One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum
Maturity Level: 5 (Trigger warning, sexual assault)
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You’ve lost your job as a department store lingerie buyer, your car’s been repossessed, and most of your furniture and small appliances have been sold off to pay last month’s rent. Now the rent is due again. And you live in New Jersey. What do you do?
If you’re Stephanie Plum, you become a bounty hunter. But not just a nickel-and-dime bounty hunter; you go after the big money. That means a cop gone bad. And not just any cop. She goes after Joe Morelli, a disgraced former vice cop who is also the man who took Stephanie’s virginity at age 16 and then wrote details on a bathroom wall. With pride and rent money on the line, Plum plunges headlong into her first case, one that pits her against ruthless adversaries – people who’d rather kill than lose.
One for the Money was written in 1994, and it did NOT age well. Aside from Stephanie Plum’s abhorrent fashion sense (biker shorts + hairspray) and the dated technology, the casual sexism, even from the female protagonist, is sure to offend any 21st century feminist.
But if you can get past all of that, this book is a lot of fun.
Stephanie Plum is pretty much what you would expect from an amateur sleuth. She stumbles across clues by complete accident, not through any cleverness on her part. I saw a lot of criticism of the utter ridiculousness of a woman with zero crime fighting experience becoming a bounty hunter that could take down an ex-cop, but whatever y’all, it’s a BOOK, you gotta suspend your disbelief. What I liked about Stephanie was that she took the amateur sleuth trope and gave it a VERY Jersey twist. It was like Sandra Bullock in Ms. Congeniality meets Jersey Shore. The result was a novel and characters with a whole lot of flavor.
And really, the Jersey setting and attitude made this book. I was kind of indifferent to Stephanie and the mystery, but Stephanie’s family (especially her grandmother) killed me. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed out loud as much while reading a book as I did during the scene where Stephanie comes home and tells her parents she’s a bounty hunter. Then Grandma gets a hold of the gun. It. Was. Hilarious.
I mean, playing with guns isn’t funny. Hem.
Actually, the Jersey setting and the mystery as a whole were quite a bit grittier than I was expecting. I had seen the movie like, a decade ago or something, and it was pretty campy. I was expecting a similar feel from the book. But instead it was a surprisingly good blend of the two. Although, if I’m being honest, it got a little TOO dark on the sexual assault front for my taste. Very violent, very disturbing.
Really my biggest critique of the book is the way men treat Stephanie. It’s not even that they treat her like a damsel in distress, which would be expected and something that could be overcome. It was the catcalls, the staring at her breasts, the CONSTANT sexual innuendo. And on some level I think that was on purpose from Evanovich, and attempt to show how crappy it is for women in Jersey. But Stephanie really played into it, being just as suggestive about and to the men and herself. But, as I mentioned, I feel like this is just a different era from when it was written, and at the time it probably just added to the sense of humor.
So all in all, a fun read, but I wasn’t super invested. I probably won’t be picking up the rest of the series, but I wouldn’t turn them away either.