Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time in LaLa Land. La la Land is like an out-of-body experience --while your mouth is eating lunch your mind is conversing with Captain Kirk. Sometimes I'd pretend to sing opera. My mother would send me to the grocery store down the street, and off I'd go, caterwauling at the top of my lungs. Before the opera thing I went through a horse stage where I galloped everywhere and made holes in my Aunt Lena's lawn with my hooves. Aunt Lena was a good egg. She understood that the realities of daily existence were lost in the murky shadows of my slightly looney imagination.

After graduation from South River High School, I spent four years in the Douglass College art department, honing my ability to wear torn Levis, learning to transfer cerebral excitement to primed canvas. Painting beat the heck out of digging holes in lawns, but it never felt exactly right. It was frustrating at best, excruciating at worst. My audience was too small. Communication was too obscure. I developed a rash from pigment.

Somewhere down the line I started writing stories. The first story was about the pornographic adventures of a fairy who lived in a second rate fairy forest in Pennsylvania. The second story was about ...well never mind, you get the picture.

I sent my weird stories out to editors and agents and collected rejection letters in a big cardboard box. When the box was full I burned the whole damn thing, crammed myself into pantyhose and went to work for a temp agency.

Four months into my less than stellar secretarial career, I got a call from an editor offering to buy my last mailed (and heretofore forgotten) manuscript. It was a romance written for the now defunct Second Chance at Love line, and I was paid a staggering $2,000.

With my head reeling from all this money, I plunged into writing romance novels full time, saying good-by, good riddance to pantyhose and office politics. I wrote series romance for the next five years, mostly for Bantam Loveswept. It was a rewarding experience, but after twelve romance novels I ran out of sexual positions and decided to move into the mystery genre.

I spent two years retooling --drinking beer with law enforcement types, learning to shoot, practicing cussing. At the end of those years I created Stephanie Plum. I wouldn't go so far as to say Stephanie is an autobiographical character, but I will admit to knowing where she lives.

In '95 my husband and I moved to New Hampshire. We bought a big 'ol house on the side of a hill, not far from Dartmouth College. I have a nice view of the Connecticut River valley from my office window and there's a couple acres of land around the house. It's a good place to write a book ... and would be even better if we just had a decent mall. You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take Jersey out of the girl.

When we moved to New Hampshire we realized there was more to this writing stuff than just writing, so we formed a family business, Evanovich, Inc. My son, Peter, a Dartmouth College graduate, assumed responsibility for everything financial. He's the guy who pulls his hair out at tax time and cracks his knuckles when the stock market dips. In '96 my daughter Alex, a film and photography school graduate, came on board and created the website. We get about a million hits a month on the site and Alex does it all ... the graphics, the mail, the comics, the store, the online advertising and the newsletter. Both Peter and Alex work full-time for Evanovich, Inc. I'm their only client. My husband, Pete, has his doctorate in mathematics from Rutgers University and now manages all aspects of the business and tries to keep me on time (a thankless, impossible job!) ... plus he does a little golfing and skiing.

It turns out I'm a really boring workaholic with no hobbies or special interests. My favorite exercise is shopping and my drug of choice is Cheese Doodles. I read comic books and I only watch happy movies. I motivate myself to write by spending my money before I make it. And when I grow up I want to be just like Grandma Mazur.

Evanovich is the recipient of the Crime Writers Association's John Creasey Memorial, Last Laugh, and Silver Dagger awards, as well as the Left Coast Crime's Lefty award, and is the two-time recipient of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's Dilys award. She lives in New Hampshire, where she is at work on her next Stephanie Plum adventure.


Books Published:

RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

ONE FOR THE MONEY

This is where it all began: book one in the Stephanie Plum series.

Stephanie is a tough gal from New Jersey, an unemployed discount lingerie buyer, whose life is...well...to tell the truth - not too flash.

Her Miata has been repossessed, she's so poor that she just drank her last bottle of beer for breakfast and her only chance out of her present rut is her repugnant cousin Vinnie and his bail-bond business.

