Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson
Some books are perfect for listening while driving on long interstate stretches or crammed into an airplane seat. Janet Evanovich’s various series fit this category well. They’re highly entertaining, and they don’t require deep thinking.
Stephanie Plum, Evanovich’s intrepid bounty hunter and endearing klutz, is by far my favorite, but I’ve also begun to enjoy the Fox and O’Hare series she writes with Lee Goldberg, a screenwriter and author who’s worked on various TV detective series, including Monk, one of my all-time favorites.
Scam is the fourth book in this series.
SCAM. By Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. Read by Scott Brick. Random House Audio. 6 CDs; 7 hours. $35. Also available in print from Bantam Books.
In case you haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, a bit of background: Kate O’Hare is a beautiful FBI agent and former Navy SEAL who spent several years tracking down Nicolas Fox, a charming con man and thief who was high on the agency’s most-wanted list. Then she caught him.
But to her surprise, the powers-that-be decided to let Nick go free – if he’d agree to collaborate secretly with Kate. Together, the two now work to topple big-time criminals who manage to evade more conventional law-enforcement efforts.
Kate and Nick go undercover whenever necessary, traveling the globe to thwart sophisticated bad guys. Nick is working with the good guys now, but he’s not at all hesitant to use some of the questionable strategies and tactics that made him such a successful criminal. Kate spends a lot of time being exasperated by him, and more worrying that she’ll lose her job and go to prison if the schemes he talks her into don’t succeed.
Kate’s father, Jake, is retired from an Army job that involved covert ops. One of the few people who know Kate and Nick’s secret, Jake helps them out when he can, often securing the help of an old buddy or two. Jake is fond of rocket launchers and other deadly weapons.
This time out, Kate and Nick are after Evan Trace, a ruthless Las Vegas casino owner who’s running an international money-laundering ring through his other casino, in Macau. Trace is surrounded by criminal types who love to hurt people
Oh, and our fearless twosome also have to rush off to Hawaii to help Jake deal with the islands’ version of the mob. Eventually, Jake, a semi-retired Somali pirate, a movie stuntman, and other interesting characters help Kate and Nick attempt a major sting to bring down Trace and some of the low-life types who do business with him.
If you’re looking for three-dimensional, soul-searching characters and explorations of ethical issues, look somewhere else. Even Kate and Nick, the main characters, are pretty superficial. Kate seems awfully unsophisticated, but then she was raised by a military dad and has spent her adult life in jobs that don’t leave much time for socializing.
Nor should you come to these tales worrying about verisimilitude. For starters, only in the late summer of 2015 did real-life Navy officials start talking seriously about allowing women to try to become SEALs. Who knows how much of the rest of the book is exaggeration?
These novels follow something of a formula, but there’s enough variety in settings, characters and plot lines to keep things interesting. Of course, there’s the strong attraction between Kate and Nick, which moves to a new level in this book. There’s also plenty of danger and suspense.
The money laundering operations and the scam that Nick concocts to break them are complicated and require more concentration on the part of the listener or reader than does most of the rest of the book.
The Fox and Hare books are pure entertainment, sometimes amusing, sometimes action-packed. Scott Brick reads the book with all the appropriate inflections and drama.
There have been rumors that Evanovich and Goldberg might keep this series fairly short. One version of the rumor said there would be only four books. The way No. 4 ends, however, makes it clear that there are more adventures in store.