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Extrait

One

I was perched on a barstool in a dark, noisy, overpriced ­restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. I was wearing a red dress that was too tight, too short, and cut way too low. And I was wearing an earbud that connected me to a guy named Ricardo Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger.

My name is Stephanie Plum. I usually work as a bond enforcement agent for my cousin Vinnie, but tonight I was moonlighting as a lookout for Ranger. Ranger was stalking Emilio Gardi, a man many considered to be untouchable. Gardi had friends in high places, an army of thugs guarding his body, and money to burn, and his enemies tended to disappear without a trace. He was currently facing a racketeering charge in Miami, but he’d decided to keep his dinner date in Jersey rather than attend his court hearing in Dade County. This meant that the idiot who’d been dumb enough to post a bond for Gardi was out big money unless Gardi was dragged back to jail. The idiot happened to be Ranger’s cousin.

Ranger owns Rangeman, a small high-­tech, high-­end ­security firm. Ordinarily Ranger doesn’t do bond enforcement, but tonight he was making an exception. He was standing off to the side at the entrance to the dining room, and he was watching Gardi.

Gardi was wearing a tan sports jacket over a shirt with red and yellow flowers printed on it—­the South Beach–­meets–­JCPenney look. He was in his fifties. He was balding. He was built like a fireplug. He was drinking red wine and eating rack of lamb, having a good time, entertaining three other men who were laughing too hard at his jokes.

Ranger was in his usual black—­a perfectly tailored black suit, and a black dress shirt open at the neck. The Glock at the small of his back was also black. Ranger’s body is perfect. His hair is very dark brown. Cut short. His eyes are dark brown and intense. His skin is the color of hot chocolate, the lucky result of his Latino ancestry. His earbud matched his skin tone and was barely detectable.

Standing beside Ranger was a guy named Tank. Tank is big and solid and lethal. He’d been with Ranger’s unit in Special Forces, and now he’s second in command at Rangeman and watches Ranger’s back.

I didn’t see any of Gardi’s henchmen. They’d waited for him to take his table and then left the room.

“The room is clean,” I said to Ranger via the earbud.

Ranger moved forward, his gaze never wavering from his quarry. Eye of the tiger. I’ve seen him focus like this on other takedowns, and it always raises the hair on my arms and at the nape of my neck.

Tank was steps behind him, surveying the rest of the room. Ranger unbuttoned his jacket to get better access to his gun and handcuffs. He stopped behind Gardi, put his hand on Gardi’s shoulder, and said something to him, close to his ear.

Gardi shrugged Ranger away, said something I couldn’t hear, and everyone at the table laughed.

Ranger didn’t laugh, and even at a distance I knew things were about to get ugly. Ranger made another civil attempt, Gardi got angry and brushed him off, and in one swift move Ranger snatched Gardi out of his chair like a wolverine rooting out a groundhog.

In a heartbeat Gardi’s head was smashed onto the table, everyone grabbed their drinks, and Ranger cuffed Gardi behind his back and handed him over to Tank. Ranger told the table he was sorry for the intrusion and followed Tank and Gardi out of the room. The whole episode had taken maybe a minute.

A Rangeman vehicle idled in front of the restaurant, ready to take Tank and Gardi back to Rangeman headquarters in center city Trenton. In the morning Gardi would be escorted onto a plane and extradited to Miami.

My job done, I turned back to my black sambuca. Okay, I know they put food coloring in the sambuca to make it black. Don’t care. It’s sexy. And I swear the black tastes better. I guess I could also say that about Ranger. Not that he’s my boyfriend or anything, but we have had a moment.

I downed the sambuca, paid my tab, and went outside to meet up with Ranger. The Rangeman SUV was pulling away, and Ranger was waiting for me beside his black Porsche 911 Turbo.

“Babe,” he said.

“Babe” covers a lot of ground for Ranger. It can be a simple greeting, or a warning that a tarantula is sitting on my shoulder. Tonight it came on the heels of a full body scan, and I was pretty sure it suggested he liked my dress.

Ranger slipped an arm around me, leaned close, and kissed me. The kiss was a further indicator that he liked the dress. In fact, the kiss suggested that while he liked the dress a lot, he wouldn’t mind getting me out of the dress as soon as possible. And I was thinking that was a great idea. Fortunately we were in Princeton, and my apartment was at least a half hour away if the traffic was moving. I was going to need that time to talk myself out of sleeping with Ranger.

Ranger keeps me safe from everyone but himself. He’s the panther stalking the gazelle, keeping all other predators away. He enjoys the hunt. And I enjoy being the gazelle, although truth is I’m more prairie chicken than gazelle.