Of course, she's got some smarts about her too. She's managed to blackmail Vinnie into giving her a bail-bond recovery job worth $10,000 (for a murder suspect), even though she doesn't own a gun and has never apprehended a person in her life.

And the guy she has to get, Joe Morelli, is the same creep who charmed away her teenage virginity behind the pastry case in the Trenton bakery where she worked after school!

But Joe insists that Ziggy Kulesza, the guy he shot, had first drawn on him and that witnesses will back up his story - unfortunately, he can't produce Ziggy's gun or those witnesses just yet.

You get the picture...

There follows Stephanie's several unsuccessful attempts at pulling in Joe, which all in all make a downright hilarious and suspenseful tale of murder and deceit. Bringing in a fugitive is tougher than Stephanie thought - she's pursued by a psycho nutcase (naturally), her best informants are a couple of hookers, her borrowed car is bombed (get used to it), and she shoots her expensive new handbag instead of blowing away bad guy Jimmy Alpha.

Along the way, several more outlandish characters join the story to create even more mayhem!

Janet Evanovich manages to create an absolute delight in her tough, frank, and funny first-person narrator who offers a winning mix of vulgarity and sensitivity. The writing is smooth, clever, and funny. The plot is ingenious, delicious, deceitful, diabolical and fresh, and her dialogue is breezy, bright, and witty.

A great start to a terrific series.



RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

TWO FOR THE DOUGH

In the second of Evanovich's wonderful comic mystery series featuring irrepressible bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, our hero finds herself on the trail of Kenny Mancuso, a boy from the working class suburb of Trenton, who's just shot his best friend and set off an all-out manhunt for gunrunners and illegal weapons.

Mancuso's fresh out of the army and suspiciously wealthy. He's also distantly related to Joe Morelli, a vice cop with ethics that lean toward the gray zone, a libido in permanent overdrive, and a habit of horning in on Stephanie's investigations.

Aided by her tough bounty hunter pal, Ranger, and her funeral-happy Grandma Mazur, Stephanie's soon staggering knee-deep in corpses and lost army coffins, stray body parts and sexual tension, bad fashion and more, trying to shake Morelli and, in doing so, stirring up a psycho who has targeted her for a very nasty death indeed.

Two for the Dough has everything Evanovich fans have come to expect, not to mention Plum's new cache of stun guns, defense sprays, killer flashlights and a .38 Smith & Wesson! And in the end you can be sure that Stephanie gets her man, in more ways than one.

Two For the Dough, although not as funny as the first, has many hilarious moments. Joe Morelli and Grandma Mazur have just as much depth as supporting characters as Stephanie does as the main. Grandma Mazur's funeral home adventures are hilarious and Evanovich's great sense of humor comes to the fore once more. Plum proves to be the hippest and spunkiest heroine created for years.

The writing is wonderful, down to earth and the irreverent dialogue is unrivaled. Fast paced, funny, and very witty - exactly what Plum fans expect.



RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

THREE TO GET DEADLY

In book three of the series, Stephanie steps right in the middle of it - again!

This time, she's after Uncle Mo, a missing candy-store owner with a big heart and an even bigger gun.

But Uncle MO is a respectable old bachelor...and for some reason he's jumped bail. Why did he skip when all he would have faced is a fine and an admonishment to behave himself? Stephanie realizes there's more to the case when, while seeking out one of Mo's pals, she's knocked out and wakes up next to a very dead guy. She finds herself at the top of the Trenton police's suspect list while also ducking bullets being shot at her by mysterious masked thugs.

She also learns that a lot of local drug dealers have been meeting with deadly accidents, leaving town, or keeping very low profiles.

Add to this the fact that she's having a bad hair day - for the whole month of January! What's a girl to do?

And to make matters worse, she's got Lula, a former hooker turned file clerk - now a wannabe bounty hunter - at her side, sticking like glue. Lula's big and blonde and black and itching to get the chance to lock up a crook in the trunk of her car.

Plus, Morelli, the New Jersey vice cop with the slow-burning smile that undermines a girl's strongest resolve is, for some reason, being polite. So what does this mean? Has he found a new love? Or is he manipulating Steph, using her in his police investigation, counting on her unmanageable curiosity and competitive Jersey attitude?

