When I was 18 my heart was broken for the first time, by a boy so wonderful that even my mother loved him. Only one thing stopped me crying and blotted out the pain and the thought of Him – reading easy crime novels. I read every single available Maigret. Although it was the early Sixties, a Maigret was my only drug. The effect didn’t last long, but I could barely live without the next one.
Things have calmed down now, but the state of the world is still pretty dreadful. Now when I need a short break from my general mood of fear and dread, I turn to the crime novels of Janet Evanovich. Much better than Maigret, because not only are they peppered with psychopaths, murderers, slime-balls and ‘homicidal mutilators’, but they’re also a laugh, and loveliest of all, the heroine is a woman – Stephanie Plum. One can tire of brilliant but surly and tormented male detectives, often sharp-suited and cynical, with a history of hopeless relationships with women. True, Stephanie is divorced and is ‘down on her luck’, but she doesn’t trudge about looking mysterious. She remains upbeat, dresses rather sassily, and bravely takes on a terrifying job – Bond Enforcement Agent, in her rather odious cousin Vincent Plum’s bail bond company.
It’s all terrifically American. I’ve never heard of Bond Enforcement Agents (a.k.a. bounty hunters) over here. It sounds a bit Wild West, though more urban. Stephanie lives in Trenton, New Jersey, often staking out Stark Street, scary centre of criminal activity. At the Stark Street gym, boxer Benito Ramirez, murderous rapist and ‘hulking mountain of muscle’, works out. This is a frightfully dangerous job for a girl. But Stephanie is not an ordinary girl. I feel a bond with her because her Grandma Mazur, aged 72, is outrageously forceful and robust (just as mine was), and her mother is desperate to feed her and find her a boyfriend (just as mine was), and is forever tempting her home with scrumptious dinners,
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