Lean Mean Thirteen is the thirteenth book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I am a faithful fan of the series, even though it really is not what it used to be.
I remember the days when I would frantically search for the next book in the series days before it was set to be released in hopes that some over eager store clerk would make a mistake and put up the display early. I didn’t do that this year, mainly because I was going to a Janet Evanovich book signing and had to buy the book there in order to get it signed. But, also because I just wasn’t as excited this year as I have been in the past. I’d just really gotten worn out by the repetitiveness of the series. I mean, seriously, how many cars can one person destroy in a lifetime?
A brief history of the series for those who have not read it. Stephanie Plum is a Trenton, N.J. Bounty Hunter. She’s a bit bumbling and always gets herself in to a mess of trouble, but she’s also smart, sassy, funny, and doesn’t take much garbage from anyone.
Stephanie and her partner in crime, Lula, the bonds office’s file clerk, spend their days and sometimes nights chasing down skips and the rest of the time Stephanie bounces between the two men in her life, Carlos “Ranger” Manoso and Joe Morelli. Steph and Morelli have been on again off again since high school, and Steph met Ranger when he was a full time bounty hunter. Now Ranger owns his own a security company and only picks up high bond skips, like; murderers, rapists, drug lords, dirty politicians. Stephanie and Morelli are usually in couple status, but her feelings for Ranger seem to increase with each book. There are excellent supporting characters in addition to Lula, Ranger, and Joe. Stephanie’s grandmother most notably who often steals the show all on her own.
LMT has Stephanie, Ranger, and Joe frantically searching for the answer to Steph’s ex-husband, Dickie’s disappearance. It seems that Dickie and his law partners may have been involved in some shady dealings, and when Dickie comes up missing, Stephanie is suspect numero uno. Of course, everyone at Dickie’s office saw Stephanie lose her cool with him just hours before his disappearance, so the accusations are not terribly far fetched.
Eventually Stephanie and Ranger discover more dirty dealings than they ever expected to find, but unfortunately none of the discoveries lead to proof of Steph’s innocence. Joe insists she not worry, but Stephanie Plum accused of murder is not a formula that equals no worry. Joe is also being secretive and distant about his current case which doesn’t help Stephanie’s overall calmness factor. When Joe takes off in the middle of the night after a call from the station, Stephanie ends up not seeing or hearing from him for days, and the few times they talk on the phone, he’s grumpy, which has Steph a bit put off and more than curious. When she finally finds out what he’s up to, things start to come together.
Lean Mean Thirteen was not my favorite book of the series, but it was certainly not my least favorite. There were not nearly as many laugh out loud funny moments as other Plums books, but there were many times that I chuckled. There is one in particular scene with Lula losing her cool over a situation with her current honey, Tank that is quite hysterical. Stephanie and Lula also have a few scenes with one of Stephanie’s FTAs, a taxidermist which involves exploding rodents which made me laugh more than once.
Anyone who reads this series knows that one of the most important and often frustrating parts of the story is the triangle with Ranger, Stephanie, and Joe. Joe is her “boyfriend”, but there is a strong attraction between Steph and Ranger that often crosses the line of inappropriate. Fans of the series hold their breaths each year waiting to see which guy will play the bigger role in Stephanie’s heart in the latest book. In the last book, Twelve Sharp, Stephanie took a big step and told Joe she loved him. Of course, after twelve books that span at least five years, the declaration was ridiculously overdue, but let’s not go there. Stephanie finally said it and probably had Morelli fans all over the world fist punching the air saying “YES”!
In Lean Mean Thirteen, Stephanie seems to have settled in to a more committed relationship with Joe, but there is still that not so underlying thing between her and Ranger, which for me, a die hard Morelli fan, was extremely frustrating.
During the days of Joe’s MIA status, Stephanie spends a lot of time with Ranger. Granted, it’s all in the name of business, as they are searching for clues to Dickie’s disappearance and for ways to clear her name of his murder, but regardless, it was still a bit too close for comfort. Joe enlists Ranger’s help in protecting Stephanie from the bad guys, but he most assuredly did not mean Steph should move in to Ranger’s house, which is precisely what she does.
I am a big fan of Joe Morelli and want desperately for him and Stephanie to find happily ever after together. Because Janet Evanovich has said Stephanie will not choose between the men until the last book of the series, I know I have some waiting to do. It seems that all arrows point to my desired conclusion, but I wish at this point, Stephanie had more strength when it came to standing up to Ranger and telling him to take a hike. She’s much better at it, but it’s obvious her heart’s not always in it. Maybe not sleeping at his house and not wearing his clothing would be a step in the right direction?
One of the things I enjoyed about this book was that in all other areas of Stephanie’s life, she really seems to be maturing and growing up. She is not as bumbling as usual, and although she’ll never win Bounty Hunter of the year, she’s come in to her own as far as her job and could almost be considered good at it.
Lula and Grandma Mazur were around frequently, which is always a bonus, and we had two Plum dinners to enjoy, one with Ranger in attendance and one with Joe. It’s always fun when Stephanie’s family sits down to the dinner table. The possibilities for humor are endless.
Overall, Lean Mean Thirteen was a light, fun read. It did not have the comedy or the depth of previous books, and there were things about it that made me think it might be time for Stephanie to hang up her handcuffs, don that wedding dress and walk off with Morelli in to the sunset. But, I’m sure when next June rolls around, I’ll be happy Janet didn’t take my advice.