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Literature / Stephanie Plum

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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 explode frequently.


This is a series of 26 (so far) novels, helpfully numbered via their titles:

  • One For The Money (1994)
  • Two For The Dough (1996)
  • Three To Get Deadly (1997)
  • Four to Score (1998)
  • High Five (1999)
  • Hot Six (2000)
  • Seven Up (2001)
  • Hard-eight (2002)
  • To the Nines (2003)
  • Ten Big Ones (2004)
  • Eleven on Top (2005)
  • Twelve Sharp (2006)
  • Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)
  • Fearless Fourteen (2008)
  • Finger Lickin' Fifteen (2009)
  • Sizzling Sixteen (2010)
  • Smokin' Seventeen (2011)
  • Explosive Eighteen (2011)
  • Notorious Nineteen (2012)
  • Takedown Twenty (2013)
  • Top Secret Twenty-One (2014)
  • Tricky Twenty-Two (2015)
  • Turbo Twenty-Three (2016)
  • Hardcore Twenty-Four (2017)
  • Look Alive Twenty-Five (2018)
  • Twisted Twenty-Six (2019)

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; it was poorly reviewed and lost money in cinemas, but the author liked it.

Lizzy and Diesel, A spinoff series focusing on Diesel (who appears in the "between the numbers" books) is also underway.

This series includes examples of:

  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Stephanie chickens out of telling Joe how she feels. She says "I Love You!" to him jokingly only because he brings food.
  • Action Girl: Stephanie is a humorous deconstruction of both this and Action Survivor.
  • 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".
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Whenever Grandma Mazur takes to dressing sexy. She is described at one point looking like "a deflated blow-up doll".
  • 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 Like Ponies: Mary Alice, one of Stephanie's nieces by her sister Valerie, takes this one further: she actually not just pretends to be a horse, but insists that she is one.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Stephanie's juggling two of them - Joe Morelli, her childhood crush turned sexy cop; and Ranger, ex-Special Forces Batman-esque badass. The books make a point about Morelli being much more responsible than he used to be, and Stephanie herself notes that he isn't as much of a bad boy anymore.
    • In the between-the-numbers books, there's also Diesel, who has bad-boy characteristics.
  • All Men Are Perverts: About the only character this doesn't apply to is Stephanie's father. Most of the men seem to have sex on the brain, with Vinnie reigning as king pervert.
  • Amateur Sleuth: In practice, Stephanie's more an amateur detective than a professional bounty hunter. She usually starts investigating because of her bounties, but sometimes she is asked to find missing people.
  • Anti-Hero: Ranger. Used to be a Type IV, now is more a Type III. Morelli might qualify as a Type II.
  • Anything That Moves: Vinnie. Seriously. The man once screwed a duck. Maybe.
  • Archenemy: How Stephanie thinks of Joyce. She is more of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis than an actual enemy.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 Mc Coolname: 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...
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: The chicken-costume mascot at Cluck-in-a-Bucket (sometimes called Mister Clucky) will probably get the worst of it if there's something going down in the restaurant while Steph is around.
  • 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 Bad: Each book has at least one, either the FTA themselves or the person responsible for the mysterious events in the books.
    • One for the Money: Has crooked manager-turned-drug mule Jimmy Alpha as the main villain, with the Benito Ramirez as The Heavy responsible for most of the more direct danger.
    • Two for the Dough: Kenny Mancuso, the FTA, is the primary antagonist.
    • Three to Get Deadly: Reverend Bill and his congregation are responsible for the vigilante killings of local drug dealers, and Uncle Mo was an Unwitting Instigator of Doom.
    • Four to Score: Leo Kuntz and his son Eddie.
    • High Five: Allan Shempsky.
    • Hot Six: Underworld family figures Homer, Alexander, and Hannibal Ramos all contributed to the events of the book.
  • 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).
  • Big Damn Heroes: Since Stephanie is often in distress, Ranger and/or Morelli have to come in and save her. A notable one is in Ten Big Ones, where Transvestite/Schoolbus Driver/Singer Salvatore "Sally" Sweet sees Stephanie being abducted by a gang. He swoops in on his bus, squishing a third of the gang and mowing down another third with an Uzi causing the remainder to scatter.
