I really enjoyed this one. Stephanie isn’t after a major FTA (failure to appear) this time, which leads to some nice interactions with Ranger and the introduction of some of the men Ranger employs. Lately there haven’t been many FTAs and Stephanie is low on funds and overdue for rent, so she asks Ranger to let her know of any job opportunities, and he has her help out (I use the word “help” loosely as she tends to bumble things) with a few jobs for some extra cash. In the meantime, she is given a small-time FTA to go after and is searching for her Uncle Fred, who has gone missing. Along the way we learn that nobody particularly likes Fred, including his wife.
Stephanie ends up dealing with a supposed bookie who is also after Fred, though Stephanie is positive (and rightly so) that he isn’t actually a bookie. But he follows her around to keep up with her leads and breaks into her apartment to hang out. She also has to deal with the aforementioned FTA living in her apartment after she sort of ruins his. Lastly, and most seriously, Benito Ramirez, the crazy homicidal rapist from the first book, makes a reappearance and is stalking Stephanie.
Stephanie and Morelli are running hot and cold in this one because off screen they realized they wanted different things. But they are still spending time with each other and still flirting with each other, and Stephanie gets jealous when she thinks he is interested in Terry Gilman. Also, as usual, the case Stephanie is investigating (Uncle Fred’s disappearance) intersects with Morelli’s bigger investigation but Morelli won’t share many details.
I liked the banter and sexual tension with Ranger (I’ve never been able to decide if I’m Team Morelli or Team Ranger). Although Stephanie isn’t necessarily good at her job, she is able to put pieces together to figure out the various mysteries she ends up involved in, which I like. I also liked the introduction of new characters, both ones that might be recurring and one that isn’t. I will say, though, I’m getting tired of the bestiality jokes. Evanovich seems to include one in each book, usually in relation to Vinnie. It’s not outright stated, though it is heavily implied, and I realize I’m probably taking these books too seriously, but I don’t find animal abuse amusing. I’m not sure what the purpose is in including them, other than to make sure readers realize how unsavory Vinnie is, which we already know.