Stephanie Plum is a good girl at a bad end who, upon finding that she's rapidly running out of money, decides to take up an interesting career choice. What career? Bounty hunting. Of course, the fact that she has no idea what she's doing becomes somewhat problematic, but Stephanie's nothing but determined, and she soon acquires help: her new best friend Lula, a former hooker; her on-again off-again sort-of-boyfriend Joe Morelli, a cop; Grandma Mazur, her absolutely insane grandmother; and Ranger, a fellow bounty hunter who redefines 'man of mystery'. Both with and without their help, Stephanie manages to take down criminals, expose major crimes, and she always gets her man... though usually it's after creating a whole lot of chaos in her wake. All in the name of good, of course.Cars explodefrequently. This is a series of 21 (so far) novels, helpfully numbered via their titles:
One For The Money
Two For The Dough
Three To Get Deadly, etc.
The latest is Top Secret Twenty-One (2014).There are also four "between the numbers" books, with a slightly more paranormal slant (but still as hilarious as the rest of the series), with titles based on the word "Plum" and various holiday themes (so far, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween).The books are pretty funny, with surreal humour, exploding cars, the weirdness that is Grandma Mazur and some take-downs gone very dodgy.A film based on the first book was released in January 2012 with Katherine Heigl as Stephanie.A spinoff series focusing on Diesel (who appears in the "between the numbers" books) is also underway. The first book, Wicked Appetite, was released in September 2010. The second book, Wicked Business, was released in June 2012.
Addiction Displacement: Stephanie has quite the Sweet Tooth, so when she gives up sugar for a while her libido goes into overdrive. She manages to wear out Morelli, who finds almost any excuse to get it on with her. It got to the point where he locked himself into his guest bedroom just to get a good night's sleep. He's normally very territorial when it comes to her dealings with Ranger, but in this instance, he actually suggested that Stephanie avail herself of his rival to "take up the slack".
The Alleged Car: Stephanie has a lot of these, due to financial constraints and to her amazing talent for getting them destroyed at least Once an Episode.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Stephanie's juggling two of them - Joe, her childhood crush turned sexy cop; and Ranger, ex-Special Forces Batman-esque badass.
The books make a point about Joe being much more responsible than he used to be. Stephanie herself notes that Morelli isn't as much of a bad boy anymore.
In the between-the-numbers books, there's also Diesel, who has bad-boy characteristics.
Anti-Hero: Ranger. Used to be a Type IV, now is more a Type III. Morelli might qualify as a Type II.
A-Team Firing: Most of the time Lula and Stephanie can't hit their target, but do lots of property damage instead. Justified by neither of them having any training at all with firearms (Stephanie has repeatedly refused efforts by her boyfriends to teach her) and both usually being in a complete panic any time a situation that actually requires firepower comes up. Sometimes Stephanie gets lucky, though. Likewise Grandma Mazur.
Ate His Gun: Larry Lipinski after he kills his co-worker, Martha Deeter.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking "Hard to feel lucky when I've just let a depressed senior citizen slip through my fingers, found a dead woman in his shed, and sat through dinner with my parents."
Amateur Sleuth: In practice, she's more amateur detective than bounty hunter. She only starts investigating because of her bounties, but sometimes she is asked to find missing people.
Auto Erotica: An interesting version when Stephanie, in an unintentional and literal version, climaxed when she rode a Harley Davidson for the first time.
Stephanie and Ranger have made love on at least one occasion in one of Ranger's trademark black cars; Stephanie inadvertently hit the car horn at a critical moment.
Stephanie has also caught one of her bounties in flagrante delicto in the backseat of their car.
And a slight aversion: Stephanie and Morelli almost do it in a car until she finds out he bugged her. That's when she leaves him in a bad neighborhood with no pants. But then she comes back and gives him his gun.
Awesome McCoolname: Gerwulf Grimoire, an unmentionable and Diesel's cousin in Plum Spooky.
