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Book Critique – Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5)

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.

Visions of Sugar Plums is the first novella in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, first published in November of 2002. This was released as a Christmas special, and appropriately her case deals with finding a little old toy maker who skipped out on his bail before Christmas.

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 up to the 27th book Fortune and Glory to be released later this year.

Stephanie Plum, Fugitive Apprehension Agent aka Bounty Hunter, is tasked to find a little old toy maker, Sandor "Sandy Claws" Clausen, who skipped out on his bail right before Christmas. Poof! A mysterious guy, Diesel, pops into her kitchen who insists on getting her Christmas cheer up. Now she not only has to find Sandy Claws, but also deal with Diesel who has an agenda of his own.

Like the previous book I read, the story is told in first person narration. Evanovich added an element of mystique and superpowers to the mystery. It did suit the holiday theme for the plot, since angels come to you during Christmas isn't it!

Normally Stephanie works solo on her cases. However, this time she is paired with Diesel, a mysterious and sexy man with his own agenda. I noticed that author Evanovich penned three more novellas with Stephanie and Diesel taking the lead roles, before she created a new series for Diesel along-side Lizzy in 2010. She has three books so far under Lizzy and Diesel series.

Bob the Dog is distinctly missing in the plot, although her pet hamster, Rex, appears. I thought she finally made a decision with whom does Stephanie belong in the sixth book, Hot Six, I read before this. However, Evanovich continues the play of having two love interests for Stephanie in this, without giving her a concrete ending. Just like how Joanna Fluke did for her character Hannah Swensen in the series of books around her. I haven't read all the books in either series, but I truly hope that after 20 or 30 books, they finally chose on a partner in their life. 

Evanovich creates a fun holiday plot with the mystical element of magic and mystery tied together. Although she doesn’t actually explain all of the mystic and magic, or give that a closure. A clear segue to her future books involving Stephanie and Diesel no doubt. 

Evanovich continues to portray Stephanie as inept with several flaws that would actually not make her a successful gumshoe - 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. 

Despite her shortcomings, our heroine works hard to get her bounty nailed. Although the entire episode about elves creeped me rather than enchanted like any Hallmark holiday movies elves. I do hope Evanovich evolved our heroine, resolved her romantic delusion and also made her a better gumshoe in the process that she has written nineteen books since this one.

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. Media, Books, Places and Music references we see:

i. TV Shows - Little House on the Prairie

ii. Movies - The Wizard of Oz

b. Antagonists that Stephanie fights through - Elaine Gluck, Sandy's sister; Lester, Sandy's production manager; Randy Briggs; John Ring; 

c. Mary Alice, Stephanie's niece seemed to be born with special powers similar to Diesel and Sandy Claws, but what her powers are not yet defined. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Stephanie's family - Mother Ellen; Father; Grandma Edna Mazur; her ex-husband Richard "Dickie" Orr; Sister Valerie & her kids Angie & Mary Alice; Albert Kloughn, Valerie's boy friend

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

c. 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; 

d. Law Enforcement and other supporting teams - Carl Costanza, a cop; Big Dog, a cop; 

e. Other characters - Stephanie's neighbors Mrs. Wolesky, Mr. Feinstein; Mrs. Bestler; Mrs. Krienski; Lorraine & Mo Kleinschmidt

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