Suck it, New York Times Book Snobs: Five Stars for Janet Evanovich’s ‘Takedown Twenty’
What do a butcher, a mobster, and a giraffe have in common? Well, we aren’t telling you, you’ll have to read the new Janet Evanovich book, Takedown Twenty.
If you haven’t read Janet Evanovich’s series about Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, you should. Escapism at its best: the main characters are likable and well developed, if not deep and complex, the dialogue is funny and the mysteries are complicated enough to capture your imagination, but not so dark as to spoil a day at the beach. Random reviews on GoodReads and Amazon have panned it, and good luck finding other reviews. No one at, say, the New York Times thought Takedown Twenty was worthy of review, despite the fact that Evanovich has had 12 books go directly to the top of their own best seller list including her previous book, Notorious Nineteen.SNOBS. But yeah, you might have seen those random readers pan this latest release as a rehash of the earlier themes, with little progress made in the overall arc of the series, and incredulous storylines but, seriously people, what the fuck do you expect?!
Listen: the main character is named Stephanie Plum, she’s dating two men, one with a striking resemblance to Batman’s dark undertones and the other with some sort of pre-Zack Snyder Superman vibe going on (you know, back when Superman wasn’t a tortured soul) and she works as a bounty hunter in a town that is rife with pot and gangsters, but seems devoid of meth, crack or heroin. Not to mention, given that Stephanie was somewhere in her thirties at the beginning of the series, she’d be working her way through her fifties these days. Gritty realism is not this author’s goal.
The tough (but, wacky and loveable) girl detective genre is one of our favorites, and let’s face it, it’s not a crowded field. Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski series is one of the few that hits similar notes, but Paretsky’s work definitely has a darker side. In fact, Evanovich’s books are more in keeping with the movie adaptation of the V.I. Warshawski novel, where Kathleen Turner rocked her role so hard it was worth watching twice. The best comparison may be Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher, if Jessica were younger, had Italian heritage, and apparently, the pheromones of a cat in heat, given Stephanie’s ability to keep two gorgeous, crime fighting superheroes on a leash while bumbling into her fugitives and bringing them to justice.
To Evanovich’s credit, she’s developed some fantastic supporting characters in the books that have become as popular as the lead protagonist with her long-time readers. Lula, the ex-prostitute with a tough talking exterior who flees at the first sign of trouble, has become one of the high points of the Evanovich series, often coming to the rescue in the most unlikely of ways. Indeed, the reason the movie adaption of Evanovich’s first book in the series, One for the Money, flopped with long time readers was because the portrayal of Lula was a bit mealy-mouthed. Not to mention that we want to see a Stephanie who’s just a little less pulled together than the lovely Katherine Heigl. (Janet—if you’re reading this: think Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifah, or Renée Zellweger and Queen Latifah. Oh fuck it, here’s the deal – we all wanted Queen Latifah in the Lula role and nothing less would have done it for us.)
So, if you watched One for the Money and decided against reading the books as a result, let us explain: this is the exact opposite of what happened with Bridget Jones’ Diary. There, Helen Fielding’s book was not great, but the movie was genius. Superfluous scenes were removed and supporting characters with no real purpose disappeared, while the genuinely funny, laugh out loud moments remained intact. In the case of One for the Money, imagine sucking all the fun out of a book, and then asking the actors to look like they are actors playing the part of unknowingly funny, crime fighters, something akin to the actors in Truman Burbank’s town in The Truman Show and bam – that’s the movie adaptation of One for the Money. Ohhhh, maybe we missed the point and One for the Money was actually super meta?
Where were we? This book is exactly what you’d expect from a completely unrealistic beach read that is part of series that’s been going for 20 years. You know what you’re getting into. Don’t want to start at the beginning of the series? Doesn’t matter! Evanovich sets the stage and rarely refers to earlier events in the series, which is actually really frustrating for those of us who regularly wonder what the hell happened to “the Mooner,” a wake-and-bake stoner, who occasionally throws Star Trek parties and inadvertently helps move the plot along by assisting Stephanie with her captures.
SPOILER ALERT AND TRIGGER WARNING: there is neither hide nor hair of the Mooner in Takedown Twenty, much to our dismay. Also, too, we’re not telling you anything more about the plot because it’s paper-thin and we’ll give away the ending, so just read the book and enjoy the journey.
Five Stars, fuckers, Five Stars. Take that, random people over at GoodReads.