Once again, the entire Plum crew is in action, including Ranger and Grandma Mazur, searching for MO, tripping down a trail littered with dead drug dealers, leading Stephanie to suspect MO has traded his ice-cream scoop for a vigilante gun.

Plum is as funny, tough, and politically incorrect as we've come to expect. This is another terrific ride through Trenton with Ms Evanovich's cast of unrivaled, wonderfully quirky characters. The writing is witty, irreverent and down to earth, with dialogue that will have you laughing out loud. Though the mystery itself is a bit of a stretch, it doesn't matter, because spending time in Trenton with Stephanie is such a joy.



RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

FOUR TO SCORE

This time, in book four of the series, Stephanie Plum, is tracking Maxine Nowicki, who failed to appear in court on a charge of stealing her ex-boyfriend - Eddie Kuntz's - car.

Of course, there's more to it than that. Good old ex-boyfriend is interested in getting back the love letters he supposedly wrote to Maxine, or so he says. But what he's really looking for is a dark secret...

Like most of the quarry Stephanie tracks for her cousin Vinnie, Maxine hasn't gone far. Not only does she keep popping up to taunt and threaten Stephanie, but she's even arranged a little treasure hunt for Eddie. If Eddie follows the puzzling clues she sends him, he'll get back his mushy old love letters.

Stephanie, who doesn't sell herself cheap, takes $1,000 from Eddie to help decipher the clues.

But as they get further into the case, she begins to wonder if helping him is such a good idea. You see, suddenly many of Maxine's nearest and dearest (her mother, her friend Marjorie, and the 7-Eleven manager who last saw her) are turning up dead or mutilated, and Stephanie herself is getting harassed, vandalized, and firebombed.

But when Steph's apartment and car are blown up by the others on Maxine's trail and she moves in with Joe Morelli, the handsome, arrogant cop she's been hung up on since high school, it gets hotter than the explosion that took out her home!

And so the readers are left to boil it all down to the most important questions:

Will Stephanie beat her archrival, trampy skip-tracer Joyce Barnhardt, and find Maxine first?

Has longtime lust-object Joe Morelli's grandmother gotten Stephanie pregnant by putting the Evil Eye on her?

And will Stephanie ever look as foxy as the two transvestite puzzle-solvers she's also got to deal with?

You name it, it's here! Counterfeiting, drugs, extortion, kidnapping, homicide, reckless endangerment - and all of it hilarious!

As always, Evanovich fills her novel with quirky, wacky characters that just add to the fun! Her writing is smart and down to earth and she has a wonderful ear for dialogue.

Another winner!



RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

HIGH FIVE

Stephanie Plum, the glamorous if slightly ditzy bounty hunter from Trenton, New Jersey, is one of the most original creations in recent mystery fiction. And High Five is the fifth entry in Janet Evanovich's increasingly popular series. And boy, is it worth the read!

Poor Stephanie is in trouble once more, big time. And this time, she's got way too much to do!

Here's an average day in the life of Stephanie:

- Her Uncle Fred has disappeared
- A body turns up in a garbage bag
- She's got a nasty bookie following her around town
- Grandma Mazur has her hands on the stun gun
- Stephanie can't keep a car for more than 48 hours
- Two men are trying to get her into bed
- She has nothing to wear to the Mafia wedding
- And there's an angry little man (don't call him a dwarf!) who won't leave her apartment

Boy, and you thought you had troubles!

Bail jumping in Trenton just isn't what it once was, and certainly doesn't bring in the cash. Stephanie's only open case is a small bond, for a small violation, committed by a small person who manages to get on Stephanie's bad side - and quickly.

So, short of money and long on bills, Stephanie comes up with a plan - diversify! Signing on as an intern with entrepreneurial Super Bounty Hunter, Ranger, Stephanie ventures into Ranger's marginally legal operations.

None of this makes vice cop Joe Morelli a happy man. The cop in him can't help but wonder as to the source of Stephanie's expensive new car. And the rest of him, the man who's been friend and lover to Stephanie, can't help but wonder if there's more to the partnership than meets the eye.

