In Takedown Twenty, a Stephanie Plum novel, bounty hunter Plum tracks down a killer who is leaving old women in a dumpster and unravels the mystery behind a giraffe who is seen roaming the streets in Trenton, NJ. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels are known for being light, fun mysteries with eccentric characters and interesting plot twists. Takedown Twenty is no exception. In this novel, Plum works with Morelli (love interest #1 to whom she is "practically engaged"), Ranger (love interest #2 for whom she is trying to overcome her lust), and Lula (her infamous sidekick and a former "ho,") to capture the killer of old women in Trenton, NJ, whose only links to one another may be their penchant for bingo and the presence of a sunflower left by the killer. Prominent throughout the book is Kevin, a giraffe who makes his appearance in downtown Trenton in the opening pages and whose presence in the book isn't resolved until the final chapter. Takedown Twenty is classic Evanovich, who has an amazing sense of humor and voice.
As the book opens, Plum and Lula are attempting to locate Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi, a powerful mobster who has skipped bail and is wanted for murder. Uncle Sunny is also the godfather of Plum's "nearly fiance," Joe Morelli, a good-looking cop who is on the right side of the law but whose large Italian family maybe isn't. On a stakeout, Lula spots a giraffe running wild through the streets, not an everyday occurrence in a city like Trenton. As Plum works to capture Uncle Sunny, she also gets a request from Ranger, who runs a local security firm, to get information from the community, including her grandmother Mazur, that might help him track down the "sunflower killer."
As Stephanie battles her conflicting romantic feelings for both Ranger and Morelli, she delves into the world of funerals, bingo parlors and online gaming with quirky Grandmother Mazur by her side. Along the way, she also works a brief stint with the local butcher, who would love to get to know her "better." That one-sided love interest lasts only long enough for Plum to catch the butcher's apartment on fire and lead investigators to discover that he is a trafficker of stolen goods.
The story comes to a climax when Grandmother Mazur, whose libido is operating in overdrive, goes missing, and Stephanie and Ranger are on full alert to find her, fearing that she may be the next victim of the sunflower killer. In the end, of course, Grandmother Mazur is too much for the old man's heart, who dies with a full erection, as she performs a pole dance in his apartment wearing only a thong. The old man, as it turns out, is none other than Uncle Sunny himself, who has been indiscriminately luring old women in several states into sexual games, killing them and unceremoniously dumping their bodies in the trash.
The murders themselves would be too much to stomach were it not for Evanovich's classic style and humor. And while Stephanie gets into some pretty serious scrapes, including being tossed in the river by Uncle Sunny's henchmen, the storytelling style and dialogue of the characters makes Takedown Twenty an enjoyable read.
And, oh yes. What about Kevin? As it turns out, Uncle Sunny hoped to open a wild game restaurant in Trenton. Kevin was one of the first animals to arrive. He escaped but because no one in Sunny's block wanted to be known as a rat, no one called police or animal control about the roaming giraffe. In the end, Kevin was captured and sent safely to a zoo in Florida. And all the giraffe lovers breathed a sigh of relief.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the story for its humor, quirky characters and dialogue.
Best scene in story:
There are many good scenes in the book, but my favorite is the one when Stephanie finds Grandma Mazur with the dead Uncle Sunny, whose heart gave out as Grandma performed a pole dance for him in his apartment. He died with a full erection. The scene includes hilarious dialogue between Stephanie and Grandma on what happened and why.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Stephanie because she is a typical NJ woman who is trying to make a living, figure out her relationships and balance the demands of her quirkly family and friends.