Stephanie Plum, the world’s worst bounty hunter, rides again. This times she goes back to college, to untangle a plot involving a misbehaving frat, an obsessed dean, and a crazy professor. Plus some of Trenton’s finest businessmen are getting whacked (so what else is new), Ranger is being his usual inaccessible self, and Joe Morelli, Stephanie’s cop boyfriend, has the runs so bad he decides it’s time for them to take a break.
I’ve been a huge–HUGE–fan of the Stephanie Plum novels for years, but as often happens with a long-running series, I have mixed feelings about the later books. “Tricky Twenty-Two” is still laugh-out-loud funny, with plenty of slapstick, mainly involving Stephanie and Lula’s failed attempts at apprehending FTAs, but Evanovich has been milking this series for 20 years now, and there’s only so many ways Stephanie can trip over garbage cans while trying to cuff a rapist. And while the final confrontation with the bad guy is reasonably exciting, we know that Ranger is going to find her just in the nick of time because it’s already happened 21 times before. And as an academic I have to say that her caricature of academia is…well, it’s not that far off, to be perfectly honest, but it’s still a caricature written from the outside.
On the other hand, like I said, there are still a number of scenes that made me laugh out loud, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of other books I’ve read recently, including the ones supposed to be funny. And while certain members of the ultra-PC crowd (a crowd I am nominally a part of, so don’t think I’m saying this to dump on them) may find the story about a cute working-class white girl, her loudmouthed black sidekick , and her macho male protectors to be a bit…what’s that word…oh yes, how could I forget, *problematic,* the fact is that Evanovich tackles issues of race, class, and sexual objectification and harassment in a straight-on yet entertaining way that more sensitive and “woke” authors can rarely manage.
If you’ve never read any of the Stephanie Plum books, I highly recommend starting with 1995’s “One For the Money,” which is a classic for a reason and combines Evanovich’s trademark slapstick with some genuinely edgy stuff. The later books have veered increasingly into slapstick territory and out of that edgy zone that truly good detective novels need to occupy (in my humble opinion), but they’re still more entertaining than 90% of what’s out there, so if you’re a Plum fan and you’re jonesing for a fix, this book will probably set you up for a little while.