Ranger’s reflexes are quicker, his brain engages faster, his instincts are far superior than the average man’s. My skin heats under his touch, and his kiss sets delicious things in motion in my body. I know from past experience he’s magic in bed. I also know he has dark secrets that take precedence over personal relationships. And I know it’s in my best interests to keep him at arm’s length.

Plus, I sort of have a boyfriend.

Ranger pulled out of the restaurant lot, stopped for a light, and his hand went to my knee and traveled north.

“Um,” I said.

He cut his eyes to me. “Is there a problem?”

“Your hand is moving up my leg.”

“And?”

“We’ve talked about this.”

“Not lately,” Ranger said.

“Has anything changed?”

“No.”

“Well, then.”

“Is that a definite ‘Well, then’?”

“Afraid it is.”

“Too bad,” Ranger said.

Thirty minutes later, Ranger parked behind my apartment building and walked me to my door.

“Call me if you get lonely,” he said.

“I have you on speed dial,” I told him.

A barely perceptible smile twitched at the corners of his mouth, he gave me a light kiss, and he left.

Truth is, I would have liked to invite him in, but that wouldn’t have been the smart thing to do. Not that I always do the smart thing, but tonight I’d managed to keep from grabbing him and ripping his clothes off. Two points for Plum.

I let myself into my apartment and went to the kitchen to say hello to my hamster, Rex. Rex lives in an aquarium on my kitchen counter and sleeps in a soup can. He was running on his wheel when I looked in on him.

“Hey,” I said. “How’s it going?”

Rex blinked his round black eyes at me and twitched his whiskers. That’s about as complicated as our conversations ever get. I dropped a peanut into his cage and he jumped off his wheel, shoved the peanut into his cheek, and scurried into his soup can with it.

•••

My cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office is on Hamilton Avenue. It’s a one-­story storefront building with some parking spots by the back door. Vinnie has an inner office where he hides from people he’s stiffed, pissed off, infected with herpes, or previously incarcerated. Vinnie looks like a weasel in a pimp suit. His wife, Lucille, is a saint. His father-­in-­law, Harry the Hammer, owns the agency and didn’t get his nickname because he was a carpenter.

Connie Rosolli, the office manager and guard dog, was at her desk when I walked in.

“How’d it go last night?” she asked.

“It was good. Ranger walked up to Gardi, yanked him out of his chair, and cuffed him. Very smooth.”

“And?”

“That was it.”

“No naked Ranger in your bed?”

“Nope.”

“Disappointing,” Connie said.

Tell me about it. “Anything new come in for me?”

“I have a failure-­to-­appear. High money bond. Jimmy Poletti.”

“He owns all those car dealerships, right? He shoots his own commercials. ‘Make a deal with Jimmy!’ ”

Revue de presse

“The combination of biting dialogue, outrageous characters and intense story lines are consistent throughout. And [Janet Evanovich] novels are the true definition of a guilty pleasure.”—Associated Press
 
“Evanovich doesn’t disappoint. . . . [She] weaves setting, family, romance and crime to pull the plot of Top Secret Twenty-One forward.”Bookreporter


From the Hardcover edition.


Détails sur le produit

  • CD: 5 pages
  • Editeur : Random House Audio; Édition : Unabridged (17 juin 2014)
  • Collection : Stephanie Plum
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0385366809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385366809
  • Dimensions du produit: 12,9 x 2,8 x 15 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 713.366 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Par Paul Chana le 14 juillet 2014
Format: Format Kindle
Janet Evanovich's Top Secret Twenty One gripped me from the start all the way to the end. I find it inspiring, educative, humorous, and insightful.The ebb and flow of the characters, dialogue and narrative made it easy enough to follow and enjoy. This style which I also saw recently in Janvier Chando's "The Oaf" lends credence to a smooth style of story telling that appears to be gaining ground in today.
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Par Lebourleux André le 3 juillet 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
c'est toujours bien écrit et agréable à lire, mais de plus en plus prévisible et répétitif - il semble que la série s'essouffle, c'est dommage, elle me manquera
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.590 commentaires
798 internautes sur 861 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Please don't shoot the critic 19 juin 2014
Par Debbie Wood - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Janet Evanovich has been writing best-selling books for so many years I forget when I started reading them. The antics of Stephanie and her crew have made me laugh so hard I had tears running down my legs. The sexual tension between the characters has always had me coming back for more, and, more. Ms. Evanovich was a master of the craft and we all profited from it. She's done now. The legend of Stephanie Plum is over. I don't know how it happened. I don't know when it all started to go wrong. But alas, the ride is over. Maybe it started when the author started to write other series with other authors. Maybe she just had no more left for Stephanie to do. But since about book 11, I think we all started getting tired of it. How many more times is someone going to say "babe"? Are we expected to read a book where someone usually dies, the dog eats something and pukes, grandma does something kooky, and the heroine waffles back and forth between two men. We all give thanks for the years of enjoyment but we are officially done. For the last ten books (translate ten years and about $300.00, not to mention the shelf space we have lost) you can take off the dust jackets, mix them around and put them in any order you want. It makes no difference, THE'RE ALL THE SAME BOOK!!!! I gave it ten good years and except for the fact that the books are getting thinner, they haven't changed a bit. I actually SKIMMED through this book. Can you believe it? SKIMMED!!! I'm sorry Janet, I have loved your books since I was a teenager, but I can't read one more repetitious word. I WILL miss you. But I really need the shelf space.
309 internautes sur 332 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Only Positive Thing Left 19 juin 2014
Par JP Reader Me - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Anymore, I look forward to reading the Stephanie Plum Amazon book reviews much more than I actually enjoy the books.

