This one seemed to miss the mark on bounty hunting and went a bit over on the deli.
It didn't seem to have a point. I couldn't figure out if she was just going to work at the deli-till she burned that down, or if she was trying to find the kidnapped victims or the kidnapper or someone who skipped out on their court date!
I mean, how many doughnuts can you and Lula eat?
Stephanie Plum is back, this time being dragooned by Vinny into managing a deli taken as part of a bond forfeiture. Only problem is, the managers keep disappearing without a trace, leaving behind just one empty shoe.
Another fun bumbling bounty hunters book, but this one has a twist. One of the many bondees from Vinnie's bail bond business has skipped, forfeiting the business he used as collateral for his bond. So Vinnie and his boss, Harry the Hammer, are stuck with a deli that they need to keep running. The problem is, the managers keep disappearing. So Vinnie put Stephanie in as manager, telling her not to mess it up while keeping up with tracking her FTAs. Neither Morelli nor Ranger is thrilled with the idea of Stephanie being in the line of fire.
Of course, Stephanie has no experience in managing a deli. She has three employees - a waitress who seems pretty normal, a fry guy who has questionable immigration status, and a line cook with a constant buzz. The ever-present Lula made herself assistant manager. There are times when the deli gets busy, and Stephanie and Lula have to pitch in, creating even more chaos. Lula is a riot with her mad sandwich making skills, where she gets creative, and the customer gets what she made whether they ordered it or not. Ranger shows unexpected talents when even he gets sucked into helping while keeping an eye on Stephanie.
When Stephanie hires an ex-skip to take her place as manager, the man disappears in the same manner as the previous managers, leaving Stephanie feeling guilty, and Lula convinced that aliens are abducting the managers. Ranger and Morelli share the task of protecting Stephanie, with Rangeman guards shadowing Stephanie's every move. When one of the guards goes missing, the intensity of the search ramps up. Following the clues gets Stephanie and Lula into a few sticky situations until Ranger himself joins the hunt. There are a few interesting and inevitable twists in the search, and the final takedown goes relatively smoothly, but there are a couple of unexpected revelations. The book ended with a shocking cliffhanger and Stephanie in a panic.
Though they took a minor position, Stephanie still has a few skips to track down. Most were relatively easy though with some unusual steps to make them happen. I especially enjoyed the one with the cat. For the most challenging one, she was lucky enough to have Ranger with her - it is a joy to watch that man work. Strangely enough, no cars were destroyed, and Stephanie didn't get covered in any disgusting substances.
Stephanie's romantic relationships continue to be complicated. I loved the scene with Morelli and Ranger setting up Stephanie's protection. They may be rivals, but there's no doubt both care for her. She and Morelli are still together, which makes his share of the protective detail easy. They are easy and comfortable together. Stephanie's relationship with Ranger is something else. There are sparks there, as illustrated by Stephanie's frequent musings on knees melting and breathing issues. Ranger is a master of innuendo and is on top of his game in this book. He can say a lot with a simple "Babe." He is also protective of her, and I liked seeing him care for her. Meanwhile, Stephanie fights the good fight against temptation.
There were some things missing from this book that are regulars in the previous books. There is very little family drama, with only one Plum family dinner to attend. There were no funerals for Grandma Mazur to attend and disrupt. As mentioned before, no cars were destroyed. So while this wasn't as over-the-top crazy as some of the books, it was still a fun read. I'm looking forward to the next one and seeing how the cliffhanger turns out.