  • Big Eater: Lula, Bob, Stephanie (especially with regards to cake), Valerie (Stephanie's sister) when pregnant, and possibly Morelli.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Bob. Very friendly, as his greeting involves sticking his nose into your crotch. Eats a lot everything.
  • 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.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Stephanie fills this role a few times: for Spiro Stiva in Two for the Dough, Brenda in Fearless Fourteen, and Ranger in Notorious Nineteen. She plays the "babe" part decently enough, but the "bodyguard" bit? Not so much.
  • 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.
  • Bulletproof Fashion Plate: Ranger. Once - once - there was a teeny tiny bit of egg splatter at the end of one of his shirt sleeves, and that was in an early book. Ever since, Ranger always comes out completely unscathed from whatever mess Stephanie manages to cover herself in (which happens very often).
  • Burger Fool: Cluck-in-a-Bucket and its employees are unfortunate victims of Stephanie's tendency to become a disaster magnet.
  • Camp Straight: Sally Sweet. Not so much in mannerisms as in dressing like a woman, though. He can color-coordinate and accessorize with the best of them.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Interestingly, it's Stephanie that finds it hard to actually put into words that she loves both Morelli and Ranger. It's the two of them who are much more open about their feelings about her.
  • The Casanova: When he was younger, Morelli had a reputation for going after all the women in town, including Stephanie. Now in his thirties he's calmed down and limits his attention to her only - although his reputation remains.
  • Casual Danger Dialog:
    • Often spectacularly averted — when 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.
  • Cathartic Chores: Stephanie's mother's usual response to being worried about a family member or otherwise upset is ironing. She once ironed the same shirt for four hours during a crisis.
  • Chained to a Bed:
    • Morelli cuffs Stephanie to the shower rod in One for the Money. Ranger has to go in and rescue her, but thankfully for her she has the shower curtain as cover.
    • Lula gets cuffed to a bed in Eleven on Top after doing the deed with an attractive FTA. Stephanie lets her out after wondering what took her so long.
    • Stephanie loses yet another pair of handcuffs to a fleet-footed FTA in Hard Eight, and Vinnie prefers to imagine Stephanie simply has a man cuffed to her bed instead.
  • 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.
  • Chick Magnet: Morelli and Ranger. The thing is, neither of them return the attention because they're both in love with Stephanie.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Stephanie and Joe. It remains to be seen whether Morelli will eventually come out victorious, though.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Both Morelli and Ranger qualify, making it clear they love Eating the Eye Candy but at times being respectful of Stephanie and her body.
  • 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.
  • Clashing Cousins: Morelli and his cousin Dominic don't get along in book14. Morello dislikes Dominic for being a criminal while Dominic hates him for inheriting their aunt she house (where his stolen money is hidden somewhere) and because Dominic (mistakenly) thinks that Joe is the one who knocked up his sister in High School.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Companion Cube: The Tiki idol in Notorious Nineteen. Both Lula and Stephanie talk to Tiki and blame "him" for several bad decisions.
  • Covered in Gunge: Happens to Stephanie with alarming regularity. Lampshaded by Ranger in Finger Lickin' Fifteen
    Ranger: I honestly don't know how you manage to do this. Paint, barbecue sauce, flour. It boggles the mind."
  • Crack Is Cheaper: Brought up jokingly in-universe when discussing Lula's appetite.
    Lula: I'm a comfort eater. I relieve my stress with comfort food.
    Connie: You've eaten everything but the desk. It'd be cheaper to get you addicted to drugs.
  • 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.
  • Crossdresser: Sally Sweet. He plays it for laughs, being in a band full of 'em. Has expressed an interest in making his act wholesome.
  • Damage-Proof Vehicle: Big Blue is apparently Made of Indestructium.
  • 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). Sugar was convinced that he was convincing Sally to try "batting for the other team."
  • Determinator: Stephanie is pretty incompetent as either a bounty hunter or a detective. She is somewhat lucky, but her real talent is that she simply will not give up. No matter how many times an FTA gets away or humiliates her, she'll just pull herself together and come after them again, and eventually, she'll get them.
  • Differently Powered Individual: This is the theme in the between the numbers books, where, allegedly, people have different powers. The main antagonist in Sugar Plums calls 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.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Jeane Ellen Burrows is explicitly described as a female version of Ranger. While Ranger is compared favorably to Batman, Jeane Ellen is likened to Catwoman (just without the ears).
