He flashed another one of the killer smiles at me.  "Yeah, but I'm a charming jerk."

I was driving and Diesel was riding shotgun, flipping through my folder on Claws.  "So what do we do here, go to his house and drag him out?"

"I stopped by his house yesterday, and his wife said he'd disappeared.  I think she knows where he is so I'm going back today to put some pressure on her."

"Sixty-seven years old, and this guy broke into Kreider's Hardware at two in the morning and stole fifteen hundred dollars' worth of power tools and a gallon of Morning Glory yellow paint," Diesel read.  "Got caught on a security camera.  What an idiot.  Everybody knows you've got to wear a ski mask when you pull a job like that.  Doesn't he watch television?  Doesn't he go to the movies?"

Diesel pulled out a file photo.  "Hold the phone.  Is this the guy?"

"Yes."

Diesel's face brightened and the smile returned.  "And you stopped by his house yesterday?"

"Yes."

"Are you any good at what you do?  Are you good at tracking down people?"

"No.  But I'm lucky."

"Even better," he said.

"You look like you've had a revelation."

"Big time.  The pieces are beginning to fit together."

"And?"

"Sorry," he said.  "It was one of those personal revelations."


Visions of Sugar Plums
Copyright © 2002 by Evanovich, Inc.
No part of this book
may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without
written permission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information
address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue,
New York, N.Y. 10010

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