Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum has her sights set on catching a notorious mob boss. If she doesn’t take him down, he may take her out.

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum knows better than to mess with family. But when powerful mobster Salvatore “Uncle Sunny” Sunucchi goes on the lam in Trenton, it’s up to Stephanie to find him. Uncle Sunny is charged with murder for running over a guy (twice), and nobody wants to turn him in—not his poker buddies, not his bimbo girlfriend, not his two right-hand men, Shorty and Moe. Even Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, has skin in the game, because—just Stephanie’s luck—the godfather is his actual godfather. And while Morelli understands that the law is the law, his old-world grandmother, Bella, is doing everything she can to throw Stephanie off the trail.

It’s not just Uncle Sunny giving Stephanie the run-around. Security specialist Ranger needs her help to solve the bizarre death of a top client’s mother, a woman who happened to play bingo with Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur. Before Stephanie knows it, she’s working side by side with Ranger and Grandma at the senior center, trying to catch a killer on the loose—and the bingo balls are not rolling in their favor.

With bullet holes in her car, henchmen on her tail, and a giraffe named Kevin running wild in the streets of Trenton, Stephanie will have to up her game for the ultimate takedown.

I purchased my audio copy of Janet Evanovich's Takedown Twenty the minute I woke up on release day. With a $28 price tag on audible.com, I really expected more.&nbsp
I hate to admit that Takedown Twenty left me feeling ambivalent. While still funny at times, it didn't coax the usual rip-roaring laughter from me. At most, I let out a couple chuckles. As expected, Lula adds the most comic relief to Evanovich's books.  

One of the things I enjoy most about this series is the love triangle and sexual tension between Stephanie, Morelli and Ranger. (Team Ranger!) Over the last few books in the series, that storyline has gone, well...flaccid. I wait the entire book and am rewarded with mere glimpses of what has made her books so successful in the past. In this latest installment, there was no connection between the three. In fact, these male roles were virtually nonexistent. Morelli passes Stephanie off to Ranger several times, apparently no longer jealous of Ranger. The triangle felt forced and awkward. Rangers role is relegated to a few very short rescues and token "Babe" conversations. Where's the depth? The intrigued? The scenes that make girls across the world go squishy? 

I've read a ton of reviews from Evanovich's last few additions to the Stephanie Plum series. Many readers have expressed annoyance with the repetition of the books. While the books are usually predictable (Stephanie gets into trouble, fights her hormones and struggles to choose between Joe and Ranger, screws a case up royally, almost dies but gets lucky, grandma ends up the biggest badass of the bunch), it's a major reason of why I continue to read the series. The plot scaffolding may remain the same, but the stories and witty banter are always unique. 

Here's a few bullet points of some issues I had with the book:
  • The ending felt a bit lacking.
  • This whole "I give you the eye" deal with Bella has officially gotten tired. And might I just add that if my hubs let his family treat me the way Morelli allows his to treat Stephanie, he would be one unhappy boy. (I got lucky in the in-law department)
  • The kooky ways Stephanie demolishes her car lacked creativity. She loses a bumper in a car chase, and is told a firetruck took out Ranger's loaner. (Literally, someone tells her...no discovery, no close calls)
  • Characters had no depth, it felt as if the book was just going through the motions.
  • Not only is there zero romance, save for a kiss or two, it feels like both men have zero interest in Stephanie anymore

What I did enjoy:
  • I thought the elusive giraffe was fun.
  • Lula never fails to disappoint.
  • Grandma Mazur is still a little spitfire
The redeeming quality of this book was the narrator, Lorelei King. You may remember back to my guest post on The Dynamic Ram of why I'm a fan of audiobooks. I call Ms. King out as my favorite narrator. This woman's range and talent never disappoints. She still wears that crown.

A friend of mine insists that someone has been ghost writing the books for a while. I'd always refused to believe it, and ever the optimist, I still choose not to. However, I can see why she feels that way. There has been a disconnect for several books now. The editing, as always, is perfect. I'm not ready to give up on Evanovich yet. Her writing has become such a staple in my life, and she knows how to write the funny. However, I may reconsider pre-ordering her next release. And if Lorelei King should stop narrating, I may forego the audio altogether.

It killed me to give this book only two stars. I have such respect for Janet's writing, I wanted to love it. But not rating it appropriate to how I felt would have left me feeling dishonest. My review is in no way a slight to the author. My respect and admiration for her accomplishments remain intact, and my hope for the future releases is that she can take a step back and reevaluate why readers have connected so much with these characters. The next one really needs to be a win or I fear her fans will move on.

On a plus note, Lorelei King, narrator of the Stephanie Plum books, has agreed to do an interview with The Bookie Monster. Keep an eye out for it soon! And remember, my opinion is just that, mine. I urge you to explore her work and come up with your own. Most of the series have been awarded sizzling five star ratings from The Bookie Monster.