Here’s another great post by one of my students on the course The Female Dick: Women in Crime Fiction:
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich is the first novel in the Stephanie Plum series. Evanovich had previously written several books in various genres initially, but did not achieve success until her first crime novel starring the tenacious bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. The series currently runs to 19 books, and if the first installment is anything to go by, I want to read the rest!
Stephanie is, at the beginning of the book, down on her luck financially. Losing her job and running out of money fast, she falls into working for a bail bond company. Attracted by the potentially high earnings, she soon realises she may be unprepared:
Not that I’ve ever let a little embarrassment stop me from forging blindly ahead on any number of dumb projects.
Stephanie begins to learn from her mistakes and arms herself with training and hardware:
…tried hard not to panic over the fact that I had tear gas under 125 pounds of pressure per square inch, which in my mind spelled nerve bomb, dangling between my knees.
Her tenacious nature helps as she gains confidence whilst trying to apprehend Joe Morelli, the outlaw whose capture will net her $10,000.
Whilst sparring with Morelli (his apprehension is complicated by their obvious attraction to one another), Stephanie crosses paths with Benito Ramirez the boxer and suspected rapist. Ramirez represents the real danger and violence in the book, and at times is incredibly menacing. The character is terrifying, and Stephanie is very brave to cope as well as she does. At one point he attacks a woman then calls Stephanie to make sure she knows she is next:
“I’m going to get you when you’re alone and not expecting me. I’m going to make sure we have lots of time together.”
With a threat like that, I think I’d take up residence at the police station, but not Stephanie. Scared though she is, she finds a way to take back control and fight on to make sure that he gets exactly what he deserves.
The use of humour throughout the book balances the violence perfectly, and I think it is a very funny book. Stephanie has a self depreciating sense of humour:
I had an alarm, I had nerve gas, I had a yoghurt. What more could anyone want?
Aside from Stephanie, much of the humour comes from Grandma Mazur, Stephanie’s maternal grandmother. She has a real streak of naughtiness about her, anything from playing with Stephanie’s gun and shooting the evening meal,“I shot that sucker right in the gumpy”, to her choice of clothing. Sartorial elegance is not Grandma Mazur’s strong point:
…wearing a pink and orange print blouse […] bright blue spandex shorts, white tennis, and stockings rolled just above the knee.
Stephanie’s parents have quite a handful with Grandma Mazur living with them.
One of my favourite moments in the book is a family encounter after an altercation with Joe Morelli. Morelli outsmarts Stephanie by throwing her car keys in a rubbish bin, and Stephanie has to climb into to retrieve them. After cleaning herself up, she visits her family for tea:
Grandma Mazur came out of the kitchen. “I smell throw-up.”
“It’s Stephanie” my mother said. “She was in a dumpster.”
This is a really entertaining read, well-paced and exciting throughout. The characters are well developed, and the balance of humour and action make it a book I would recommend. Stephanie is a modern day Nancy Drew, ready to use her new found investigative skills at a moment’s notice and win the day!
By Vikki Marshall