Literature references and annotations by Dick Grune, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last update: Mon Jul 20 09:15:02 2020.
These references and annotations were originally intended
for personal use and are presented here only in the hope
that they may be useful to others.
There is no claim to completeness or even correctness.
Each annotation represents my understanding of the text
at the moment I wrote the annotation.
No guarantees given; comments and content criticism welcome.
Much more reflective and philosophical than any of the previous Stephanie Plum
books. On an impulse Stephanie's Grandma married an aged gangster, Jimmy
Rosolli, who has the misfortune of dropping dead 45 minutes after the wedding
in a casino in Atlantic City. There was some strive over the inheritance, but
the main problem was that Jimmy was the Keeper of the Keys, and now the Keys
are missing, and everybody is sure he passed them to Grandma, which is not
true. Three parties begin to exert pressure on Grandma an Stephanie to come up
with the Keys, up to the point that people get killed. In the end the keys are
found, only to be the beginning of another adventure.
"Twentyfive Stay Alive",
A real Stephanie Plum adventure again.
A would-be reality star, a second-rate agent, and a second-rate criminal team
up to draw attention to their proposed TV show in a most uncouth way, which in
the end lands Connie's uncle in jail (where he belongs).
This is the zombie episode. The Supreme Ruler of the Zombies comes to Trenton
and teams up with Zero Slick, a fugitive on Stephanie's list.
When an ice cream truck gets stolen by one of Stephanie's FTAs, the war
between two ice cream companies turns out to have a drugs component.
This is the mad professor episode. Although disgruntled Prof. Pooka's doomsday
machine is a dud, he leaves three dead bodies in his wake, and when he tries
to add Stephanie as a fourth, he is taken down by the wrath of Stephanie's
"Top Secret Twenty-One",
Stephanie's life turns into an 007 movie, as she infiltrates the Russian
consulate to find a rogue former KGB agent who wants to kill Ranger, and then
comes back, accompanied by her three-feet tall lawyer, to complain about the
Somebody is killing old ladies and leaving them in dumpsters, and although
Stephanie is not police, she cannot keep from investigating.
And her skip-of-the-week, Uncle Sunny, godfather of Morelli, seems to be
moving around in plain sight.
And a giraffe is obfuscating the issue.
In the end there is a (somewhat) reasonable explanation for the giraffe.
"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore",
Almost as utopian as William Gibson is distopian.
Out-of-a-job semi-nerd Clay gets the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour
bookstore, but finds out it's an interface to the world for a cult searching a
specific old book for the secret of eternal life, and a test office for
Clay enlists the help of a Google girl and then of all of Google to use
computers to crack the code, threatening to blow the entire cult out of the
water. The Google computers find "by exhaustive search" that there is no such
secret in the old book. The girl gives up, but the cult regroups, and Clay
finds the code in an unexpected place.
Comment: some hints were dropped that were not taken up later unless I missed
something, for example the discrepancy between the printed and the read
versions of the Dragon Song Chronicles, which seemed significant when it was
Still a far more pleasant read than Gibson's Neuromancer, of which it
sometimes reminded me.
Comment 2: there is no exhaustive search in code breaking; the universe of
codes is infinitely large.
Two stories in one book.
1. A madman wants to take down Ranger and a comrade in arms and tries to get
to them through Stephanie.
2. A high-reward skip of Stephanie is very much missing, and she finds out the
grisly cause of that.
All this results in her being in mortal danger twice in one day.
On page 16 it says that the Plum family lives in a two-family house on High
Street in the Burg. This cannot be right. There is a High Street in
Chambersburg but it is at the outer edge of the Burg, and it is a slum, with
dilapidated houses and empty lots. No way Ms. Plum would want to live there.
Probably the most complicated adventure to date.
Stephanie finds a printout of an unknown man in her briefcase, and at least
four parties are suddenly after her: the FBI, the fake FBI, i.e. the mob, the
wife of the (deceased) owner of the printout, and a Somali secret agent.
In the end the FBI bails out, the mob gets a warehouse blown up, the wife of
the owner absconds with the money, and the Somali agent meets an untimely end.
But much happens in between.
"Vordo" time. The vordo spell is cast by Grandma Bella Morelli, and now
Stephanie has to test men on their essential qualities, in addition to her
day-to-day worries like catching a FTA (=failure-to-appear) who thinks he is a
Three men line up, and she test-drives two of them, but the third man has
Moreover through her work Stephanie has made two people angry enough to want
to kill her.
In the end all three gang up on her, she escapes and in the naturally ensuing
event/accident one aspiring murderer kill the second; the third kills the
first and goes to prison for it.
The third to be tested but now dead man left her a good sum of money and she
takes off on holiday with one of the test-driven men.
