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.
Four to Score is, as the title suggests, the fourth novel in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. It was published June 15th, 1998.
The main mystery:
Maxine Nowicki has gone missing and is taunting her ex-boyfriend (Eddie Kuntz) with coded messages. Meanwhile, her friends and family receive unexplained injuries.
During the first day of action, the book explicitly states that it takes place in July. There are also references to things that happened in February (which would have been shortly after the events of Three to Get Deadly): it was the last time she had seen Morelli and the time she had bought her current car (a Honda CRX).
As is typical for the series, the action takes place over approximately one and a half weeks. Based on the number of times it’s referenced that Stephanie goes to sleep for the night, the action starts on Day 1 (Saturday) and ends on Day 11 (Tuesday). Days of the week are quite frequently mentioned in the story, so it is easy to keep track of the timeline.
- Maxine Nowicki — charged with stealing her ex-boyfriend’s car
- Kenny Martin (Ranger’s FTA that Stephanie helps with)
- Norvil Thompson (Ranger’s FTA that Stephanie helps with)
- not an FTA but apprehended by Stephanie: Sally Sweet’s bandmate Sugar, who has been threatening Stephanie
Cast of (recurring) characters:
- Bond agency:
- Ranger (“Vinnie’s numero uno bounty hunter”);
- Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie’s nemesis, is hired as a bounty hunter;
- another bounty hunter named Hanson is briefly mentioned.
- Stephanie’s family:
- Mom & Dad
- this book includes the “longest speech my father made in fifteen years”
- it is confirmed that they live on High Street
- Grandma Mazur
- (Stephanie’s sister Valerie is briefly mentioned)
- plus Rex the hamster.
- Mom & Dad
Grandma Mazur moved in with my parents shortly after my grandfather went heavenward to dine with Elvis.
- Other recurring characters:
- love interest: Joe Morelli
- We get a glimpse into Joe’s family. We meet his Grandma Bella, his aunt and Bella’s younger sister Mary Elizabeth, his Godmother Tina Ragusto, his aunt Loretta, and his mom.
- nemesis?: Terry Gilman (related to the mob, used to date Morelli)
- cops: Carl Costanza
- best friend: Mary Lou Molnar (whom she talks to on the phone)
- new friend: Salvatore “Sally” Sweet (a musician who helps decode messages; nephew of Stephanie’s neighbour Lorraine Klausner)
- building’s superintendent: Dillon Ruddick
- neighbours mentioned: Mr Landowsky, Mr Kleinschmidt (apt.315), Lorraine Klausner (1st floor), Mr Markowitz, Mrs Williams, Mrs Balog, Evelyn Krutchka (3rd floor), Ernie Wall and his girlfriend, May, Spanish speaking young woman, Mrs Delgado, Mr Winstein, Mrs Karwatt, Leanne Kokoska, Mrs Zuppa, Mrs Burlew, Mrs Baumgarten, Mrs Bestler, Mrs Stinkowski (lives below Stephanie).
- love interest: Joe Morelli
Team Morelli/Team Ranger:
As is the case for many of the early books, Stephanie’s only love interest is Joe Morelli. After Stephanie’s apartment gets firebombed, she briefly moves in with Morelli. This in turn gets the gossip-mill turning, and somehow Morelli’s family think that means Stephanie is pregnant with Morelli’s child. They get invited for dinner at each others’ parents’ houses, and they do go “all the way” at least once.
While Ranger is not a love interest, he does get flirty with Stephanie at one point in the book. But otherwise, he doesn’t have a major role in the story.
The book starts with Stephanie driving a Honda CRX convertible. It gets doused in gasoline and set on fire by a flicked cigarette butt. Lula’s Firebird also gets torched at the same time. After that, Stephanie is back to either driving Big Blue or getting rides from other people.
At this point, people begin to joke about how Stephanie “knocked off three cars and burned down a funeral home” and that she’s “death on cars”.
Other automobiles mentioned in the book include Morelli’s red Ducati 916 Superbike. Ranger’s (always black) cars are also mentioned: he has a $98,000 BMW and a new black Range Rover.
I feel like this is the book that firmly establishes the status quo between Stephanie and Morelli. They have a relationship, but they don’t want to call it for what it is, and looking back on it now it makes sense why — there is so much pressure associated with from their families that it’s probably hard for them to figure out what they really want.