"Uncle Fred was someone I saw at weddings and funerals and once in a while at Giovichinni's Meat Market, ordering a quarter pound of olive loaf. Eddie Such, the butcher, would have the olive loaf on the scale and Uncle Fred would say: 'You've got the olive loaf on a piece of waxed paper. How much does that piece of waxed paper weigh? You're not gonna charge me for that waxed paper, are you? I want some money off for the waxed paper.' " The speaker is Stephanie Plum, the glamorous if slightly ditzy bounty hunter from Trenton, New Jersey, and one of the most original creations in recent mystery fiction. In this fifth entry in Janet Evanovich's increasingly popular series, Stephanie's problems are many and varied. She's not making enough moneypicking up FTAs (Failures to Appear) for her cousin Vinnie, of Vincent PlumBail Bonds; her red-hot love affair with Detective Joe Morelli has cooled off; and her giant extended family is no help at all. For instance, Uncle Fred the cheapskate has disappeared, leaving behind some suspicious photographs of body parts in garbage bags and links to some really dangerous people. When Stephanie turns to her friend and mentor, Ranger, for financial advice, he gets her involved in a gang of toughs doing instant evictions for landlords. (She complains to Ranger about the job and its dangers, prompting one of the hired thug to say, "Man, you don't like to get shot. You don't like to get arrested. You don't know how to have fun at all.") Most of Stephanie's charm, of course, comes from her attitude--a combination of the brazen bravado that turns a failed lingerie model into bounty hunter in the first place and the normal fears of a person in over her head. Other Plums in paperback, by the numbers: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, and Four to Score. --Dick Adler
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"I guess this isn't a good time." Lendill folded into the kitchen."Here. It has bourbon in it." I pushed my cup of tea toward him and rose from my seat to make another."Land and sky, Reah, this is strong." Lendill took a sip from my cup."Yeah. Sit down," I said. "What do you want?""Is that any way to treat a mate you haven't seen in months?""You only show up when you want something," I said. "So what is it?""Bel has disappeared," Lendill swallowed more tea, grimaced and then swallowed again."Wizard Bel?" I hadn't seen Bel for years, yet I knew he still worked for the ASD."Yes. I sent him to investigate a problem on Surnath, and he vanished. We can't find him.""What kind of problem?" I asked, sitting down with my freshly poured and spiked tea. I didn't even ask Teeg if he wanted any. I was still pissed at him."A worker in an electronics factory went crazy and killed twenty of his coworkers after getting his hands on a laser pistol somehow. And then, two weeks later, a secretary at a legal firm kills six people there. The governor of the Realm on Surnath asked us to investigate. We thought it was just a copy crime. Bel was in so he volunteered. Was there for three days before he came up missing.""That's terrible," I said. "And you tried mindspeech and everything?""Yes. No answer. Bel isn't one to fall easily into a trap. So we're all concerned.""Me, too," I nodded. I'd known Bel when I was a conscript in the Regular Alliance Army."Norian and I are willing to pay top credit if you'll work a special assignment on this."Wizard Bel is missing, after investigating two crimes on Surnath. Reah agrees to work this special assignment for the ASD, and discovers that Bel's disappearance is linked to far deeper and much darker crimes. The criminals behind these crimes hold the survival of both Alliances in their grip and it is up to Reah to expose them before their final plans become a reality.