Stephanie Plum’s engaging narrative voice in One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, No. 1) (Stephanie Plum Novels) had me from the first page. I loved her fierce independence, her hard luck story, and how she tries to retain that independence and improve her bank account by doing something she has always considered repugnant: signing on to join her cousin Vinnie’s bail bond business.

Her biggest score would be bringing in Joe Morelli, a cop charged with murder, and someone Stephanie has known all her life. She has several intense memories from back in the day. And even as she wants to bring him in, mainly for the money, she has ambivalent feelings about it all. I like this excerpt, in Stephanie’s voice:

“I’m not sure what it is about Morelli, but he never fails to strip my defenses. Even when I’m on guard, being watchful, Morelli can piss me off, turn me on, make me question my judgment, and, in general, provoke inconvenient emotions….”

While struggling with her mixed feelings and seeking her elusive target, Stephanie manages to score some lighter “recoveries” and put some money in her bank account, after which she buys a car that sputters loudly when she approaches, making it impossible to sneak up on her prey. Then she turns creative and manages to “borrow” Morelli’s Jeep, making driving around a lot easier.

Bringing in Morelli turns out to be more of a challenge than she had imagined, however, since along the way she meets other scumbags who are also gunning for him. Now she is in the sights of a boxer named Ramirez, as well as an unknown ensemble of others who are protecting their own secrets and crimes.

I have read some of the later books from this series, and have enjoyed the Plum character in each. However, it was wonderful to go back to the beginning and fill in some of the blanks. This book and this series have given me a feeling for the Trenton, New Jersey neighborhood and its family-oriented aspects, as well as the crime element threading its way through. Now I can’t wait to see what will happen to Stephanie next. Five stars.

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