Book Critique – To The Nines (Stephanie Plum # 9)

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

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A doggedly persistent gumshoe even with her ineptness, disorganized and above all having no inclination to use a weapon, it is a miracle that Stephanie has strong instincts to chase the case and bring it to a closure.

To The Nines is the ninth book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, first published in July of 2003. Stephanie is again in the middle of apprehending one who jumped bail; and a triangle love story to further complicate her personal life.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter living in Trenton, New Jersey, working as a fugitive apprehension agent for her cousin, Vinnie's, Bail Bonds 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. There is a triangle love story for readers senses to feast on as well. Readers have been entertained so far with 27 books in the series and more to come, beginning with One for the Money in 1994 leading up to the 27th book Fortune and Glory to be released in November of 2020. The stories are told in first person narration.

Stephanie Plum is tasked to apprehend Samuel Singh who jumped bail for a visa bond. And the dog Boo is also missing. She is again paired with Ranger, another bail bonds man with whom her heart always flutters. But soon Stephanie stumbles upon a very deadly and sinister motive that not only is peril for her heart but for her life as well. 

Evanovich thanks someone named Denise Margo Moy for suggesting the title for this book. A sweet gesture. At the end of the seventh book, Seven Up, we had seen Morelli and Stephanie part ways. I havent read the eighth book. But in this ninth book Morelli and Stephanie are back together again. 

One thing I liked about this book was that it centered around characters who are Indian by nationality or birth, and have settled here in US. I havent read a lot of books by non-Indian authors that centered their plot on Indian characters. Although the Indian characters are as wacky as the rest of them in the book.

Another character, Lula, goes on several kinds of diets to become supermodel thin. The entire scenes showing her gorging on meat as part of her diet grossed me out. Along with the poop scenes of Bob the dog. Oh boy, I wish there was something she did about the dog at least. 

We see the dilemma with regards to matters of heart between our heroine and her heroes aka love-interests; none of the three are ready to settle; nor ready to let go. Although Evanovich has the male gumshoes much more stronger and balanced than her main heroine. The love triangle continues to exist between Morelli, Stephanie and Ranger. It seems foolish for Evanovich to keep dragging this on even after nine books she has written similar to how Joanna Fluke did in her Hannah Swensen series. I do hope by the time she reached the 27th she has made a decision for her. 

Evanovich continues to portray Stephanie as inept with several flaws that would actually not make her a successful gumshoe, and yet somehow she succeeds every single time - she forgets bringing her gun when she is hunting her bounty; almost faints to fire a gun; very disorganized with her purse, her daily activities and life in general; her brilliant plans usually bomb on her face; forgets to use gloves to avoid fingerprints when sneaking into a suspect's home. And she is seen to accept her ineptness in this book more openly. 

Whatever humor and wackiness that Evanovich included in the plot, she certainly created a chilling plot around all that. It is almost like an episode from the American police procedural crime drama, Criminal Minds, where the FBI profilers deal with such depraved and cruel criminals day in day out. I couldn’t shake the chillness off me for at least a couple of days after I finished reading the book. 

Evanovich also gives a more insight into Stephanie's childhood and the decisions she made as a child that lead to her career in bounty hunting. Despite all her flaws, Evanovich gives Stephanie a family that supports her immensely even though they may not like her line of work or are dysfunctional in their own way. And she has Stephanie driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which appeased me a lot. 

The plot line comes with loads of humor and romance. Evanovich adds a shade of grimness and dark corners of human mind are revealed making you shudder and shiver. Her shortcomings, doesn’t stop our heroine from nailing her bounty in the end. I do hope Evanovich made our heroine an equally well-balanced gumshoe as her male counterparts in future books. 

A doggedly persistent gumshoe even with her ineptness, disorganized and above all having no inclination 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 hanging around. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot reveals:

a. Folks that Stephanie comes across during her hunt for Mr. Singh: Mrs. Apusenja & her daughter Nonnie, landlords of Mr. Singh; TriBro employees - Andrew Cone, Bart Cone, Clyde Cone; Howie; Carl Rosen.

b. Stephanie moves in with Morelli; her sister Valerie, her kids, newborn baby girl, Lisa, by her boy friend Albert all move into Stephanie's apartment in this book. 

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Stephanie's family & friends - Mother Ellen; Father; Grandma Edna Mazur; her ex-husband Richard "Dickie" Orr; Sister Valerie & her kids Angie & Mary Alice; Rex, the hamster; Mary Alice seemed to be born with special powers per Visions of Sugar Plum; best friend Mary Lou Molnar.

b. Ellen joins Trenton State school to go back to pursuing of education in the seventh book Seven Up.

c. Joseph "Joe" Morelli's family - a Trenton cop and on-and-off Stephanie's boyfriend; his mom; Grandma Bella; Bob the dog; Mary Elizabeth, his great aunt; Cathy, his sister; Uncle Mario.

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

e. Ricardo "Ranger" Carlos Manoso's family & staff: a daughter in Florida; Tank; Erik Salvatora; Miguel; Cal; Junior.

f. Law Enforcement and other supporting teams - Joe Juniak, ex-police Chief and now running for Governor; Carl Costanza; Big Dog ; Brian Simon; Allen Barnes, homicide detective; Andy Diller; Marilyn Truro at the DMV; Norma at the DMV; Eddie Gazzara, married to Stephanie's cousin Shirley; Jimmy Neeley; Tom Bell, homicide detective; Mickey Greene; Billy Kwiatkowski; Blubber-butt Ollie; Ed Silver.

g. Other characters - Dougie "The Dealer" Kruper; Myron Landowsky; Cynthia Lotte, works for Stephanie's ex; Dillan Rudick, building super; Carol Zabo; Lenny Gruber; Moon Man Dunphy "Mooner"; Angela Marguchi; Huey Kosa; Zero Bartha; Father Carolli; Constantine Stiva, undertaker; Janice Molnari; Mabel Pritchet; Terry Gilman, Stephanie's childhood nemesis.

h. Stephanie's neighbors" Mrs. Wolesky; Mr. Feinstein; Mrs. Bestler; Mrs. Krienski; Lorraine & Mo Kleinschmidt; Mrs. Fine, Mr. & Mrs. Morganstern, Mrs. Benson; Mrs. Karwatt; Mrs. DeGuzman; Mrs. Friolli; Mrs. Herrel; Mrs. Gudge; Mrs. Dugan; Mr. & Mrs. Belski.

3. Grammatical / Character / Plot / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 37, Evanovich mentions about one of the characters, Lilian Paressi being murdered two years prior to when the story was set in. But later on Pg. 254, Evanovich spins as if Paessi was part of the recent murders that Stephanie was tangled up in. And On Pg. 21, she makes Paressi part of a previous killing again. 

b. On Pg. 61, Line 7, shouldn’t it be "I was with coffee mug…."


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