"Intimacy (Secrets and Lies)",
Faber and Faber,
in Dutch: The Crow,
Account of a fictitious, but partly autobiographical Iranian refugee to the
Netherlands, with the crow witnessing all his actions.
in Dutch: Written Portrait,
Partly in the form of an interview with no questions, partly in the form of
comments on his books, this booklet allows the reader to see which elements of
his other books are autobiographical.
"Never Breathe a Word -- Collected Stories",
Thirteen fictional stories about people in subtly and sometimes not so subtly
awkward situations, followed by seven personal experiences in Ulster in the
1950s and 60s.
There is no justice in the world. Vinnie, Stephanie's boss, has swindled Billy
Sunflower, and Billy Sunflower has swindled Blutto the Bulgarian Bull.
But Blutto, rather than considering Vinnie his ally against Billy, declares
him his archenemy. This results in both Billy's and Vinnie's offices being
torched, hence the title and the cover, which for once matches the title.
Fortunately the Hobbits come to the rescue.
"Finger Lickin' Fifteen",
Should have been book 13, the book in which everything went wrong.
Stephanie's relationship with Morelli is in the sink;
her apartment is barbecue-sauced by an exploding pressure cooker;
her apartment is fire-bombed by two crazed chef-cook murderers;
her skips are all escaping her;
she ruins two cars in one day;
the cook-off in which she participates predictably goes up in flames;
and the 1 million dollar award for catching the chef-cook murderers turns out
to be non-existent.
But she does find out that Ranger's company is almost ruined by two bored
David Fickling Books,
Four men rob a bank, one is caught and goes to prison. When he is released,
the four go after the nine million dollars, but two turn up dead and one
disappears. The last man standing is after Stephanie, who only knows his voice
and his shoes. Then she recognizes the voice...
St. Martin's Paperbacks,
Spirit of the Season: the Halloween episode.
Stephanie's FTA of the day has been recruited by the Unmentionable and
extremely creepy Wulf (no second name) and the two want to take over the world
by nefarious means. But Stephanie,
the certified Unmentionable Diesel, and the possibly Unmentionable monkey Carl
ferret them out in the Pine Barrens, and put a firey end to their plans.
Spirit of the Season: the St. Patrick's Day episode.
Minor mobster Lou Delvina is miserable: he is bloated up like a toad from
prednisone against an allergy attack, his prize hedge has been ruined by
Stephanie, and he has lost a bag of stolen money. The bag was found by
Stephanie's Granny while she was looking at a rainbow, and it being
St. Patrick's Day, she took it, and went out to fulfil one of her dreams: to do
the casinos of Atlantic City. But the Unmentionable leprechaun Snuggy O'Connor
claims the bag, and Lou wants it back, and all the while Granny is merrily
gambling the money away. Diesel, Stephanie, Connie, and Lula sort out this mess
successfully, while Lula gets her fifteen minutes of fame, as a model on a
billboard for a casino.
"The Private Lives of Pippa Lee",
"Lean Mean Thirteen",
Stephanie's ex husband and sleazy lawyer Dickie Orr is missing with blood
stains in his office and Stephanie is the first suspect.
And then his even more sleazy associates begin to turn up dead.
Spirit of the Season: the Valentine's Day episode.
Annie Hart, a "relationship expert" Unmentionable whose job it is to help
people find their True Love, is temporarily indisposed, and through some
twisted logic it has fallen on Diesel to close her last four cases before
But Diesel has shanghaied Stephanie to do the job for him while he tries to
get Annie out of trouble. She and Luna manage to accomplish the impossible,
including the wedding of hyper-shy lawyer Albert Kloughn to he sister Valerie.
Stephanie ruins mob boss Lou Delvina's horticultural pride while rescuing
Annie and now fears for her life, but Diesel tells her he has turned Lou into
"Visions of Sugar Plums",
St. Martin's Paperbacks,
Spirit of the Season: the Christmas episode.
Sandy Claws, Unmentionable owner of an elves-employing toy shop and factory is
beset by ditto electricity-wielding John Ring, and Unmentionable Diesel is on
When it turns out that Ring is Grandma Mazur's latest beau, the situation
explodes and the fall-out brings Christmas presents for Stephanie and her
Eine ziemlich langweilige Geschichte, beschrieben in wunderschönem Deutsch.
A rather boring story described in superbly beautiful German.
Ranger's daughter is kidnapped by fake Ranger.
in Dutch: The Sufi,
Tale of an Iraqi-Dutch refugee Sufi teacher, whom the events of the world have
put in a very complex situation.
But the book stops way before the issues are resolved (and resolved they must
This may be very artsy, but it is also very unsatisfying.
"The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing",
Second book about Alexandra Barnaby and Hooker.
