Plum Spooky
by Janet Evanovich
(St. Martin's, 27.95, V)  ISBN  978-0-312-38332-9
In her first Between-the-Numbers novel that is actually novel-sized, Evanovich expands drastically on the paranormal things that are supposedly occurring in Stephanie Plum's world. Although Steph isn't quite sure she believes anything that the mysterious and most likely insane (but also insanely attractive) Diesel has to say, she certainly has to agree that things are off-kilter. Even for the Plum-verse, which, it must be said, is far from normal on a good day.

The FTA who is eluding Stephanie this time is Martin Munch, a twenty-four-year-old Ph.D. who does research at a local lab. His crime? Stealing a magnetometer from said lab. Martin seems to be in cahoots with a man named Wulf (even more mysterious than Diesel) who looks like a vampire and drives a Ferrari. Even more incredible is his ability to disappear.

Diesel is on Wulf's tail and butting into Stephanie's life again as their cases overlap. Naturally, this means he's camped out at her house, much to the displeasure of her usual guys Joe Morelli and Ranger. Ranger lends a hand here and there to keep Stephanie out of too much trouble, but Morelli's got one of his loser brothers bunking over and spends most of his time waiting on Anthony hand and foot (or butt, after an annoyed fling nails Anthony in the ass--literally). Steph's none too pleased with the sleeping arrangements herself, especially since a monkey was delivered to her house for babysitting, courtesy of a previous FTA.

As it turns out, Wulf and Munch really are working together, and, according to Munch, are planning to take over the world. Several trips into the Jersey Barrens – a veritable wilderness, if Stephanie and Lula are to be believed – prove to be not so helpful, except to get yet another one of Stephanie's cars destroyed and her kidnapped. Munch's former supervisor winds up dead and one of his sisters goes missing.

Diesel isn't having much more luck with his guy than Stephanie is with hers. Stephanie does manage to wrangle up a few other "bad" guys, sometimes with the help of a sneezing Lula, who may be developing an allergy to her fiance, Tank. Some of the things Stephanie sees along the dangerous route to tracking down Munch may just swing her views about Diesel's believability.

Although the Grandma Mazur scenes are, once again, lacking, Plum Spooky will definitely please Evanovich fans.  It meanders more than many of her novels, but it is a great improvement over the summer's Fearless Fourteen.  Lula's sniffles and the monkey, Carl, are bonus tastes of comedy. Morelli's brother Anthony and his many foibles were highlights as well.  In a series peppered with hot men, Diesel may be a bit of overkill, but it's not like we read Stephanie Plum for her harsh realities.  Of course, anyone who has read any of the others in the Stephanie Plum series will have to read this novel; and, though it doesn't top the list of her best, Plum Spooky can be read without the support of its brethren.  Evanovich's latest is a great, light read for this often dreary time of year.

--Sarrah Knight

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