I have read the 56th book for the book challenge. It was Four To Score by Janet Evanovich.
Stephanie Plum has a problem. Her nemesis, Joyce Barnhardt, has become employed by Vinnie Plum as a bounty hunter and Joyce has decided to go after the same FTAs (failure to appears) as Stephanie. Life just isn’t fair.
Stephanie’s latest FTA is Maxine Nowicki, who has skipped her bail on a stolen vehicle charge. She stole her boyfriend’s car and now has disappeared. Stephanie has found the boyfriend, Eddie Kuntz, who has received a message in a code from Maxine. Stephanie takes the coded message and sees if any of her elderly neighbors can decode it, since they are good at codes. One of them suggests her nephew, Salvatore, also known as Sally Sweet, a drag queen who is very good at breaking all sorts of codes. Stephanie goes to him and Sally quickly breaks the code. Sally wants to help Stephanie and Lula in their bounty hunting work.
The uncoded message leads them to another location where they find another clue and another code which Sally works to decode. Stephanie, meantime, visits Maxine’s mother, who has been attacked in her home and partially scalped. She also tracks down Maxine’s best friend Margie who works at a diner. She is off from work because she has had an accident where she has had her fingers cut. Stephanie shows Maxine’s picture at the Seven-Eleven to the clerk and leaves her card, telling the clerk to call her if she sees Maxine.
Sally decodes the next clue and the team goes to the next location. There they find another clue that is coded. Sally works on that. His roommate Sugar is getting annoyed with Sally being distracted with all these bounty hunter activities. Stephanie goes back to her apartment and then goes to get back in her car when she smells gasoline and realizes her car has been soaked in gasoline. Someone flicks a cigarette near her car and the car goes up in flames. She has to resort to using Uncle Sandor’s Buick.
Stephanie gets a call from the clerk at the Seven-Eleven that she has seen Maxine. She arranges to meet Stephanie at 10 p.m. But she is not in the store when Stephanie arrives. Later the clerk’s body is found in an alley with one of the fingers removed. Stephanie learns that Maxine’s mother has a place in Point Pleasant so she goes to Point Pleasant to see if perhaps Maxine is there. But only Maxine’s mother and Margie are in Point Pleasant. Stephanie returns home to find a message scrawled on her door; “Stay away from my boyfriend.”
Stephanie learns that Maxine may be in Atlantic City at a particular casino. She, Sally, and Lula go to Atlantic City and find Joyce Barnhardt there as well. Maxine is there as is her mother and Margie, but they lose Maxine in the crowd. Stephanie returns home to find that her apartment has been fire-bombed and is destroyed. She is homeless. She takes Rex, who has been rescued by the neighbors, and goes to Morelli’s house to ask if she can stay with him in his extra room. But his extra room turns into his room as they get to be very friendly. Morelli and Stephanie have dinner with his mother and Grandmother Bella and the rumors start flying that they are getting married and that Stephanie is pregnant. They also have dinner with Stephanie’s parents. Stephanie tries to cool the sexual activity with Morelli. Then Sugar sets fire to Sally’s apartment. It was Sugar who fire-bombed Stephanie’s apartment and soaked her car with gasoline. So Sally and Stephanie both stay with Morelli until Sugar throws a fire-bomb through Morelli’s window. Then Stephanie and Sally move to the Plums house.
Eddie Kuntz then disappears. His car is found but there is no sign of Eddie. Morelli is on a stake out of a counterfeiting ring at the Seven-Eleven. But Stephanie stumbles on some counterfeit $20 bills that Maxine’s mother has been passing to the drug dealer Bernie. She tells Morelli. Stephanie keeps bugging Eddie’s aunt and uncle Leo and Betty for information about Eddie, but they seem unconcerned about Eddie’s whereabouts.
Finally, Stephanie lets herself into Eddie’s house and finds the keys to Leo and Betty’s house. When she finds no clues in Eddie’s house, she goes next door to Leo and Betty’s. She notices a strange smell coming from the cellar. She sees a body in the cellar. Then Leo and Betty come home. Leo pulls his gun on Stephanie. He has killed his partner Nathan Russo. He was his counterfeiting partner. The counterfeiting plates are in the cellar. Now he is going to kill Stephanie. But Lula is in the backyard. She has called the police. And she has her gun. She fires at Leo. She doesn’t hit him but he fires back. Morelli comes in the front door. They hand-cuff Leo and Betty and take them away. Eddie Kuntz shows up naked at his house, tattooed. He says Maxine, her mother, and Margie are on their way to the airport. Stephanie and Lula go after them.
Stephanie and Lula find the three women stopped on the side of the road by a black Jeep with a flashing red light on the top of the Jeep. It is Joyce Barnhardt. She has hand-cuffed all three women. Stephanie tells her that she can’t apprehend Maxine’s mother and Margie because they haven’t done anything wrong. Joyce just laughs at her. Lula tases Joyce and Stephanie releases Maxine’s mother and Margie. She takes Maxine to the Trenton Police Station.
Stephanie moves out of Morelli’s house and goes to stay with her parents until her apartment is fixed. But Morelli comes to visit with his Ducati motorcycle and even lets Stephanie drive it. Will they get back together? Who can say?
I love the Stephanie Plum mysteries. The humor is wicked. The situations are truly absurd. The drag queens in this book are just too, too much. Stephanie gets herself into the most bizarre circumstances. One would think she’s learn to keep bullets in her gun and to actually carry the damn thing with her instead of keeping it in her cookie jar. But no. Not Stephanie. She carries hair spray. Grandma Mazur is her comical self. Stephanie’s father is long-suffering as always. And Morelli is sexy as hell. This story is rollicking good fun.