Badass Family: The Morellis. They're a hard-drinkin', hard-fightin' bunch. They men either become cops or criminals. The women are long-suffering and tough. Then there's Grandma Bella...
Berserk Button: For Stephanie, a certain word. For Lula, calling her "fat". For Grandma Mazur, closed caskets at viewings.
Bestiality Is Depraved: Vinnie doesn't stop at one, species or number. There's also a persistent rumor about Joyce being rather fond of dogs.
Better Than Sex: Stephanie constantly lists cake (especially birthday cake or her mother's pineapple upside down cake) as higher on her list of priorities than sex.
Betty and Veronica: With her childhood friend Morelli being the Betty (despite the fact that he'd be a Veronica in any other series), and Ranger being a mega-Veronica.
Big Beautiful Woman: Lula is described as a size-sixteen woman stuffed into a size-ten leopard print spandex. Stephanie also mentions that being big works for Lula. She was a former hooker, after all, and business didn't seem too bad (with the exception of Benito Ramirez).
Bigger Is Better in Bed: Morelli. Ranger. Tank (apparently only Lula can take him on). And Dickie, according to Stephanie, which is probably the reason why he got around as much as he did.
Black Best Friend: Lula, a very fat former prostitute, who managed to stop one skip resisting by sitting on him. This proved effective enough she's done it a few more times since.
Bounty Hunter: Stephanie isn't so good at being one. Ranger is, and serves as Stephanie's mentor. Lula likes to say she's one, but she's terrible at it and it messes up her wardrobe too much. Over the duration of the books they both get better at the job.
Casual Danger Dialog: Spectacularly averted - whenever Stephanie is in serious physical danger, she loses all of her Deadpan Snarker ways and becomes a crying, terrified wreck.
She holds her cool against The Webmaster in To The Nines. At least at first.
She's much more in control when she's only being threatened, but often collapses into a blubbering mess after.
Ranger is a straight example—he seems pretty much completely calm and in control in every situation up to and including shoot-outs, except for the time his daughter was threatened; even then, his composure was only mildly shaken, though he did manage to get himself shot.
Chekhov's Gun: In Eleven On Top, Stephanie learns that a key piece of evidence was made out of mortician's putty. She doesn't put it together until the end of the book when she learns that the plot was masterminded by the Burg's local mortician, who was impersonating his dead son.
Childhood Friend Romance: Stephanie and Joe. It remains to be seen whether Morelli will eventually come out victorious, though.
Christianity is Catholic: Because a huge chunk of Trenton's population is of Italian descent, what glimpses of Christianity there are are mostly Roman Catholic flavored.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Stephanie goes into CJG mode every time there is made mention of Joe and Terry Gilman together. She does call herself out on it, though, and realizes she also makes Morelli jealous every time she's with Ranger.
Crazy Jealous Guy: A subversion; Joe is clearly jealous of any time Stephanie spends in proximity to Ranger, but doesn't go ballistic. Stephanie remarks that a younger Morelli would have played this straighter, and would've gone after whoever guy she was with gun at the ready. Joe himself says that while he does get jealous, he trusts Ranger. To a point.
Cloudcuckoolander: Grandma Mazur. The woman goes to stranger's funerals for fun, for God's sake.
Cluster F-Bomb: Nearly every sentence out of Sally Sweet's mouth, and occasionally by other characters.
Coffin Contraband: In Two For The Dough, US military coffins are used to smuggle weapons.
Cool Car: Uncle Sandor's Buick. Guys love it (and have said the exact same phrase about it), and it's indestructible to boot. Stephanie doesn't share their opinion on the Buick's inherent coolness, because it guzzles gas like there's no tomorrow. However, she does appreciate the car's indestructibility, and on at least one occasion deliberately uses it.
Cool Old Lady: Grandma Mazur, of course (Played by Debbie Reynolds in the movie.)
