The Plum family's next door neighbour, Mabel Markowitz, needs Stephanie's help. Her grand-daughter, Evelyn Soder, has disappeared with her daughter and Evelyn's husband is threatening to collect on a child custody bond that would leave Mrs Markowitz homeless. The husband is a rather mean dude who lost his bar in a business deal with local nasty Eddie Abruzzi who doesn't hesitate to make overt threats to Stephanie when she begins to investigate Evelyn's disappearance.
The fat, unflappable and still on the tarty side ex-hooker Lula, together with Grandma Mazur and a new addition to the cast - outrageous nerd lawyer Albert Kloughn who fancies himself a man of action and gent about town - are all good for some great slapstick belly laughs! But Stephanie herself, over-sexed and under-satisfied, carrying around lots of personal angst and torn between her affection for cop Morelli and her lust for Ranger, the hot muscled Cuban bounty-hunter extraordinaire, is getting tired. Not only is her self-doubt becoming a drag on the series but she seems to be devolving into a stereotypical weak-kneed female who cries out for Ranger's or Morelli's help at every opportunity!
Setting aside the silliness of having one of the bad guys trail Stephanie around wearing a bunny suit as a disguise, the plot of "Hard Eight" is actually darker and a little more substantive than most of the preceding seven titles in the series. So if we've got a better plot with a little weaker main character, I suppose that leaves us with a series that still has plenty of legs. But the legs are getting a little wobbly and only reading "To the Nines", the next title in the series will reveal whether Evanovich can pull a rabbit out of the hat and rejuvenate the flash and magic that was so charming in the earlier novels.
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