Saturday, October 31, 2009

Janet Evanovich's Finger Lickin' Fifteen (2009)

I've just gotten done listening to Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich.

I read a profile of Evanovich this spring and thought she sounded like a cool person. Her husband, son (a Dartmouth grad), and daughter are all involved in the business-side of her (prolific) writing, and they are a close knit family. She lives in New Hampshire, close to Hanover. And she's a self-taught writer, which is very inspiring. I also just checked out her website and I like her positive outlook.

Evanovich is enormously popular (so far this year, according to the Barnes and Noble website which I've just checked, Fifteen is the #15 bestseller of all books, nonfiction and fiction). It sounds like she's in that rarified group (Stephen King, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz) of authors who consistently sell millions of each of their books.

Unfortunately, this book just did not do it for me. The writing style is extremely straightforward, but not in the Tom Perrotta-sort of way, with genuinely fleshed out characters and complicated relationships. Instead, the characters are comic book-ish and the plot is juvenile (and borders on the completely random (a subplot about a much-loved local flasher?). There's not really a lot of "mystery" there, just a bunch of really bad one-liners.

The main character is a detective named Stephanie Plum. As seems to be required for the pop mystery genre, Plum is single and has an active dating life with two cornball men who constantly talk about getting her into bed. The murder that drives the plot is connected to a barbecue cookoff, and the food jokes are particularly lacking in nuance.

Here's an excerpt from a review by Kirkus that captures my main problem with this book:
"Don't get too invested in figuring out the crime wave that motivates a parade of transvestite jokes, diarrhea jokes and fart jokes, because Evanovich certainly doesn't."
So, I don't think I'll be reading anything else by Janet Evanovich. It was interesting, though, to get a taste of a style (and author) that are clearly very popular at the moment.

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