But then, Uncle Fred goes missing. Even though Grandma Mazur is sure he was abducted by aliens, Stephanie sets out to look for Fred. He's a perfectly average senior citizen, and he's disappeared without a trace while running errands. He's left his ten year old Pontiac station wagon locked up nice and neat in the Grand Union parking lot, the cleaning is carefully arranged in the back seat, and his wife is at home, waiting for him to return.

However, locked in the top drawer of his desk are photos of a body, dismembered and stuffed into a garbage bag. And locked away in the computer files of another average citizen are the clues that will lead Stephanie to Fred.

You see, Uncle Fred has a few secrets. And Stephanie is about to find them all out...

Original, funny and brilliant, Evanovich delivers another terrific page turner full of hilarious situations, characters and plot twists. You'll be laughing out loud as Stephanie bungles from one misfortune to another (not to mention the amount of cars lost, stolen, blown up...).

Terrific entertainment.



RATING:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:

HOT SIX

Five months after the stunning cliffhanger in High Five, Stephanie's freezing her butt off on a Trenton bridge trying to keep her friend Carol - caught shoplifting some crotchless panties she was too embarrassed to buy - from committing suicide. When Stephanie finally talks Carol down and makes it in to work at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds, it's only to find that her libido-boosting pal Ranger, the professional bounty hunter and sometime hit man, has disappeared.

Also, a building owned by black-market arms dealer Alexander Ramos has burned down, with Ramos's son Homer lying inside, dead from a gunshot wound. Ranger is wanted for questioning as he happens to have been caught on film by video cameras in the building...he was the last person to leave the building before it caught fire. He was at the scene, he was with the victim, and he's the number-one suspect.

Stephanie's boss Vinnie wants her to find him, but Stephanie, who knows she won't find Ranger if he doesn't want to be found, refuses. Soon everyone thinks she's hot on Ranger's trail: from her cop boyfriend Joe Morelli to the two Laurel and Hardy wannabes who suddenly start following her around Trenton in a black Lincoln.

But Stephanie's got other things to worry about. For one thing, Grandma Mazur's moved in with her, and so has Bob, a golden retriever who's only partly house trained. Then Ranger starts popping up at odd times of the night, with instructions for Stephanie to keep an eye on another Ramos son, Hannibal.

And it just gets weirder (and funnier) from there!

Add to that one homicidal maniac, a couple more dead bodies, Stephanie's usual bad "car karma", the zit from hell, and the top button of a pair of jeans that just won't do up, and you've got yourself another fine Stephanie Plum adventure. And guess what? There's another terrific cliffhanger waiting for you at the end.

Once again, Evanovich delivers the laughs! Far from tiring with the same characters, Evanovich adds new colorful characters to her well-developed cast - and it all works so wonderfully well. The novel, fast-paced and full of humor, as you'd come to expect, is impossible to put down.


Websites:

The Official Janet Evanovich website can be found at http://www.evanovich.com.


Where to buy:

Availability:     

For those who order online, try:

Amazon UK!   Buy Laymon & Others Here!   




 RLK! Spotlight On...
Past Features

 August 2000: Jim Thompson Click here to view.
 July 2000: Oxford English Dictionary Click here to view.
 June 2000: James Ellroy Click here to view.
 May 2000: Reader's Window Click here to view.
 April 2000: Richard North Patterson Click here to view.
 March 2000: Ed Gorman Click here to view.
 February 2000: Harry Turtledove Click here to view.
 January 2000: J. N. Williamson Click here to view.
 December 99: Phil Rickman Click here to view.
 November 99: Paul Thomas Click here to view.
 October 99: James Lee Burke Click here to view.
 September 99: Leisure Books Click here to view.
 August 99: Gerald Seymour Click here to view.
 July 99: Brian Lumley Click here to view.
 June 99: Michael Connelly Click here to view.
 May 99: Stephen Laws Click here to view.
 April 99: Gemma O'Connor Click here to view.
 March 99: Simon Clark Click here to view.
 February 99: Obsidian Books Click here to view.
 January 99: John Case Click here to view.

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