  • 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.
  • Distressed Damsel: Stephanie, at the climax of almost every book. Although sometimes she rescues herself.
  • Distressed Dude: Stephanie rescues the odd guy on occasion, like a bound and gagged Albert Kloughn in To The Nines and a kidnapped Vinnie in Sizzling Sixteen.
  • 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 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.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto:
    • A Running Gag. At least once per book, Stephanie's car explodes or is spectacularly destroyed in some other way.
    • Inverted for the Buick. It is apparently 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Carl, who is good for comic relief. Diesel gets saddled with him in his own spinoff book series.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Bob. He eats just about whatever smells good, including furniture and car parts.
  • Fainting:
    • Stephanie and Lula have both had fainting spells. Sometimes Stephanie will faint when presented with fatally dangerous situations, or if she has just escaped one.
    • Ranger's Merry Men are hardened ex-military men, but two of them have fainted on a couple of occasions: Tank faints when presented with the idea of Lula in a wedding dress after getting accidentally engaged to her, and Cal loses consciousness after Valerie's water breaks all over him and he is treated to a full view of her delivering a baby.
  • Fair Cop: Joe Morelli, as most of Trenton's female population will attest.
  • Fake Static: Stephanie does this on several occasions to either Morelli or her mother.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Several cases involve wrinkled old men who are charged with indecent exposure. Stephanie is not amused when they insist on flashing her, or even outright refuse to wear any clothes at all.
    • Grandma Mazur's attempts at dressing sexy could also qualify.
    • Vinnie, clad in only a pair of Stephanie's panties, greets her and Morelli at the elevator. The pair want to claw their eyes out.
  • Farts on Fire: Elmer the Fire Farter in Plum Spooky. He blew up an entire mine with one misplaced fart.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Mooner (and a few assorted characters) often gets merchandise to sell this way. The elderly folks in the burg particularly miss cut-rate Metamucil.
  • Fictional Videogame: Minionfire, which is what seems like a generic fantasy MMO. Even Grandma Mazur starts playing it!
  • Finger in the Mail: Body parts get chopped off sometimes when threats have to be made.
  • First-Person Smartass: Oh god... Stephanie can be pretty wry, such as when talking about Morelli's ladykiller past, Lula's claims that she's just big-boned or Vinnie's sexual tastes.
  • 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.
  • Food as Bribe: Stephanie's mother is a very good cook, and can persuade Stephanie to do something in exchange for a hot meal and lots of leftovers. If that fails, cake never does.
  • Food Porn: For the love of God, do not ever read any of these books after the grocery store closes.
  • Friend on the Force: Morelli, Eddie Garraza (Stephanie's cousin in law), Carl Cosanza and his partner Big Dog and Joe Juniak (before going into politics) are all local cops who know Stephanie and respond to a lot of her antics with amusement, but still often help out when things get really serious.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Lula's weapon of choice when she knocks out Victor Waggle in Look Alive Twenty-Five.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral":
    • 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.
    • Grandma Mazur loves 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. They 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. This 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."
  • Generation Xerox: Valerie's older daughter Angie is almost an exact clone of Valerie at her age - perfect, well-read and serene, like the Virgin Mary.
  • Going Commando:
    • Stephanie is forced to do this twice. Both times, she has to ditch all her clothing due to it becoming filthy and/or soaked, and both times she can get replacement outerwear, but no bra or panties. Stephanie finds the experience strange and a bit embarrassing. Not surprisingly, Ranger and Morelli have a different point of view about Stephanie wearing Vapor Wear. And her mother seems 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.
  • Gold Digger: Joyce. This is one of the reasons Stephanie dislikes her.
  • Gossipy Hens: The burg's network of gossipy mothers and grandmothers ensures news of Stephanie's activites reach her mother before she does.
  • Groin Attack: Happens often enough that Stephanie has taken to calling it her Signature Move.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Joyce wears a lot of tight leather when she's in bounty hunter mode, and she does pull it off better than Stephanie, partially because Joyce is actually comfortable with handling guns. The whole "bounty hunter in leather" stereotype is what most people expect, though, and they bring it up with Stephanie sometimes.