Grandma has a food fight with her own daughter, Stephanie's mother, in Eleven On Top, after Stephanie's sister elopes to Disney World, leaving the wedding cake behind. (Stephanie gets to eat no fewer than seven pieces before the confection is utterly destroyed. Stephanie is a cake addict.)
Companion Cube: The Tiki idol in Notorious Nineteen. Both Lula and Stephanie talk to Tiki and blame "him" for several bad decisions.
Despite being alive, Rex the hamster serves this function, being called Stephanie's "roommate", to whom she often talks and ascribes opinions.
A Date with Rosie Palms: Occurs with some regularity in the books. Stephanie herself admits to sampling the pleasures of the shower massage. Also, Lula and Joyce are apparently vibrator connoisseurs. Stephanie gets saddled with buying a rather impressive model that even garners Joyce's respect.
Deadpan Snarker: Connie, most of the time. Ranger, though most people don't see it coming and it causes spit-takes and choking.
Depraved Homosexual: Sugar, in Four to Score. He lives with "Sally", and is in love with him. He tries to kill Stephanie because he believes she's stealing his boyfriend (when there's no actual relationship, as Sally is straight).
Differently Powered Individual: This is the theme in the between the numbers books, where, allegedly, people have different powers. The main antagonist in Sugar Plumscalls lightning, or is implied to. Diesel calls them "Unmentionables", or something to that extent. It isn't even explicit what their powers come from, whether they're magical, psychic, or comicbook-style superpowers. There's some lighthearted talk about "cosmic juju", though.
Dirty Old Woman: Oh, Grandma Mazur. Much to the consternation of both of Stephanie's parents, who seem to have to listen to one of her descriptions of her love life every other dinner.
Discretion Shot: The literary version, with at least two cases of make-out scenes stopping abruptly when the male partner to Stephanie reaches her groin area.
In the movie, Stephanie gets naked and handcuffed to a shower and is just barely covered by the shower curtain, also an old man who likes to "expose himself" is covered by conveneniently placed objects, thank goodness.
Distracted by the Sexy: Ranger has to tell Stephanie to tone down the wardrobe because it keeps distracting his "merry men" from their surveillance duties. He cuts the feed to her cubicle in Eleven on Top for much of the same reason; she inadvertently lets out a pleasured moan when Ranger brushes against her.
Surprisingly inverted in the film, as she manages to knock a guy to the ground and handcuff him after he shoots Ranger, she pepper sprays Benito Ramirez while he's fighting Joe, allowing him to knock out Benito, and whenBig Bad Jimmy Alpha has Stephanie and Joe cornered and is planning to kill them, Stephanie knocks him down and he shoots her in the ass, but it barely slows her down and she manages to grab a gun from her purse and promptly shoots Jimmy in the chest five times in a row.
Distressed Dude: Stephanie rescues the odd guy on occasion, like a bound and gagged Albert Kloughn in To The Nines.
Does Not Like Guns: Stephanie, who keeps hers in a cookie jar. This is in complete contrast to seemingly everyone else in Trenton; a visit to her local beauty parlor reveals that everyone there has their gun, except for Stephanie.
Drag Queen: Sally, Sugar, and their band. While Sugar is actually gay, Sally only likes to take advantage of the aesthetic.
Drives Like Crazy: After finally getting her driver's license, Grandma racked up enough traffic violations to lose it again in five days.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first book, One For The Money, is noticeably more realistic and much more brutal than subsequent entries in the series. Benito Ramirez, the evil boxer, is the only real Complete Monster in the series so far - all other villains are in some way sympathetic or understandable. Even when Ramirez reappears in the fifth book, he is kept mostly out of sight, just a threat in the background (though admittedly a serious one) that never really comes into play when he is shot by someone gunning for Stephanie.
Except for the Buick. It is basically indestructible, unlike the things it runs into. If it had bulletproof windows, Stephanie would be invulnerable in it. Too bad she hates driving it.
