Valentine’s Day is almost here, and Stephanie Plum’s life becomes even more complicated with the arrival of mystery man Diesel, who might just be possessed of certain abilities like reading thoughts and locating people by a kind of mental GPS - or he could just be a whack job; Stephanie hasn’t decided. What is certain is that he knows the whereabouts of her cousin Vinnie’s sole bail jumper Annie Hart, a matchmaker charged with armed robbery and assault. Stephanie needs the money that could come with bringing Annie in. Diesel needs to keep her safe from a fellow ‘Unmentionable’ by the name of Beaner, whose special power is ... well, unmentionable. He tells her that Annie will hand herself over to Stephanie if Stephanie does her a favour: takes on five of her most challenging clients and matches them up by Valentine’s Day.
Charlene has a house full of kids and pets and insists she doesn’t want a man. Gary the vet is pining for an ex-girlfriend who’s moved on to someone richer. Larry is a painfully shy butcher who spends his days gazing wistfully at a girl in the coffee shop across the road. Then there’s Janeane the thirty-five-year-old virgin. And last of all ... Albert Kloughn, Stephanie’s would-be brother-in-law, who loves the thought of being married but keels over at the thought of actually getting married. She agrees and soon discovers that matchmaking - with some help from Lula and Grandma - is actually the easy part. The difficulty arises when Annie disappears, Beaner can’t be found, and it becomes apparent that there is more to the armed robbery charges than meets the eye. If all this is to be sorted out in time, it will take a few Unmentionable skills - and the kind of wedding that only the Plums could produce.
Fortunately the train on which I began reading this was travelling in the middle of the day and therefore nearly empty; I could giggle unnoticed down the back of the carriage. The concept of superheroes with odd talents (and Beaner’s was very unconventional) watching over the citizenry might sound ridiculous, but Stephanie inhabits such a screwball world that suspension of disbelief is automatic and somehow a few Unmentionables seem to fit right in. And there was plenty of room for them, too, as many of the regular characters put in what were pretty much token appearances ... although this did at least keep a very short novel from becoming crowded. But if characters were absent, the humour and chaos were still present. You probably don’t need to have read Diesel’s previous appearance in Visions of Sugar Plums - there was a recap of that incident - but because it features part of the continuing story of Valerie and Albert it would need to be read in its place in the numbered series (which I believe is between Twelve and Thirteen).