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Book Reviews

October, 1996
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One for the Money
(Janet Evanovich, Penguin p/b
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Two for the Dough
(Janet Evanovich,
Hamish Hamilton h/c)
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Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series
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Just when I feared that the feminist PI genre was on the verge of getting stale, gosh maybe even predictable, Janet Evanovich walked into my life (between two covers) and it's never been quite the same since

The brilliantly titled One for the Money and Two for the Dough had me laughing out loud in all sorts f inappropriate places - on the tram, in a café over lunch … I simply couldn't bear to put them down - and I rushed out and bought several copies of each as birthday presents for my favourite people.

Evanovich's detective, Stephanie Plum, is however, not a strictly-speaking PI - she becomes a bounty hunter after being laid off as a discount lingerie seller. But fortunately, she shares many of the traditional characteristics of the female PI - a wicked mouth, gutsiness, persistence and amazing resourcefulness. At the beginning of One for the Money, Stephanie, a native of the working-class Trenton, New Jersey (and it's even funnier if you read the books in a Noo Joisey accent), is just starting out on her bounty-hunting career with her cousin Vinnie, 'a worm, a sexual lunatic, a dog turd', when she eyes a big break - the job of catching Joe Morelli, a vice copy turned fugitive - worth a sweet $10,000 (very handy if she's to repossess her car and furniture).

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Stephanie hasn't achieved the 'key competencies' of her new vocation (as they say in the training industry) so she's on a fast learning curve with the thuggish Ranger as a trainer. Stephanie's attempts to get her man (in more ways than one, it turns out) make for an hilarious, unforgettable read.

Stephanie has a big score to settle with Morelli - he played 'trains' with her as a child (and this game did not involve choo-choos on rails!) and he literally charmed the pants off her as a teenager behind the eclair case in Tasty Pasty. The only problem is that She's still tussling with Morelli in Two for the Dough, an even funnier mystery about rackets in the funeral business.

The best moments involve her ancient and eccentric Grandma Masur who 'reads the obituary columns like they're part of the paper's entertainment section' and who insists on helping Stephanie on her latest manhunt. Grandma Mazur had earlier managed to shoot a roast chicken in the 'gumpy' in Stephanie's family's kitchen with Stephanie's newly acquired hand gun. Grandma Mazur starts packing a .45 magnum and visiting funeral parlours. The result is explosive!

Evanovich, a native of Noo Joisey, is an experienced writer with twelve novels under her belt. But these books represent her first foray into crime fiction. Luckily for us, they are not her last. From scanning DOROTHYL, I've discovered that there are two more published novels in store - Three to Get Deadly and Four on the Floor. And even luckier, numbers unlike the alphabet, are infinite! We can only hope that Penguin does us a favour and publishes paperback Australian editions of Two, Three, and Four in time for Christmas.
Originally published in the Sisters in Crime newsletter. Reproduced with permission. … Carmel Shute (September, 1996)

Whale Road
(Kerry Greenwood, Hodder Headline, p/b)
If you are familiar only with Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher stories, then this novel will be a surprise. Phryne's stories are set in the upbeat camp of jazz age Melbourne. This book is set in a post-holocaustal world, although still in Victoria.

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Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series
Other Kerry Greenwood titles
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Imagine if you were on a club outing and the world-as-we-know-it ended. Who would be in charge? Who would do the actual work? And would latent psychic talents suddenly appear?

In Whale Road, this happens. But the club is no ordinary group of socialisers, it is the SCA. The society for creative anachronism is a group of would-be nobles and fighters and costumers (Greenwood is a costumer herself). They really do exist today, but their society is remarkably short of peasants and spends a lot of time arguing about the stuff that, sadly, club memberships tend to argue about.

It's boy (Beastfriend) goes on quest to meet girl (Dolphinfriend) to save the world from someone even the SCA think is dysfunctional.


Whale Road is a coming-together of medievalists and computer nerds and if you know either then you will probably find yourself judging the likelihood of the scenarios. It is probably a better read for fantasy readers who are looking for something a little bit different.

However, it is a well-written book, more of a journeyman's work than a master's piece, but definitely readable.

…Ali Kayn, September 1996

See also:
Interview with Kerry Greenwood

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