Janet Evanovich,
Motor Mouth
(HarperCollins, 2006)

Don't look for Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich's popular bond enforcement agent, and her alpha males, Morelli and Ranger, in Motor Mouth. This is new territory, and a new cast, in Florida, and it's NASCAR racing and a whole new vocabulary.

The heroine, Alexandra Barnaby, is a spotter at the races and the hero, Sam Hooker, is a NASCAR driver. One day at the races, something happens that tweaks Barnaby's curiosity. Something is out of focus. Suddenly, the cars pile up and a bell rings in her mind.

In a whirlwind scene, Hooker and Barnaby steal the 18-wheel hauler to rescue a friend. All the doors are locked and he can't get out. The hauler pulls out onto the highway with Hooker, Barnaby and their hapless friend. The show is truly on the road. From this point on, a small parade of characters enter the Hooker-Barnaby orbit. Some of them are dangerous.

Barnaby is a more polished Stephanie Plum, but she has the same basic instincts and talents. As for Booker, he is not as mysterious as Morelli can be, but he is inventive in iffy situations and he is an almost perfect foil for Barnaby. So, too, it wouldn't be a Janet Evanovich book without a great hulk of a dog, Beans. To replace the ebullient Lula and the feisty Grandma Mazur, there are two prizes, Felicia and Rosa.

At first, I missed Plum and the Ranger-Morelli men. It seemed almost disloyal to like these NASCAR characters. I am over that. The Barnaby series is fully launched and on its merry way.

review by
Jean Marchand

21 July 2007

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