  • Heroic BSoD: Played for Laughs (mostly) When Tank gets engaged to Lula, he spends the next few weeks mildly stunned.
  • Honey Trap: There are times when either Stephanie or Lula have to try and seduce a skip, or at least pretend to. Lula actually goes through with it on one occasion, but finds herself cuffed to the bed afterwards.
  • I Am Big Boned: Lula. Sometimes she goes for Fat and Proud instead, but this is rarer.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: This is becoming increasingly common for Stephanie's mom, usually in response to Steph's or Grandma's antics.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: "Everyone crossed themselves at the mention of the IRS. Street gangs and the mob paled in comparison to fear of the tax code."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the books have a number in the title, and they're sequential. There are four "between the numbers" books with holiday themes and the word "Plum" in their titles.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: A trademark of Burg mothers. Stephanie can barely resist her mother's cooking.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Stephanie manages to shoot Jimmy Alpha in the heart, with all five bullets of her gun. This is despite being injured, untrained, and shooting her gun while it's inside her purse. This is a feat she never repeats again, though, and she suffers from A-Team Firing for the rest of the books.
  • Incriminating Indifference: In Hot Six Stephanie repeatedly marvels at the absolute lack of grief shown by the father and brother of recently murdered mob scion (and first-rate loser) Homer Ramos. Eventually, this causes her to correctly suspect that the reason for this lack of grief is that Homer is Faking the Dead.
  • Infinite Supplies: Ranger has no problem replacing his stable of Cool Car after Cool Car, even when they seem to get stolen or blown up. Stephanie wonders where they all come from. Morelli thinks they're probably hot.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • Ranger's pet name for Stephanie, "Babe". Morelli calls her "Cupcake". Connie, Lula and Steph call Ranger "the Wizard". Everyone but Steph's mom uses Mooner's.
    • Ranger can make "Babe" mean just about anything - admiring, amazed, affectionate, angry, and that's just the "A's" - depending on the context of the moment in which it's used.
  • Invincible Classic Car: Big Blue, Uncle Sandor's '53 Buick. Nothing seems capable of damaging it.
  • I "Uh" You, Too:
    "You love me," I said to Morelli.
    "Yeah, I love you." He looked at me expectantly. "And?"
    "I... l-l-like you, too."
    "Jesus," Morelli said.
    I did a grimace. "I feel it. I just can't say it."
  • I Want Grandkids: Despite already having some via her other daughter Valerie, Stephanie's mother still wants Stephanie to settle down. And find a less potentially lethal job. She does gain a better understanding of why Stephanie sticks with bounty hunting after helping her capture that book's villain.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: It's Stephanie's Trademark Favorite Food. Her mother's Pineapple Upside Down Cake is enough to blackmail her into almost anything. She sometimes laments this fact.
  • Joisey: Set almost exclusively in Trenton.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Benito Ramirez and his Stark Street gym.
  • Lingerie Scene: Downplayed when a cop is shot and Stephanie has to stop the bleeding with her shirt. She notes that she was glad she was wearing a sports bra.
  • Long-Running Book Series: As of the end of 2019, twenty-six books and counting, along the main line of the series, plus four on a side line.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Vinnie. He is complete and utter sleaze, but is also very entertaining. His wife Lucille seems to think so too, seeing as how she hasn't bothered to divorce him, though no one knows just how much of his activities she's aware of.
  • Lovely Angels: Stephanie and Lula. Stephanie is the cautious type who doesn't like guns, while Lula wants to kick doors down and shoot on sight. And much like Kei and Yuri, the two cause quite a bit of mayhem and property damage in pursuit of their bounty.
  • Love Triangle: Stephanie/Morelli/Ranger.
  • Made of Indestructium: Uncle Sandor's Buick, in contrast to every other car Stephanie has owned.
  • The Mafia: Also The Mafiya, The Cartel, The Triads and the Tongs, Yakuza, and Gangbangers. Basically most organized (and disorganized) crime makes an appearance in Trenton.
    ...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.
  • Mafia Princess:
    • Lucille, Vinnie's wife. Her father is Harry the Hammer, a very notorious mafioso, who is very protective of her. Harry funded Vinnie's bond agency because of Lucille, so she enjoys a very comfortable life. Vinnie is not so lucky - because Harry is Lucille's father, he has to be very careful not to piss either of them off or he's in a lot of trouble, financially and physically.
