Eleven on Top
Poor Stephanie Plum! Bounty hunting, never her dream career, just isn’t doing it for her anymore. After rolling in garbage one time too many, she quits her job at her cousin Vinnie’s office, and tries to find something better. Which turns out to be easier said than done.
Although the most recent Stephanie Plum novels have been reasonably entertaining, the first, oh, twelve or so are true classics for a reason. By “Eleven on Top” the triangle between Stephanie, Joe, and Ranger is maybe starting to get a little stale, but Stephanie’s job troubles are fresh and poignant for all their hilarity. In her search for something that will pay the bills and be safe and also at least a little enjoyable, Stephanie experiences sexual harassment, non-sexual bullying, extreme tedium, and various repetitive motion injuries and the deeply ingrained smell of frying you get from working fast food. Along the way she grapples with the fact that she doesn’t have any deep passions–except maybe for dessert–or special skills. She is haunted by the feeling that she’s a boring person and, in her mid-thirties, is living a directionless, pointless life.
But she *does*, of course, discover that she has some special talents: aside from being cute, she’s an excellent fibber and has a nose for investigation. The story zigzags back and forth, as they all do, between slapstick comedy of a very broad sort, and short but pithy examinations of the human condition. Plus there’s a murder mystery to solve.
“Eleven on Top” may not be the absolute best Stephanie Plum novel, in part because it’s hard to sustain a series like that for long (in my opinion), but it’s laugh-out-loud funny in places, while also exploring the sad world that so many live in of minimum wage, no-security employment doing tedious jobs that no one could enjoy. It asks the eternal question of “What do we live for?” Even for the Stephanie, the answer is not just cake alone.