Book Critique – Hot Six (Stephanie Plum #6)

For review of all books in the series: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A doggedly persistent gumshoe even with her ineptness, unprofessionalism and above all not having an incline to use a weapon, it is a miracle that Stephanie has strong instincts to chase the case and bring it to a closure.

Hot Six is the sixth book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, first published in July of 2000. She is pursuing her mentor in this book who goes on the lam after he is accused of murder.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter living in Trenton, New Jersey.  When she goes out of work and out of money, she blackmails her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, to giver her a job of an apprehensive agent in his company. That begins the series with every book an adventure into Stephanie's trail onto fugitives and recovering them. And in the process she solves mysteries enabling her to hone her skills. And readers have been entertained with so far 27 books in the series with more to come, beginning with One for the Money in 1994 leading upto the 27th book Fortune and Glory to be released later this year.

According to the author, each book can be read as a stand-alone. However, there are bound to have characters, scenes and sub-plots seep into other books or traverse through the plots as we normally see in any series that has been existing for so long. The stories are told in first person narration. 

I believe I read the seventeenth book in the series, Smokin' Seventeen when it had first released in 2011. I don’t remember why I didn’t like the book or what made me not to continue with the series. However, recently a friend loaned me two of the books from the series. Here is the review of the first one that I have.

Stephanie Plum is on the hunt of her mentor, Bounty Hunter Ricardo "Ranger" Carlos Manoso, after he evades police who suspect him of murder. Stephanie has to pull all her skills out and more since she had learnt everything from the very man she is hunting. To add spice to her already spicy life, Grandma Mazur moves in causing chaos in her personal life.

Note a similarity with The Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series by Sue Grafton. Other than the protagonist solving mysteries, and that they are female detectives, the titles are numbered in both series. While Grafton used the English Alphabet in her titles, Evanovich used numerals until her 26th book. She veered off for the 27th book title without a number in it. I wonder why!

Evanovich shows how callous nature of the goons of the bad guys who sound so sensible even while telling you of the plans they have for you, the cruel methods they want to use to torture, especially their thought towards women. I liked that Evanovich made Stephanie strong enough not to be scared of the guys but intelligent enough to be wary of them and be prepared.

I haven't read a whole lot of books involving female sleuths other than Agatha Christie's Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher books from the famed TV show Murder, She Wrote or my all-time favorites when I was a kid, Nancy Drew or Sue Grafton's Kinsley Millhone which I started recently. However seen a few TV shows and movies that revolve around a female sleuth like Temperance "Bones" Brennan from Bones, Velma from Scooby Doo, Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU and all the female amateur sleuths that are part of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.

Over the years the characterization of them varies depending on the writers or makers. Some are witty and crafty; while some are intelligent with an innocent face; some are professional detectives; while many others are investigating while going on with their lives. 

But one thing always remained common, they always dangle two men in front of the heroine. Two male interests, one of them definitely working for the law enforcement while the other assisting the sleuth in everyway so they can spend time together. Evanovich also didn’t go far from that recipe. Although she sort of gives a conclusion on Stephanie's choice in this book. 

However, she included in her portrayal of Stephanie about all the female things she would be worried about - outraged over pimples; dealing with jealousy feelings; fighting the urge to have a cat fight with their nemesis; and having to deal with emotions. I felt the same with Grafton's Kinsley Millhone. I just felt that the writers made these huge part of the character portrayal which is very miniscule when we see their male counterparts.

After reading the book, I remember why I didn’t pursue the series. It bothered me that the female investigator was not portrayed as well as the male gumshoes we come across. For instance, the male investigators can pick locks easily, have brilliant plans to outsmart anyone, can get out of a situation fast, can think three steps ahead even when a bullet hits them, or even go on for days without becoming stinky or looking like they got out of a dumpster.

As for our heroine, she cannot pick a lock, her plans to do something always foils, she gets into sticky situations faster than one can imagine, cant think straight or form a plan of escape when hit, and oh! she cannot fire a gun straight at a target if she stood five paces from them. That bothered me with Sue Grafton's Kinsley Millhone too. I wish the female gumshoes are portrayed a little more professional than haggard women. 

I have read countless times about either the mothers or the heroines in the books cook stuffed cabbage and wondered what it was and how it tasted. Not that I am fond of cabbage, but a new recipe name always intrigues me. So I found a vegetarian version of the recipe that I could try. Perhaps I will do one of the days.

Despite the short-comings I see in the heroine, I must save Evanovich has created a nice plot bringing in the mafia, the drugs, the guns and the underworld. However, she keeps the underworld to a second step, focusing primarily on what Stephanie does to get her bounties or solving the case. And the case isn't as simple as it seems in the first, becoming more mysterious as the pages are flipped.

I do hope Evanovich doesn’t continue to portray Stephanie as inept and unprofessional bounty hunter. With twenty seven books under the belt, I am guessing she made the character better and better as they progress. I will only know when I read them all. However, I only have another book in the series. And I am not sure if I will pick the series yet. Added to my list of reading for now.

A doggedly persistent gumshoe even with her ineptness, unprofessionalism and above all not having an incline to use a weapon, it is a miracle that Stephanie has strong instincts to chase the case and bring it to a closure. A good series if you are interested in amateur sleuthing, but be prepared for the loop holes I found. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot reveals:

a. Antagonists that Stephanie fights through - Alexander Ramos & his sons Hannibal Ramos and Ulysses Ramos; Habib & Michael, goons; Arturo Stolle; Jimmy Curtains; Vito Grizoli; Terry Gilman; 

b. One of the antagonist lives in a town called Deal in New Jersey. I never expected a town to be named that, and it does exist. That gives me an idea to visit places with weird or unique names. May be I will do it some day. 

c. Joe announces that he want to marry Stephanie towards the end of the plot. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. The first book, One for the Money, has been adapted to film in 2012 with Katherine Heigl playing the role of Stephanie Plum. 

b. Stephanie's family - Mother Ellen; Father; Grandma Edna Mazur; her ex-husband Richard "Dickie" Orr; Bob the dog; 

c. Joseph "Joe" Morelli's family - a Trenton cop and on-and-off Stephanie's boyfriend; his mom; Grandma Bella;

d. Stephanie's co-workers at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds - Vincent "Vinnie" Plum, her cousin and owner of the company; Lula, ex-prostitute turned office assistant to Vinnie; Connie Rosolli, office manager; Frankie Defrances, another bounty hunter; Joyce Barnhardt, another bounty hunter and Stephanie's nemesis; 

e. Law Enforcement and other supporting teams - Brian Simon, a cop; Allen Barnes, homicide detective; Andy Diller, desk cop; Marilyn Truro at the DMV; Eddie Gazzara, a cop; Carl Costanza, a cop; Juniak, a cop; Jimmy Neeley, a cop; 

f. Other characters - Dougie "The Dealer" Kruper; Stephanie's neighbors Mrs. Fine, Mrs. Morgenstern, Mrs. Benson, Mrs. Bestler, Mrs. Karwatt, Myron Landowsky; Cynthia Lotte, works for Stephanie's ex; Dillan Rudick, building super; Carol Zabo; Lenny Gruber; Moon Man Dunphy "Mooner";

3. Grammatical / Factual / Location / Historical / Character Errors:

a. On Pg. 93, Evanovich includes the name of the dog before even Simon introduces it to Stephanie. Since this is written in first person account, how did Stephanie know his name before Simon told her? 

b. On Pg. 331, Line 10 from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…too good with the program…"


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