    • Connie, however, is an aversion. While she is part of a mob family, she's a bit more like One of the Boys than a pampered princess. She learned how to shoot from her family, and is very comfortable with assorted guns, and in one case, a rocket launcher.
    • Terri Gilman was a cheerleader in High School and niece of a mob boss before growing up to work for him.
  • Magical Realism: The Between the Numbers books and Diesel's spinoff.
  • Mama Bear: Stephanie's mother ran over the bunny suited-thug chasing after Stephanie in Hard Eight. In Tricky Twenty-Two, she chases that book's villain down on foot and beats the hell out of him for having hit Stephanie with a van the day before. And inHot Six when she sees Mitchell and Habib conducting Sinister Surveillance on Stephanie she marched up to them tells them to stop and threatens to give their license number to the cops if anything happens to her daughter. Similarly, Grandma Mazur does not take kindly to Bella besmirching Stephanie's name, and has no fear of the evil eye.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Bella and her curses.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Sally once got propositioned by a man. He was in full drag regalia at the time.
  • Mr. Fanservice: In order of increasing hotness (or so the reader is told): Diesel, Morelli, and Ranger.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Stephanie notes that there are times when she has a twinge of maternal longing, but it always disappears completely when she has to deal with her nieces.
  • Naked People Are Funny: There seems to be a huge number of nudists, flashers, and streakers in Trenton, and most of them tend to be the exact people that Stephanie has to wrangle. One of her bounties was an extremely fat man who had covered himself in Vaseline just to make it much more difficult for Stephanie to apprehend him.
  • Narrator: Stephanie herself.
  • Never Mess with Granny:
    • Try to stuff Grandma Mazur in a freezer, and she'll burn the place down.
    • Funeral directors quake in their shoes when they see Grandma coming if they're hosting a closed-casket viewing. Grandma has been known to go to extremes to try to open the coffin to get a good look at the dearly departed.
    • 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.)
  • No Name Given: Diesel. It's unclear whether it's First, Last, or Nickname.
  • Noodle Incident: For the first hundred or so pages of Explosive Eighteen, Stephanie's disastrous trip to Hawaii was one of these for her family.
  • Not a Morning Person:
    • Stephanie thinks 5:00AM 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.
  • No-Tell Motel: Stephanie thinks Morelli is going to one of these to hook up with Terry Gilman, but it turns out this was just where a sting was being planned.
  • 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.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: For all of Mitchell and Habibs bad luck and bickering in the the sixth book dialogue establishes both men are cold blooded killers and torturers with Habib even suggesting they rape Stephanie and sure enough they eventually kidnap her and try to cut off her fingers before she gets away.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: When one of Stephanie's bounties dies before he can be returned to the police, Vinnie suggests they pretend he was alive in order to recover the bond money.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: 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.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. A large number of first names appear twice throughout the series - Joe, Bob, Susan, even strange ones like Sandor.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ranger. He does have a legal name (Carlos Manoso), but no one calls him that.
  • Only Sane Man: Stephanie's mother is frequently exasperated by the chaos that goes on in her family and can usually be found ironing whenever something crazy happens, which is often.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Both Lula and Stephanie discuss and try this out many times, but it rarely ever works. Stephanie is often disappointed that Ranger or his merry men can simply apply their boot to a door and kick it open with no fuss while she can't.
  • Orgasmically Delicious: Stephanie has a major Sweet Tooth, and she really loves the desserts her mother makes.
    We had warm homemade apple pie for dessert. The apples were tart and cinnamony. The crust was flaky and crisp with a sprinkling of sugar. I ate two pieces and almost had an orgasm.
  • Phrase Catcher: The cable company, where the general sentiment is "those fuckers", even by Stephanie's father.
  • Plain Jane: Stephanie often describes herself as average-looking. Neither Morelli nor Ranger seem to agree.
  • Private Military Contractors: While RangeMan is just a really organized security company, Morelli loves to joke that Ranger heads one of these, as most of Ranger's "merry men" are ex-military and they have enough weaponry to arm a small nation.
  • Psycho Sidekick:
    • Lula, with her penchant for tasering everything in sight and breaking and entering "accidentally".
