Author: Janet Evanovich


Title: Wicked Appetite

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

"There are seven deadly sins, but only one that keeps you hungry for more." This catchy tagline introduces the theme of Evanovich's latest mystery, Wicked Appetite. The first in a new series based on the seven traditional vices, this one focuses on gluttony. With a unique sense of humor and creative flair for whimsy, Evanovich spins a mystery that proves entertaining in a head-scratching sort of way.

The premise: there are seven "Stones of Power," each of which is said to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins— gluttony, pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, and sloth. Sought by treasure hunters through the ages, the corrupting stones have found their way to Salem, Massachusetts, a town with a magical history, so to speak. Also arriving in Salem is Gerwulf Grimoire (Wulf), a dark, dangerous man with certain abilities that are way beyond ordinary. He's on a mission to possess the Stones, and their power.

Enter Elizabeth (Lizzy) Tucker, the woman Wulf needs to find the Stones. A talented pastry chef, she's new to Boston's North Shore and is enjoying the old house she inherited from her Aunt Ophelia. Life is going along pretty well for Lizzy until she meets Wulf and then Diesel, the really cute, protective guy who also possesses some strange powers. Suddenly she's aware that she's got her own unusual abilities, and she's not very happy with the situation.

Lizzy and Diesel find themselves on a hunt for four pieces of one inheritance—keys to finding the Stone of Gluttony. Throw in the one-eyed ninja cat and an amazingly rude monkey, plus Lizzy's friends' preoccupation with magical spells, and you've got one bizarre plot that borders on the absurd. No, actually, it is absurd.

The absurdity—if readers have a high threshold for willing suspension of belief—is what will keep you turning the pages. The whole plot turns on silliness, light-hearted dialogue, and funny characters. Yet the backdrop of the story involves witchcraft, sorcery, and magic. The dichotomy of those elements—silly sorcery?—may cause simultaneous chuckles and confusion.

The author is obviously using the seven deadly sins as the centerpiece of the new series but lets the humor dull the seriousness of the characters' evil. If you can ignore the fact that Wulf wants to possess all the stones because they supposedly will imbue him with some sort of magnificent power—that he intends to use for his own dark purposes—then the humor will win out, and you might enjoy the book. If you can't quite get past the magic and the sense of wrongness in joking about sin, then don't bother reading it.

I suspect longtime Evanovich fans will not be fazed by the material or her blithe style. But Christian readers may find the entire premise and the author's lighthearted treatment of the occult too much to swallow. Additionally, there is a high level of sexual innuendo in Lizzy and Diesel's conversations, though no explicit scenes at all. You'll find several violent episodes, most of which are brushed off by the characters as unimportant.

Janet Evanovich is the bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, and a variety of romance novels. Wicked Appetite is the first novel in her new Diesel & Tucker series. Discerning or sensitive readers may wish to forgo the temptation to indulge.

**This review first published October 18, 2010