I was exceptionally productive with my 531-words-a-day project yesterday. (For details, see any of my Writer’s Wednesday posts for about the last month and a half). So I treated myself to reading a book by one of my beloved authors—Janet Evanovich.
What does she write? Originally romance, but that’s not what drew me to her. For my mystery readings in the genre class last semester, one of the books we read was Evanovich’s “Hard Eight,” the eighth book in her Stephanie Plum novels series. I found Stephanie to be fun, witty, and a joyful read. In short, I took the next week (completely ignoring the next book for class until I absolutely had to pick it up) to read the previous seven and following ten Stephanie Plum books. They are a fun, first-person read.
After I finished those, I picked up the side novels to the main series. This set of books still featured Stephanie as the POV char, but added a new man to her life (as if she needed one. She has two already), Diesel.
Diesel is an unmentionable (aka someone with registered supernatural abilities), who uses said abilities to hunt down other unmentionables who use their gifts for harm. Each of the side books centers around a holiday (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving respectively) and features the same charm that is prevalent in all of the main series books. I haven’t had a chance yet but am looking forward to picking up number 19 in the Plum novels “Notorious Nineteen”
Today is about a new project from Evanovich. Well, new might not be the right word, but it’s newer. Last night, I finished “Wicked Appetite,” the first in a series that stars Diesel and a blonde pastry chef from Salem, MA (Lizzy Tucker). After an encounter with Diesel’s cousin and enemy—Gerwulf Grimoire (Wulf), Lizzy bumps (literally) into Diesel. He pulls her aside and explains that she’s an unmentionable who can sense unmentionable objects—one of only two in fact. Lizzy responds with a proper amount of skepticism but eventually gets swept up into Diesel’s agenda. Working together and with the “help” of a nearly-human monkey (Carl) and Lizzy’s spell book-obsessed co-worker, Glo, Lizzy and Diesel manage to track down Wulf and the Gluttony Stone (the vessel for the properly named deadly sin).
Diesel was as I remembered him from the Plum side books. Lizzy—I’d been nervous before starting that I’d find a Stephanie clone. My mother is a die-hard David Eddings fan. I enjoyed his “Belgariad” and “Mallorian” as well. Mom, though, couldn’t get passed them. She would start reading others of Eddings' works and find clones of the “Belgariad” and “Mallorian” characters. That has always been a fear of mine when picking up a different series by an author I already love. I desperately do not want to find the same characters with different names between the new book’s pages.
I didn’t have this experience with “Wicked Appetite” with the obvious exception of Diesel. Lizzy is her own person. She starts to sound a bit like Stephanie when taken by the food charm (a sub-portion of the Gluttony stone), but Stephanie thinks about food a lot. It works. Lizzy is unique in terms of her employment too. Stephanie works for her cousin as a bonds agent and does a shoddy job at the best of times. It’s part of what makes her and the situations she ends up in so funny. Lizzy, by contrast, is a wiz at baking and makes killer cupcakes.
Plot and concept—I love it. One of my author friends at Seton Hill mentioned a project that involves seven deadly sin representations. If she ever gets around to writing it and it gets published, I’m so there. I love alternate interpretations of religious concepts. That’s the reason I enjoyed Cassandra Clair’s shadowhunters so much. It’s also why I liked “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman. So Lizzy and Diesel’s hunt is a natural fit for me. It puts a new twist on something very old and makes it into a paranormal mystery. I’m starting “Wicked Business” tonight.
Hats off, Janet Evanovich. Thank you for more awesome reading material.
Also (and this goes for me) I have a soft spot for anything that’s set close to home. I grew up and lived (until about six months ago) one city over from Salem.
What can be taken away from “Wicked Appetite?”
-Generally speaking, when starting a new series that bares semblance to an already written series, be careful to make characters unique.
-Putting a new spin on something very old, mystical, or religious makes for fascinating stories. Granted, with the right audience, but given how popular a lot of books that have done that have become, it looks like a safe option if done right and well.
-Be consistent. Diesel appears with Stephanie and then with Lizzy. He’s easily recognized in both series. The lesson is to keep a given character true even when switching up everything around him/her.
See you out of the box,