    • Ranger can sometimes appear to be this, though whenever they work together Stephanie usually ends up being his sidekick rather than the other way around. He's considerably less psycho than most other examples.
    • Ranger has has own platoon of these, who Steph refers to as his Merry Men. His right hand man is Tank, who, in his first appearance, threw someone out of a window.
    • In later books Ranger and his crew tone this down.
    • Grandma Mazur, whose behavior varies between bizarre and borderline insane.
  • Ransacked Room: Stephanie's apartment gets trashed on a semi-regular basis. This is because the criminals she gets involved with sometimes believe she's hiding a key piece of evidence, or a clue to some sort of stashed loot.
  • Rape as Drama: Benito Ramirez rapes and beats Lula, then cuffs her to Stephanie's fire escape. This is what convinces Lula to stop being a hooker.
  • Really Gets Around: Joyce. Morelli in his youth, who charmed the pants off what seems like most of the girls in Trenton.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!:
    • The Alex Barnaby books. They feel very similar to the Plum books, only with race car drivers instead of bounty hunters.
    • 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.
  • Robbing the Dead: Local grave robber Simon Diggory is a recurring FTA. Sometimes he works with his brother Melvin and on one occasion in book 19 Stephanie enlists the pair as manpower to dig up the bad buys body disposal sight.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Stephanie describes many of Lula's wild and garish outfits.
  • 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.
  • Sassy Black Woman:
    • Lula again.
    • Jackie in the film as well.
  • Sassy Secretary: Office manager Connie, who has been known to threaten lecherous boss Vinnie with assorted bodily harm.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In Look Alive Twenty-Five Dalia the deli waitress quits after one too many mysterious disappearances, declaring that it was bad enough when it was just managers being kidnapped but now that anyone who takes garbage out the back door is disappearing she doesn't want to take the chance. That, and she's getting frustrated having to answer the same slew of routine questions for the cops every time they show up to investigate the latest disappearance.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sugar and Sally in Four to Score, both drag queens in drag band The Lovelies. Sugar is full-on Dude Looks Like a Lady and is gay, while Sally is big, hairy and straight. In Twelve Sharp there's Scooter and Dave, the gay couple taking over Stiva's funeral parlor. Dave is an ex-wrestler who is Manly Gay, while Scooter is the more effeminate counterpart who bakes the cookies and used to work at a makeup counter.
  • Sexy Secretary: Connie, though Stephanie does mention that she has a bit of a mustache once or twice.
    Stephanie: Connie is Italian through and through. Her hair is jet black, her lipstick is fire-engine red, and her body is va-va-voom.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Stephanie mentions now and again how kind puberty was to Joyce. She used to be a fat girl up until her teens, when the fat moved to all the right places.
  • She's Got Legs: Interestingly, this is applied to a man - Les Sebring, one of the more successful bail bondsmen in Trenton, is rumored as having legs second only to Tina Turner. Stephanie tells Lula not to ask him to show his legs, but Les obliges without being asked, and it turns out the rumors are true.
  • Shock and Awe: The villain of the first between-the-numbers book, Visions of Sugar Plums. He sets fire to the Plum's bone-dry christmas tree.
  • Shower of Awkward: Stephanie is showering in her house when Morelli suddenly barges in on her, looking for his car keys that she took and she has a major Naked Freak-Out. He hands her a Modesty Towel and handcuffs her to the shower rod, while he searches her apartment, all while they have some Snark-to-Snark Combat. When he can't find his keys, he comes back and takes away her towel before he goes away, leaving her naked and handcuffed to her shower rod. She has to call Ranger to cut out the cuffs, while she can barely keep herself covered with the shower curtain and her hands. The One for the Money film version adapts the scene, using Toplessness from the Back and Shoulders-Up Nudity to preserve Stephanie's (Katherine Heigl) modesty and keep a PG-13 rating.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: There's a lot of "oogie woogie cuddle umpkins" baby talk between Valerie and Albert.
  • Side Bet: Rangeman employees have a pool going on when Stephanie's current car will be destroyed.
  • Signature Move:
    Diesel: You kicked him in the nuts again, didn't you?
    Stephanie: It's my signature move.
    • Lula favors forcefully sitting on a skip trying to escape. Her second favorite option is a stun gun.
  • Signed Up for the Dental: Lula says that it's worth going to prison workhouses simply for their dental plan.
