"Notorious Nineteen" by best-selling author Janet Evanovich (Bantam, $28) is the latest in her incredibly popular series, starring Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter.
Plum is working for her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman in New Jersey and is eager to make up for a slow summer.
She's trying to track down Geoffrey Cubbin, who disappeared after embezzling five million dollars from members of Trenton's premier assisted living care facility.
Cubbin has mysteriously vanished from a hospital after an emergency appendectomy; the cops haven't had any luck tracking him down either.
Plum gets assistance from a variety of sources, including feisty relatives and a short, intense hospital security specialist.
Lula, Plum's outspoken, heavyweight associate from work, is also helping; they get unusual results in their usual bumbling fashion.
Plum rarely works on just once case, and this is no exception - she's trying to track down a few other oddballs who've skipped bond.
This requires an assortment of undercover work, with strikingly different and sometimes hilarious results.
As usual, Plum has problems with her relationships, just when she's seemingly getting settled in with hard-working Trenton cop Joe Morelli, her long-time boyfriend.
Morelli realizes he's in for a tough time, telling Plum: "You do understand that your life isn't normal, right?"
But there are no easy answers, especially when Plum gets hired by the mysterious Ranger, another love interest, to help her in totally different dangerous situations.
Being faithful to Morelli is a challenge, especially as Ranger and his friends become targets for a devious psychopath.
When you throw in an albino and an exceptional mind-altering wooden Tiki figure, you've got classic Evanovich. The author provides many funny and unexpected scenes, deftly mixing comedy with occasional pathos and violence.
There's not a whole lot new in this novel, but that doesn't mean it's bad - Plum escapes from more tight situations involving exploding vehicles than anyone else in contemporary crime fiction.
Her longtime fans are likely to be highly satisfied with her latest effort. New readers to the series should probably start with the first book, "One for the Money" and continue on, but it's not that essential.
This is just right for the holiday season: fast-paced, solid escapism that doesn't require much heavy thinking.
This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, December 9, 2012.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.