A&H happen upon an illegal component chip in a rival race car, and steal the
trailer containing the race car with the chip to analyse it, only to find a
dead body in the trailer. It gets worse from there, with some pretty
distasteful details, unfortunately.
"Eleven on Top",
Mortician takes revenge from the past.
First book about Alexandra Barnaby, race car mechanic, Hooker, race car
driver, and Beans, the 150-pound St. Bernhard.
"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian: A Novel",
"Ten Big Ones",
Stephanie's unintended blood feud with a gang chief is settled by a drag
queen, who in the process earns ten big ones.
Indian computer hacker creates virus that in the end, and perhaps
unintentionally, allows him and a Bollywood actress to find an undisturbed niche
in the madding world.
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time",
Autistic boy solves the riddle of the disappearance of his mother.
"To the Nines",
Stephanie's hunt for a missing computer geek leads her to find the Web Master.
"Terug naar de kust",
in Dutch: Back to the Coast,
This is a thriller, not a detective story.
No sleuthing is done, and the story just evolves until it becomes clear who
did what and why.
Unfortunately the 'how' is not explained; I find it very difficult to
visualize how the perpetrator could have done all these deeds and not be
Stephanie's hunt for a missing child who found a medal gets her entangled
with a very nasty outgrowth of the mob, the members of which include a killer
rabbit and a supercreep. They are killed by Stephanie's mother and a dark
"Dangerous Muse -- The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood",
Da Capo Press,
"Great Granny Webster",
New York Review Books,
Documentary-style attempt at understanding the almost caricaturally
one-dimensional life of Great Granny Webster, from four points of view:
1. the author's as a 14-year old, during a two-week visit in 1945;
2. as told to the author by her aunt Lavinia;
3. twice removed, as told to the author by a friend of her father's; and
4. again the author's, at GGW's funeral.
GGW successfully resists the attempt.
The chronology is strained: GGW married in 1876, which puts her birth at not
much later than 1859, and she died in 1962, at the age of at least 103,
fittingly leaving her almost unassailable even by death.
The character of GGW is (loosely) based on Caronline's grandmother Brenda
Her chronology differs considerably, however, from that of GGW.
Brenda Woodhouse was born circa 1887, and died July 17, 1946 (at age 59).
She married twice, to Frederick Blackwood on June 20, 1908 (at age 21), and to
Henri Sommerset on Jan 28, 1932 (at age 45).
A good but not fascinating read, interesting for its curiousness.
"All Families Are Psychotic",
A bizarre misunderstanding between a hard-of-hearing senior criminal and his
boss leads to a bizarre crime. The crazy wife of the victim goes to extreme
countermeasures, putting two zonked-out oafs in mortal danger. Stephanie gets
involved because the old man is wanted independently for a minor crime. She
avoids becoming part of the crazy wife's plan by hitting her with a power saw,
and brings in the senior criminal by attrition.
"La vie sexuelle de Catherine M.",
in French: The Sexual Life of Catherine M.,
Disappointing story of a psychiatrist who tries to hide an implausible family
secret from the reader until page 213. One-dimensional, in that each character
has only one role.
Somewhat confusing story in which one of Stephanie's two male friends, Ranger,
get accused of murder, everybody including the murder victim follows Stephanie
hoping she will lead them to said Ranger, and in the end Ranger arrests the
murder victim. Then there is a bag of money floating around, which ends up in
the hands of two deserving adherents of creative living.
It all began with Uncle Fred wanting to find out why his garbage was not
collected, and it ended with a cheating bank manager shooting a berserk
Ramirez. And Stephanie gets her man with help from the otherwise despicable
son of an Arab sheik.
Frank van Rijn,
"De twee scherven -- Een ontdekkingsreis door China",
in Dutch: The Two Shards -- A voyage of discovery through China,
Account of a -fortunately- rather uneventful 4500 km bicycle trip from Peking
to the Kunjirap pass (Pakistan border), and of the Ming and Qing shards and
how they did not reach Pakistan.
"Un détective de mauvais poil",
in French: A Bad-Fur Detective,
"Four to Score",
Stephanie is called upon to bring in Eddie Kuntz, which seems easy enough. But
to impress his girlfriend Maxine, Eddie has stolen the plates from his
counterfeit dollars printing aunt and uncle. Maxine has run with the plates
and is blackmailing aunt and uncle. Stephanie, following the trail, ends up in
the forgers' house, but is rescued by Lula.
"The Disappearance of Lyndsey Barratt",
Very intriguing novel about a very carefully planned and meticulously executed
(and described!) revenge.
"Parrot in the Oven -- mi vida",
Eleven episodes in the life of a 15 year old Mexican-American boy in a project
in an American city with scorching hot summers and freezing cold winters.
