Stephanie Plum is an unemployed lingerie buyer from Trenton, New Jersey who is down on her luck. She is short on cash and long on bills, her Miata repossessed, and the furniture in her apartment is as scarce as the food in her refrigerator. Yet she is a woman not without resources, who black mails her perverted, bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie, into giving her a temporary try as an apprehension agent. Her assignment: bring in Joe Morelli, a cop on the run who stands accused of shooting an unarmed man.
"There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever," writes Janet Evanovich in the opening sentence of "One For The Money," the first in her series of Stephanie Plum novels. As a teenager Joe Morelli cavalierly claimed Stephanie's virginity behind the éclair case of a Trenton bakery and then scribbled the details of their encounter on a restroom wall in Mario's Sub Shop. The next time she sited him was in the cross hairs of a Buick Hood ornament.
With an old score to settle and a $10,000 pay check for added inspiration Stephanie sets off on the trail of Joe Morelli. She begins to investigate and finds him almost by accident. But Stephanie, who is after all, new to this line of work, cannot bring him in. He insists that Ziggy Kulesza was armed when he shot him even though no gun was found on the body and there is at least one witness who was in the room who can back up his story... the problem: the witness has disappeared and no one know who he is or where he went.
In an effort to bring in her man and her ten thousand dollar pay check Stephanie begins to investigate the shooting herself, and soon finds herself being stalked by none other than Benito Ramirez, Ziggy's boss and a heavy-weight champion boxer, who uses women as his personal punching bags. To pay the bills Stephanie also takes a couple of other cases, but requires the advice and assistance of Ranger, a fellow apprehension agent, who takes her under his wing and shows her the ropes. Eventually Stephanie and Joe realize that they need each other's help, and Joe agrees to let Stephanie earn her $10,000 if she helps him unravel the mystery of Ziggy's missing gun and the missing eye witness.
Janet Evanovich has succeeded in creating a novel of suspense, intrigue, humor and passion. That is not an easy thing to do in the crime fiction genre. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Her characters are fully drawn and quite believable, even when their actions are outlandish. Her fast pacing and action filled plot kept me turning the pages and wanting more.