  • Silver Vixen: The singer Brenda, who still looks good even in her early 60's. She's supposed to be a Dolly Parton expy and is described as having the body of an attractive woman half her age.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Sally Sweet. On one occasion, he wears a rubber band around his wrist and snaps it whenever he lets out a bad word. The effectiveness of this tactic is less than perfectly optimal.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Joyce is this to Stephanie - a source of irritation but not a real enemy.
  • Sleuth Dates Cop: Stephanie, a (very) amateur bounty hunter sometimes dates Joe Morelli, a cop. That is, when they're not at each other's throats.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Stephanie's mother's name has been both Ellen and Helen.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: Stephanie describes Ranger as having skin the color of a mocha latte once or twice.
  • The Stoner: Walter Dunphy, aka Mooner or MoonMan. Sometimes deals in cheap goods with dubious origins.
  • Street Walker: Lula is the most visible (former) example, which turns out to be useful in the skip tracing business. Since she knows a lot of people in the local sex trade, it means she has quite a few contacts from which to glean leads.
  • 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.
  • Swiss Cheese Security:
    • Played straight for Stephanie's apartment. Despite the state-of-the-art locks on her door, nobody has trouble breaking into it. Ranger specializes in this, and Stephanie wonders how he can possibly slip in even through a deadbolt and security chain.
    • Inverted for Vinnie's inner sanctum. Because he runs afoul of angry bookies, hookers, and bondees, he has his door specially reinforced so that nothing short of heavy weaponry can get through.
  • 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.
  • Thats My Chair: Book twenty six feature some local aging mobsters eachnof whom has a personal, rarely left Z-Boy recliner.
  • Thise Two Guys: bickering (yet somewhat sadistic) henchmen Habib and Mitchell in the sixth book, who alsomsuffer most of the Olmsted Car Deaths.
  • 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.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: A few times, Stephanie gets unwanted houseguests she has difficulty removing, and they are often FTAs. This includes Randy Briggs in Hard Eight and Joyce herself in Explosive Eighteen.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: Book eighteenhas a very unstable rapist and killer named Razzls Dazzle (Raz for short).
  • Tracking Device: Ranger has planted a bug in Stephanie's purse and on all his cars that Stephanie sometimes borrows. This makes it easier to find her when she gets kidnapped (which happens at the climax of many of the books). A couple of times, however, Stephanie expects a rescue because she knows Ranger is tracking her, but then belatedly remembers the device is in a bag she doesn't have with her or in clothes she isn't wearing.
  • 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.
  • Triang Relations: Type 7. Stephanie is in love with both Morelli and Ranger, both of whom return her affections. She is unable to permanently choose one of them.
  • Trigger Happy: Most of Trenton, apparently, but especially Lula. Stephanie seems to be the only one in the entire state who doesn't like guns.
  • The Unintelligible: The thug in the rabbit costume in Hard Eight. "Ga rogga!," indeed.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Lula has a neverending series of wild outfits.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Stephanie with both Morelli and Ranger in earlier books. It is resolved with Morelli in Four to Score, and with Ranger in Hard Eight.
  • The Vamp: Joyce exploits her sex appeal for all it's worth.
  • Vigilante Militia: The third book has a group of these led by a reverend, killing drug dealers and pimps, and being approved of by a lot of the community. The problem is that they're willing to murder or threaten people who stumble across them as well, and have also allegedly decided to start killing all of the drug addicts to eliminate the demand.
  • 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.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Stephanie. No car is safe when she's around, and buildings also tend to go up in flames.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: This happens to Lula once or twice. On one occasion she deliberately engineers one as a distraction: she bends over and her very tiny top and skirt slip down and ride up exposing her boobs and butt.
  • 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.
  • Went to the Great X in the Sky: Stephanie sometimes describes Grandpa Mazur's death like this.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • The very, very on-off relationship between Stephanie and Morelli as to whether they'll hook up permanently.
    • Also, the very, very on-off relationship between Stephanie and Ranger, considering how jealous Morelli gets when bad-guy circumstances force Steph to crash at Ranger's.
  • Woman Scorned: On the rare occasion that Stephanie has to interact with Dickie, she goes a bit insane and tries to beat him up. This is why Dickie has standing orders to his secretary not to let Stephanie in.


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