Let me summarize
Lula is fat, beautiful and funny
Grandma Mazur is whacky
Vinnie is creepy
Connie is competent
Rex is …. well my goodness he's STILL ALIVE and still pretty much a work free pet
Joe is hardworking, decent, needs a hair cut, and likes sex
Ranger is hardworking, dark, mysterious, wealthy and just an almost irresistible temptation

Stephanie is cute, has curly hair that she wears in a ponytail, utterly incompetent and lucky as all heck

Well, and Randy Briggs is back. Still short. Still obnoxious.

And this year's weird animal is a pack of red-eyed killer chihuahuas. Do you people know how hard it is to correctly spell chihuahua? I think getting that right numerous times was probably the biggest effort that was put into writing this book.
278 internautes sur 311 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Count to 10 and read THOSE books instead 18 juin 2014
Par AmandaTX - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I downloaded and read this book in about 3 hours on my Kindle Fire HD.
It was SO predictable. Nothing new was added, nothing old disappeared.

If I had to do it over again, I would never have touched one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. Never. Not in a million years. But, like Steph and donuts, I'm kinda hooked.
I figure the series has to come to some conclusion eventually....

Of course, I thought the same thing about the much superior and similar ( though now somewhat to very socially outdated) Travis McGee series written by the late John D. MacDonald from the 60's ( reissued in paperback) through the late 80's. No conclusion for Travis.. Only conclusion was that there were no half- finished manuscripts to be published posthumously after the author's death in the late 80's. I can highly recommend the Travis McGee series. He's like Ranger, only he's all about the women around him and they are all about him. Crimes just happen in the meantime.

This book, however, was such a formulation of all the last few years' of Plum number series books that it was impossible to find anything much to smile about, be interested in, or even be grossed out about even though Janet amped up the gross factor quite a lot to make up for the lack of sex. This was a first I think. Usually there's not much grossness or sex.
Just a girl who is always described by her hair, her mascara, her lip gloss and her lack of markmanship.

This has to end, Janet. Please. Use a nice even number like " 22" and put Steph. with one of the two men, make it final, and maybe shuffle the formula writing off to someone else- someone who will then write gooey romance novels about Stephanie and either Joe or Ranger.
I'd actually read more if Ranger was the leading man.

This action adventure is stale and trite and the gore in this novel was " shock jock". I believe an adolescent is writing under Evanovich's famed name now. Really.
99 internautes sur 108 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Enough already!!! 23 juin 2014
Par Michelle - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I have been a loyal fan for the entire series. But when you have 21 volumes to 1 Series, unless you're very good the stories continue to repeat themselves. This book was nothing new, same stories different book. I'm really disappointed in Janet, after all these years you think if the story wasn't going to go anywhere she would end rather than letting it bad. This was my last Stephanie Plum book, I will not continue to waste my money to reread one of the other many volumes of the series. Spoiler alert - Stephanie's in danger, the boys fight over her, and she ends up in a ridiculous situation where she has one of her felons living with her. No decision on Joe or ranger, no movement on either relationship, and at the end of the book I'm no further invested than I was at the end of the last.
143 internautes sur 167 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Same ole, same ole 19 juin 2014
Par T.V. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Well, I found this book sort of boring. Bob eats everything, Lula in her spandex always craving for junk food, domesticated Morelli (or as somebody called him Borelli LOL) with his heartburn, another looser staying in Stephanie's apartment, weird animals, a skip, who stole some junk food and who's clothes doesn't fit, Ranger's car is exploded, Stephanie swipes her mascara, craves junk food at the most inappropriate time, lusts after Ranger but sleeps with Morelli, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and if you are out of ideas just bring in a bad Russian guy. That was funny. "Vlatko is much common name in Russia" (per Leo). Yeah, right. There is no name Vlatko in Russia, but it's commonly used in Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia.
What's new? Stephanie had a thought or two that she might want a normal life (like her mother's?) and Ranger mentioned he might want to share his closet. This is the biggest development in the book.
I still like Ranger, but I don't really care about the others at this point.
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