by Janet Evanovich, contemporary (2004)
Harper, $26.95, ISBN 0-06-058400-9
On one hand, Metro Girl, the start of another new series by this author after the successful Stephanie (Brain)Plum(bed) series and the awful but disillusioningly successful nonetheless Full series, is better than any of the Full books. There is no talking car, for example, trying to be cute. On the other hand, Metro Girl stars a heroine that reminds me of Jessica Simpson trying too hard to emulate Stephanie Plum as a way of life. There are some chuckles to be gained from this book but the author is not trying to do anything new here. Anyone overdosed on the Girls Behaving Idiotically theme of those Stephanie Plum books will not find solace in Alexandra "Barney" Barnabas' hambrained twitwaffle antics.
Forget Trenton. Barney is a Baltimore gal. She is a responsible and nice kinda girl (kinda like a certain Trenton bounty hunter, gee). Her brother, Bill, is nicknamed "Wild" for a good reason that has nothing to do whatsoever with the author's creativity when it comes to her characters' nicknames - Barney has been trying to keep Bill out of trouble for a long time now. But Bill just disappears while on the race car circuit in Miami. The last person Bill talked to was Barney via the phone. Barney sets out to Miami with determination, if not the brain, to find Bill. She meets Sam Hooker, the "NASCAR Guy" (you will encounter this phrase a lot in this book so you better get used to it), who isn't amused that his boat The Happy Hooker (I know, I know) has vanished along with Bill. These two soon realize that Bill is in more trouble than they expected initially and as bullets fly, sexual tension arise along with snappy wisecracks.
The plot is silly and filled with mostly scenes of the heroine bumbling her way through heaven and hell - mostly hell - that is the story and making some truly dumb decisions along the way. I really don't have much else to say because I suspect that the reader's reaction to this book will be pretty much the same as her reaction to the last few Stephanie (Brain)Plum(bed) books. Ms Evanovich isn't trying anything new or fresh here, with her writing keeping to the same formula of Stupid Is The New Good. If you laugh at Stephanie Plum flailing and tripping her way through her last few stories, Barney may be just as hilarious as she is pretty much Stephanie's slower-witted sister when it comes to characterization. The humor is sometimes sharp and hard-hitting but on the whole the author's gags, shticks, and one-liners are becoming repetitious and stale.
I don't really see how the author can sustain a series out of Metro Girl because Sam and Barney act on their attraction to each other in this book so unless the author introduces some Ranger Ex Machina in the later books, the absence of 'Shipper elements to reel in the fans would leave her clumsy plots that rely too much on stupid mishaps of the heroine really exposed to public scrutiny. Or she could, perhaps, come up with a truly interesting mystery starring two funny characters. Call me a cynic but after seeing how Ms Evanovich has absolutely no intention of trying anything new with Metro Girl, I don't think anything great will be coming out of the series. Most likely this will be another car wreck series like the Full books. I will be happy to eat my words if I am eventually proven wrong, but for now, I'm done with this book and signing off from the series altogether. I have suffered through the "Plum"meting quality of the Stephanie Plum books and I don't think I have nerves strong enough to sit through the actions of a birdbrained heroine created out of the rejected genes of Stephanie Plum.
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