Sunday, September 04, 2005

Book Review: Ten Big Ones


I was in Tokyo station on Tuesday, flush with a little cash in my pocket, and wanted something to read. I stopped in at the Book Garden, which is right in the station. Their selection sucks! Unlike the book store in the Kamiyacho station, this one had only one spinning rack, and most of the books on it were 1.) Harry Potter, which I have read all of already; or 2.) Books about Japan and why things are the way they are here. I don't need books for that. At the very bottom of the rack, which I had to bend over and stick my big butt into someone to actually get at, was a book by Janet Evanovich called Ten Big Ones. It was, no doubt about it, the only real choice I had, and probably wouldn't have been my first choice. I am not that picky, though, and just wanted something to read that entertained me. Ten Big Ones certainly did that.
I have never heard of Ms. Evanovich, but she is apparently writing bestsellers at a fair clip. This book is in the Stephanie Plumb series, and the number in the title is an indicator that it is the tenth in the series. Each book title contains it's number in the series.
Stephanie Plumb is a bond enforcement agent (BEA), otherwise known as a bounty hunter. She is a smartass from Trenton, New Joisey, and tells the story in first-person, New Jersey accent and all coming through on the page. The book is half comic and half crime novel, and thoroughly entertaining. In many ways the female protagonist's fairly funny exploits, remind me of a sort of Bridget Jones character: She is able to make fun of herself, clearly define wants and needs, and tell the story in a way that let's us laugh both with her and at her. The originality of the voice that Helen Fielding brought to Bridget Jones derives at least partially from the novelty of female characters talking without inhibition about sex, food, and men. While the novelty may have worn off, Evanovich still makes it funny.
The other thing about this novel is the characters: The transvestite bus driver cum wedding planner; the sassy grandmother who is like a little kid the way that she tags along and picks up lingo that she then dishes out only partially correctly; the former 'ho' sidekick to Stephanie who carries a gun but disables two bad guys by sitting on them; and a host of characters who Stephanie comes into contact with as she picks people up who missed court dates and need to be 're-bonded'.
It is true, as one reader commented on amazon.com, that the bad guys arn't as well defined as characters. In one way this helps blunt the impact of when the bus driver runs over a bunch of them and then uses his Uzi to gun down a whole host more: There is no one that you care about or even really understand as a character well enough to be sorry in the least. But this is forgiveable for a book written in first person: We end up caring about the people that the narrator cares about, and not so much about a bunch of drug-dealing gang members who plan to first gang-rape her and then murder her.
I thoroughly enjoyed the telling of the story and the characters, and would probably have been reasonably happy to have read it for those two things alone. And that is good: The plot was reasonably thin, and really had only one conclusion if Stephanie Plumb were to stay in Trenton and continue on to book 12. In this, too, this book reminds me slightly of Bridget Jones: Do you remember the plot? I don't, but I do remember the characters. There definitely is a plot, it is just not what keeps you reading: That is achieved by the pure entertainment value of the telling of the story and of the descriptions of the characters.
I give this book three smilies. It is entertaining, and worth reading if you want to be entertained. It is not great literature nor is it a particularly finely-honed piece of narrative fiction. There are flaws in the character development and in the plot. It is definitely not at the bottom of my list of books I would reccomend, somewhere closer to the middle. ☻☻☻☺☺

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