Seven Up
by Janet Evanovich, contemporary (2001)
Headline, 10.00, ISBN 0-7472-6961-0

Sometimes I wonder if a creative artist getting too close to his or her fans is such a good thing. I mean, look at Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was a good TV series, but at the same time, it is slowly jumping the shark. Why? I don't know, but I wonder if the blind adulation lavished by scary fans at their Bronze website is getting to the writers' head. The last season is dreadfully dull in pacing and character, and don't get me started about Glory the dull, inept villainess. Or Spike, who should be dead already were not for the insane Spike Redemptionista zealots who will desert the show if Buffy and Spike don't get together.

I mean, come on - Spike? The guy has cute cheekbones, but his character should either revert back to his evil snarkiness or just die. D-I-E, because Spike taking care of hugsy-wugsy Dawn or getting blow jobs from Robot Buffy is an embarrassment and an insult all at once.

No, I know this is not a review of Buffy, I'm just warming up here, because have you seen the boards at this author's official site? Now those are scary readers, and I'm sure if Ms Evanovich writes a book all about Stephanie Plum blowing wind, many of them might just stand up and give the author a standing ovation anyway. And it may be so easy to get carried away, because Seven Up, the latest in the Stephanie Plum saga, seems catered more towards placating/keep fans dangling than to actually tell a good story.

Maybe I'll get the story out of the way first. Stephanie Plum, after discovering that people like her better when she is chasing after screaming, horny, senile old geezers rather than boring us with police procedural stuff, embarks on another Crazy Old Bastards adventure. Crazy old people in this story include Steph's failure-to-appear Eddie DeChooch, some horny over-60 nymphomaniac who gives good BJ until her heart expires on her (haw haw), Grandma Mazur wanting to buy a Harley (guffaw), and assorted old people who jump around, jostle around in funeral parlors, and talk like Robert DeNiro. There's also Steph's sister whose half-baked attempt at lesbianism would have been insulting were it not so ineptly handled, Mama Plum's menopause, Lula's degenerating vocabulary (she seems capable of speaking in barely anything but "Uh!" now), Joe's reduction into nothing more than Steph's human vibrator, and Ranger's reduction into nothing more than a hook to get Ranger Fangirls' panties all wadded up.

Yes, it's still funny - somewhat (the old people wanting to have sex, eeeuw hee-hee act is really getting stale, and I miss the actual humor not-for-the-sake-of-humor, but good humor present in One For The Money to Three To Get Deadly). It's still readable. But now, Seven Up seems to be nothing more than a gimmick. Ranger's presence is pretty much deadweight, nothing more than to make really gullible Rangerites go "Aaaaahhhh!" in orgasm de literati. The cliffhanger at the ending is now a tired, manipulative device that only works for readers who are diehard Ranger/Steph 'Shippers.

I don't have emotional investment in the Steph/Ranger/Joe love triangle anymore, which ceases to be interesting after Joe and Steph did the deed in - book four? - anyway, I don't really care anymore. I'm more interested in the Cute, Splendorous, Pure Goofball Love of Walter "Mooner" Dunphy and Dougie Kruper. Here are two losers who are joined at the hip and they even watch wrestling together. Dude, man, these two are so obviously in love and too geek-dork to know it. Awesome, man. They're so cute - and I do mean "Cuuuuttte!" - together, it warms my heart. Losers need some love too, y'know?

And if Lula hooks up with Ranger (whom I always picture after Vin Diesel), now that will be interesting too. But really, it's all about Dougie dealing Mooner's moons, man. Ahem, I didn't say that.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Seven Up. This book is definitely in trouble when its suspense angle is becoming overshadowed by the overpopulation of hypochondriac, sex-mad senior citizens. When Joe and Ranger become nothing more than teasers for readers and when Steph becomes a mere, hapless observer in her own story. And yes, she still can't find a mace spray in her handbag. After six books, I'd have thought someone would have taken mercy on her and give her shooting lessons.

What next in this series? I don't know. I'll keep reading, shame on me, because Ms Evanovich's humor is still a class in itself. But the Stephanie Plum series is fast mutating into an Old People Behaving Badly nonsense story. Maybe it's time someone gag those Ranger/Joe/Steph 'Shippers and let the author concentrate on writing a substantial story for a change.

I hate to do this, after my diatribe, but I still have to give Seven Up a generous 80. Bad book or not, Seven Up still entertains. Only, when compared to the earlier books in this series, Seven Up is merely poor imitation.

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