In one of the books it not only has a bomb planted on it (which fails to go off), Stephanie also uses it as a battering ram. The Buick incurred no damage whatsoever beyond small scratches to the paint. The other car was almost totaled.
In the ninth book, her car doesn't blow up, but this gag is lampshaded by one of Grandma Bella's so-called visions.
By the thirteenth book, Steph finds out that all the Rangeman guys have been taking bets on when she'll blow up the next car. Ranger writes the ever-increasing cost off in his budget under "entertainment".
Occasionally Stephanie will have her car of the moment stolen, pancaked or accordioned for a change of pace.
Everyone Looks Sexier If French: Stephanie often emphasizes her love interests' ethnicity, like Morelli's sexy Italian-ness, Ranger's sexy Cuban-ness, and Diesel's... well, actually, Diesel is Swiss, but Stephanie didn't know that. She simply assumed he was American, and he was born and raised in the U.S.
Friend on the Force: When Stephanie isn't on speaking terms with Morelli, she goes to one of her best friends, Eddie Gazarra, for inside information. He is conveniently married to her cousin, Shirley The Whiner.
She occasionally pulls this with Carl Constanza, another cop, although she seems to be on less brilliant terms with him.
The Fun in Funeral: Grandma Mazur likes to attend viewings at the local funeral home and gets annoyed when it's a closed coffin viewing. She has, on more than a few such occasions, tried to open said coffin. The local funeral home now stations personnel by the casket to intercept Grandma before she can reach it, resulting in a couple of tussles and Grandma's being tossed out without even a cookie to tide her over.
Or the time that the funeral home got blown up.
Which has become a Remember When You Blew Up a Sun? thing for Stephanie; the incident is guaranteed to be brought up by someone at least once per book. It's gotten to the point where she tells people who recognize her "I didn't blow up the funeral home and I barely ever shoot people."
The local funeral home is a major social center in "the Burg", the neighborhood where Stephanie's parents and grandmother, Joe Morelli and his family, and many others live. A particularly interesting viewing is guaranteed to turn into a major neighborhood gathering.
Stephanie has been forced to do this twice. Both times, she had to ditch all her clothing due to it becoming filthy and/or soaked, and both times she could get replacement outerwear, but no bra or panties. Stephanie found the experience strange and a bit embarrassing. Not surprisingly, Ranger and Morelli had a different point of view about Stephanie wearing Vapor Wear. And her mother seemed more worried about Stephanie losing her bra than by her being held captive by killers.
When spending the night in Ranger's apartment (Ranger isn't there), Stephanie checks out his wardrobe and doesn't find any underpants. After that she spends a lot of time speculating about whether he wears any or not.
...Trenton. In the old days, it would have been a prize, but the old days were gone and the Mob no longer exclusively ran Trenton. The Mob had to share the Trenton pie with Russian thugs, kid gangs, Asian triads, black and Hispanic gangstas.
Also, Connie, whose uncle is a notorious Jersey mafioso, and Vinnie's wife, whose father is mafia, too.
In one book Stephanie describes the Burg as "sort of a retirement village for the Mob" to explain its usually low crime rate.
Mr. Fanservice: In order of increasing hotness (or so the reader is told): Diesel, Morelli, and Ranger.
Never Live It Down: In-Universe, Stephanie shooting and killing Jimmy Alpha and burning down the funeral home. She is always reassuring people that the fire was an accident and she rarely ever shoots people.
No Name Given: Diesel. It's unclear whether it's First, Last, or Nickname.
Not a Morning Person: Stephanie. She thinks 5am is the middle of the night. Some of her associates disagree, with drastic consequences for Stephanie's sleep cycle and mood. Ranger is a repeat offender.
Diesel from the between the numbers books isn't fond of mornings either.
Not Allowed to Grow Up: Evanovich has stated that she doesn't intend to age the characters, which keeps Stephanie at 30 throughout the series.
