Few characters in modern mystery fiction are better loved than Janet Evanovich's inept (though I risk some flak from using that adjective) bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, whose latest escapades are chronicled in To the Nines. This time around, Stephanie's trailing an illegal immigrant on the lam from the law (and more importantly, on the run from her bail bondsman-cousin, Vinnie). Her travels will take her far afield from her usual Trenton haunts to the glitter and glitz of Las Vegas. (What's a Jersey girl to do?) The usual cast of characters is present: the irrepressible pink-haired Grandma Mazur, mysterious man-in-black Ranger, annoying sister Valerie (pregnant and ready to pop), retired (but by no means retiring) hooker Lula, et al. Fans of intricate plots and elaborate twists should look elsewhere for their entertainment; the Stephanie Plum novels are all about characters (in every sense of the word) and their strange and wonderful interactions. Longtime Evanovich readers cite humor and sense of family among the reasons for reading her books, and I concur wholeheartedly.

Nashville-based writer Bruce Tierney is a lifelong mystery reader who was weaned on the Hardy Boys.

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