The book is written in the first person, in an very polished and literary
prose, which makes it totally implausible.
Sample sentence: "When I neared the pharmacy, the sun was knifing a big blue
hand through the ghosts of fog, sweeping them away like cobwebs." (p. 160-161).
In the end the protagonist finds peace after being mistaken for a good
guy during a robbery.
"Three to Get Deadly",
Uncle Mo, for 40 years owner of the local candy shop, is on the run, and dead
bodies of drug pushers are turning up everywhere he is being seen.
So many burg citizens assume that Mo is cleaning up the neighbourhood
and are applauding him for it.
But it turns out that quite a different local worthy and his vigilantes are
doing the killing.
"Two for the Dough",
Stiva, the replacement undertaker, is a creep; Kenny, his buddy, is a crazy
criminal; and Moogey, his other buddy, is too stupid to find his own nose.
Together they've hatched out a crime, and now they are cheating each
Kenny is missing, Moogey is dead, and Stephanie does not suspect Stiva enough.
Until someone of the above kidnaps Grandma Mazur, and Stephanie gets real
This book is a slow starter.
Almost exactly the first half (209 pages) is dedicated to setting the scene,
Invicta Cross, a small town thrown up in the 1980s on the border of urban and
rural England; the story itself starts on page 211, and then takes off in high
gear, detailing the settlement of bills of ten years earlier.
As expected, the reader soon finds out that perhaps not all was what it seemed.
In the end (page 417) it all ends more satisfactorily than one would expect
from the actions of three such damaged/crazy people.
Lonnie Barbach, PhD.,
"One for the Money",
The first in the interminable, very amusing and highly readable series about
Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter extraordinary.
Joe Morelli, a cop with an ambiguous relationship with Stephanie is
accused of shooting an unarmed villain; he is on the run, and Stephanie is
determined to bring him in and earn the \$10,000 award.
Complicating the matter are Ranger, a super bounty hunter who has taken
Stephanie under his wings and more; Ramirez, a mean boxer; Lula, an oversized
hooker; and Carmen, a police informant who is missing.
Bad things happen, and in the end the manager of Ramirez, who has diversified
into drugs smuggling gets his come-uppance, and Stephanie brings in her man
and proves him innocent.
"The Buddha of Suburbia",
faber & faber,
Rise and eventual settlement of an Indian boy/man, Karim, in the pre/post
Thatcher London Area.
It becomes increasingly less clear who is the Buddha of suburbia, Karim or his
father, whose antics to a large extent determine the path of Karim's life.
"La femme de papier",
New York Review of Books,
Martin Cruz Smith,
Simon & Schuster,
A Russian-American business man has smuggled sabres (the animals) out of the
Soviet Union, to break the SU's monopoly on sabre fur, and to get rich. In the
process he has murdered three witnesses in the SU, and a sabre has escaped in
the USA. So there are loose ends on both sides of the Atlantic.
Two Soviet secret agencies, two American secret agencies, our detective Renko
Arkady, and a New-York cop whose brother was one of the murdered witnesses all
stick their fingers in. In the end everybody is dead with the exception of our
detective, his not-girlfriend, and the smuggled sabres.
The book is dead-serious (with emphasis on dead), the dialogues are often
cryptic, and the required border crossings and smuggling methods are either
shaky or not explained.
"The Siege of Beszterce",
"This Scheming World",
in Hebrew: The Drunken Forest,
"De komst van Joachim Stiller",
in Dutch: The Coming of Joachim Stiller,
A magic-realistic novel.
On a cold winter morning late in 1944 a German V-I flying bomb hit a tram on
the Teniersplaats in Antwerp, killing many people among whom a U.S. army Major
named Joachim Stiller and the 10-years old daughter of Mr. Keldermans, later
to become an alderman of said city. The passport of Major Stiller was found
ripped from his clothes by a 22-years old student, Freek Groenevelt, later to
become the first person singular of this book.
Fifteen years later, the souls of the deceased Major and the young girl team up to bring together
in this world this Freek Groenevelt and the 25-years old Simone Marijnissen,
who reminds Mr. Keldermans strongly of his deceased daughter. But due to
communication problems between this universe and the hereafter, their hints
and pointers continue to confuse and mystify everybody including the reader.
Anyway, that is what my rational mind makes of it... (They do succeed in their
For a more factual summary see the Wikipedia, both in English and in Dutch.
The author neglects to tell that the army truck that killed the returning
Joachim Stiller on his arrival to a meeting with Freek, Simone and Mr,
Keldermans, was found not to exist; but the reader has already guessed that...
"Dans un mois. dans un an",
Frederik van Eden,
"De kleine Johannes",