Not in Front of the Kid: Salvatore "Sally" Sweet is a walking Cluster F-Bomb, until he gets a job as an elementary school bus driver, whereupon he starts wearing a rubber band around his wrist as a pain deterrent for when he swears.
Actually invoked by Evanovich herself when she reworked a previous book into the Jamie Swift and Max Holt (the Full books, with titles like Full House, Full Speed, Full Blast, etc) series. She mentioned that she wanted to create another universe with zany Plumlike characters, but not actually set in the world of Stephanie Plum.
Road Apples: As mentioned above, Bob eats everything. That has to go somewhere, and Stephanie decides that Joyce's front lawn makes an ideal toilet. Vinnie's staff, with the obvious exception of Joyce, approves.
Running Gag: Loads and loads of them. Stephanie's cars, her sweet tooth, Lula's taser, Grandma Mazur's love of open-casket viewings, the ongoing rivalry between Stephanie and Joyce Barnhardt, Joyce bribing Vinnie for cases with really odd sex, Bob the Dog's omnivorous appetite and gigantic defecatory habits, Stephanie's mom's habit of ironing whenever she gets too weirded out, etc., etc....
Sacred Hospitality: Of a sort. A proper Burg homemaker would never admit to having a house unprepared for guests. "I know you weren't expecting company" is mentioned by Stephanie as being the magic phrase for being invited inside, if only to show off that their home is always ready to receive visitors.
Sanity Ball: Half the time, Steph is boggled by the sheer weirdness of her nearest and dearest. The other half the time, they're boggling at her.
Stripperiffic: Lula. While she was a prostitute, and some of her clothes are holdovers, she just likes wearing tight revealing clothing (which is usually four sizes too small).
Stuff Blowing Up: Stephanie's cars. Sometimes, Ranger's cars. But never Big Blue. Buildings Stephanie is in, like her apartment, Morelli's garage, and places where FTAs are holed up or where Stephanie investigates. Her parents' house manages to come through relatively unscathed, only being set partially on fire.
Stun Guns: As in the direct contact sort, used for comedy, especially when Grandma Mazur tazes people.
Lula loves tazing people. It causes problems sometimes, but then again a lot of bad guys, jerks and FTA's (failures to appear, the folks Stephanie brings in to earn her daily living) have felt Lula's tazer too, so it all evens out.
In one of the books, Stephanie's inability to get her tazer to work, with said tazer being used properly by everyone else (including one FTA who tazes Stephanie with her own Stun Gun), is a Running Gag.
Sweet Tooth: Stephanie loves cake. And doughnuts. And eclairs.
Terrible Interviewees Montage: Vinnie's bonds office has a glut of FTAs in Twelve Sharp ever since Ranger formed his own security company. They put out ads for prospective bounty hunters, and most of them are idiots who watch too much Dog The Bounty Hunter.
The Rival: Stephanie caught her then-new and now-ex husband Dickie Orr doing the nasty on the dinner table with Joyce Barnhardt. Since Joyce was hired by Vinnie, she now has to compete with her. Joyce often gets her comeuppance, though.
Trademark Favorite Food: Stephanie and cake. And Tastykakes, which even made their way into the movie when Morelli wonders how Stephanie can live on them. Stephanie also makes a lot of peanut butter and olive sandwiches.
Viva Las Vegas: Stephanie, Lula, and Connie go to Las Vegas, and naturally, Hilarity Ensues. Connie loses all her money gambling, and Lula tosses a pair of her extremely large panties at a Tom Jones impersonator, which indirectly starts a riot between a bunch of them and a couple of Elvis impersonators. Similar hijinks happen when they take a trip to Atlantic City.
Weirdness Magnet: Stephanie's mother is constantly bemoaning Stephanie's tendency to attract trouble, and once a book will suggest she take up a nice safe boring job.