This post is a continuation of my mission to document the timeline and recurring motifs in the Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. To see more posts on the topic, click here

Three to Get Deadly  is, as the title suggests, the third novel in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.  It was published February 14th, 1997.

The main mystery:

Uncle Mo, the friendly neighborhood ice-cream and penny-candy seller has gone missing. And to top it all off, the neighborhood drug dealers are also getting bumped off. Are the two events related?

Time references:

During the first day of action, the book explicitly states that it takes place in January, and that Stephanie has been working as a bounty hunter for 5 months.

Unusually for the series, the action takes place over more than two weeks. Based on the number of times it’s referenced that Stephanie goes to sleep for the night, the action starts in on Day 1 and ends on Day 16, with the addition of an epilogue that takes place a couple weeks later. It’s referenced that Day 4 is a Sunday, and Day 10 is a Saturday. Given this, the story appears to begin on a Thursday, and ends two weeks later on a Friday.

FTAs:

  • Moses “Uncle Mo” Bedermeier (speeding and possession of a firearm)
  • Stuart Bagget (22 years old; shot up 14 parked cars, two of which were police cars)
  • Ronald Anders (Stephanie happened to be there when he was shot dead, but he wasn’t one of her FTAs)
  • Leroy “Snake” Watkins (tried to sell some dope to a narc)
  • Melvin Morley III (one of Ranger’s FTAs that Stephanie helped with)

Cast of (recurring) characters:

  • Bond agency: 
    • Vinnie (helps Stephanie catch Mo by finding crucial information through his “sexual deviant” sources);
    • Connie;
    • Ranger (Stephanie’s mentor is now cited as “sometimes” working for Vinnie);
    • Lula (calls herself a bounty hunter in training and is starting to let the filing pile up; cited as living on Sixth Street).
  • Stephanie’s family:
    • Mom & Dad
      • Stephanie’s Dad is more vocal in this book, particularly regarding Stephanie’s non-American car.
      • They are cited as living on High Street.
    • Grandma Mazur (who briefly finds herself a boyfriend named Fred at the Bingo hall, but who gets kicked out of the house after Stephanie’s Dad calls him a gold-digger)
    • plus Rex the hamster (whose life becomes endangered)
  • Other recurring characters:
    • love interest: Joe Morelli (who has moved out of his apartment and is now living in a row house on Slater Street that he inherited from his Aunt Rose; mentions a sister named Mary)
    • ex-husband: Richard “Dicky” Orr
    • cops: Eddie Gazarra (friendly); Carl Costanza (not so friendly)
    • best friend: Mary Lou Molnar (who makes a couple of appearances to go on a stakeout)
    • arch-nemesis: Joyce Barnhardt
    • Lula’s friend Jackie (whom they put in rehab)
    • building’s superintendent: Dillon Ruddick
    • neighbours mentioned: Mrs. Karwatt, Mrs. Bestler, the DeKune apartment, Mr. Paglionne, Mr. Walesky across the hall, Mr. Kleinschmidt, Mrs. Delgado. — come to her rescue when she’s attacked in her apartment.

Team Morelli/Team Ranger:

As is the case for many of the early books, Stephanie’s only love interest is Joe Morelli. Stephanie gets jealous when Joe stops flirting with her and treats her more like a friend. It turns out that he’s just trying to protect himself because he thinks she’s bad news, and they become steamy again towards the end of the book.

While Ranger is not a love interest, he’s a much more major character in this book than the previous one. He works with Stephanie a lot more, comes over to her parents’ house to have dinner, and goes jogging with her multiple mornings. There’s also a lot of mystery surrounding him and Lula begins to refer to him as Batman. His official address at the DMV is a vacant lot, so his real home is referred to as the Batcave.

This is also the book where we begin to learn about Ranger’s diversification in business. “Mostly security related. Bodyguard, debris removal, security consultation.” He takes Stephanie to his office, which is a single room in four-floor brick building near the state buildings.

Cars:

The book starts with Stephanie driving Big Blue, after the Jeep she was driving in the previous book got stolen.

Eventually, Stephanie buys a blue ’84 Nissan pickup which keeps stalling and having to be taken in for repairs. Towards the end of the book, on the day it seems like the car finally got properly fixed, it gets blown up by a rocket launcher.

Other cars mentioned in the book include Lula’s red Firebird, and Morelli’s black Toyota 4×4. As this book is also big on Ranger, we get a good description of Ranger’s two cars.

“Ranger owned two cars. The first was a black Bronco equipped with state-of-the-art Bird Dog tracking system. When Ranger was doing a takedown and expected to transport felons he drove the Bronco. When Ranger wasn’t responsible for a takedown, he drove a black BMW, limited Production 850 Ci.”

The BMW is referred to as the Batmobile. Interestingly, in the previous book, while Ranger was still driving the Bronco, his other car was a black Mercedes sports car.

Final thoughts:

I really liked this book, and probably more so than the previous two. Just as was the case in the first book, you can really sense the danger of Stephanie’s job. She’s shot at multiple times, she gets threatened and burned with a cigarette, and almost has to witness her hamster being killed by an injection of heroin.

I also really loved how everyone becomes involved in the case. There’s a real reason for it: it becomes personal for Ranger because his car gets stolen; Lula becomes a big help because she’s familiar with the people on Stark Street; and even Vinnie gets involved with doing some of the detective work because of his familiarity with the sex community. We even get involvement from Stephanie’s senior neighbors.

Finally, last point to mention is that this marks the first appearance of Cluck in a Bucket.

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