Friday, July 13, 2012

One for the Money

The widely popular Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich begins with One for the Money; Stephanie is a Jersey Girl who has been laid off from her job as a lingerie buyer for what I suppose is a department store.  She's had to hock all her furniture and most of her household appliances just to make rent and attempt to keep her phone active, and her car has just been repossessed.  She hears that her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman, is looking for a file clerk, and even though he is completely skeevy (he has apparently done some very...intimate...things to a duck), Stephanie is desperate.

Turns out Vinnie is no longer hiring, but his receptionist lets Stephanie know that they're down a recovery agent, and if she's really in need of the cash, she could take up the guy's cases while he's out.  One of those cases is Joe Morelli, the neighborhood heartbreaker.  He introduced Stephanie to below-the-belt kinds of games when they were young children, and in high school he sealed the deal and never called her again (what a catch, right?).  After that, she ran him down with her dad's car.  Now he's a cop who's been charged with murder and he's skipped bail.  This puts the tempting price of $10,000 on his head, and Stephanie immediately agrees to take  the job.

So when her first attempt to bring Morelli in fails miserably - did she really think she could go in, completely unprepared, and he'd go down to the station with her, just like that?  - Vinnie's receptionist gets Stephanie in touch with Ranger, some hotshot bounty hunter, to show her the ropes.  It's a good thing, too, because she ends up needing his help several, several times.  

Stephanie runs into Morelli many times, and even steals his car since it's nicer than her Nova, but she never actually gets any closer to bringing him in.  She does, apparently, continue to find him irresistible, and who can blame her, what with his charming track record?!?  He does save her from a criminally insane prize boxer, Benito Ramirez, when the guy tries to proposition her and beat her in view of several other men (who neither say nor do anything to stop it), after she tries to question him about a woman associated with Morelli's case.  Things get worse for Stephanie (and pretty much for everyone she talks to, as well) as she starts to close in on something big, and it doesn't help that she is now being stalked and terrorized by Ramirez, who has taken it very badly that she refused his advances.

This is all very overwhelming for someone with zero real training or experience, and whose street smarts extend only as far as removing the distributor cap from a vehicle to prevent auto theft (though I'm not sure that counts, since that trick is apparently common knowledge in her neighborhood).  Will Stephanie Plum be able to put together all the pieces and bring in Morelli to collect on the ultimate payday?  Or will she die trying?

Okay, so you know she doesn't die trying, since there are several other books in this series, but I had to say it anyway.  I don't know if you could tell, but I thought this book was kind of awful, which really disappointed me.  I've heard so many people rave about this series, about how funny it is, and all I can say is that I have no idea what they were talking about.  I only finished reading One for the Money because I hate leaving a book unfinished.  I might pick up the second book just to give Evanovich a second chance, but I'm certainly not going to go out of my way to find a copy.

Stephanie is just ridiculous.  The woman is a total joke.  If you're going to take a job as a bounty hunter, wouldn't you figure it's a good idea to prepare yourself?  Even if getting a gun and learning to use it isn't her first idea, I'd have thought she'd be smart enough to pick up a can of defense spray right off or to enroll herself in some kind of self-defense or martial arts class.  Request to meet with one of her cousin's other recovery agents to learn some things, or try to find a book or something.

She's also apparently just Too Damn Sexy, because practically every male in this book who is not related to her is either commenting on her looks, propositioning her, making lewd gestures at her, trying to rape her, or else is Joe Morelli, who has gotten into her pants before and will likely be getting into her pants again with little to no effort on his part.  Everything about this irritates me; the whole thing is just too unrealistic.  Who does this kind of thing ever happen to?  I mean, I'm female, so yeah I've had my share of unwelcome male attention, but COME ON.  It's like one of those cheesy movies where the woman walks down the street, apparently oblivious to her sexual magnetism, and every man she passes does a double take or walks into a lamppost while gawking at her.

Morelli and Ranger are supposed to be the sexy bad boys, that is no mystery.  I think it is a safe guess that she ends up in some kind of love/lust triangle with the two of them later on in the series.  

Back to Stephanie and her new vocation, however.  Her incompetence leads to a lot of things happening that are less than fantastic, and I am puzzled as to how she managed not to get herself killed.  If it weren't for the hot douchebag who wrote lewd poems about her on bathroom walls after seducing her in high school and the sexy and mysterious ex-Special Forces bounty hunter, she probably would have been dead before the end of one week.

I rented the movie of this book on Amazon, and had heard terrible things about it.  I was curious if it could possibly be any worse than the book was.  It was about even, though I am now twice as irritated by Stephanie Plum.  They did make her seem more competent in the movie, though, and the movie version also cuts out probably about 99% of the misogyny and rape.

But the number one thing that made me yell at the book and also at my computer monitor?  Stephanie Plum and her gun.

Okay.  I don't know how many of you have any experience with firearms, and my own is fairly limited.  But I have shot handguns enough times to feel incredibly WTF about basically every single thing that occurs when Stephanie uses hers.  In both the book and the movie, she gets a Smith & Wesson .38 special - this is a five-shot revolver with a short barrel, for those of you who don't already know.  My dad owns one, and I have fired it.  Which is why I yelled so much when Stephanie uses it.  First, the thing about this that pisses me off the most:  in the movie, Stephanie miraculously manages to fire SEVERAL rounds in one go from her little five-round handgun.  Maybe her ability to create miracles like this is what keeps her alive.  The first time I noticed this, I thought that it must surely be a mistake.  The producers couldn't possibly be THAT effing stupid, could they?  So I went back and listened again.  Yep.  SEVERAL shots fired from a five-shot revolver.  And not just six or seven - it was way more than five.  I still could have written this off as a moronic oversight, if it weren't for the facepalm-inducing fact that this happens multiple times in the movie.  

The initial thing that got to me, though?  Well, I already told you that I have fired a gun the same model as the one Stephanie uses.  I had also fired other guns before this, so I wasn't exactly new to handling a firearm, which gave me something of an advantage over her as far as what to expect.  But I absolutely was still not entirely prepared for discharging that thing.  Let me tell you something about guns with short barrels.  There is a LOT of kick.  The recoil on those things is no freaking joke.  When I fired my dad's .38 special for the first time, I knew about this, but I was definitely not prepared for what exactly that meant.  I found out when the gun kicked back so fast and so hard that I am incredibly lucky I didn't break my own nose, and that is not an exaggeration.  Evanovich includes nothing resembling anything close to this kind of mishap (there is not even the hint of any difficulty in handling the gun, once she stops being too afraid to use it), and seeing how Stephanie is the queen of naive incompetence, I find it highly unlikely that she went through her first lessons in shooting without getting knocked on her ass or coming close to hitting herself in the face with the revolver.  It's not the kind of gun I would have given to a first-timer, if I were a seasoned hand at firearms like Ranger.  If he considered this and gave it to her anyway, I have a new respect for him, because that is just sadistic enough to be a little funny.  Really, though, I would've gotten her something with a clip instead of something that would only hold five bullets, since her chances of success with only five shots was pretty damn slim, and she would not have had enough practice to reload in time to fire again without being killed herself first.  That business at the end of the book was just another of those miracles I mentioned earlier.

If you liked this book, please, comment or send me an email, because I am beyond curious to know what it is that people saw in it that made the series popular enough for Evanovich to write...what? twenty of them?  I just do not get it.



St. Martin's Press

Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
Stephanie Plum
* One for the Money (Book 1)
- Two for the Dough (Book 2)
- Three to Get Deadly (Book 3)

Film Adaptations:
One for the Money

See what others are saying about it, or buy it now:
Better World Books


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