I’ve been trying to work my way through 2 series: Kay Scarpetta and Stephanie Plum. I enjoyed the first 10 or so Plum books and I read book 4 and 5 of the Scarpetta series and enjoyed them to a degree. However, as I started book 19 of the Plum series the other night and book 2 of the Scarpetta series, I was acutely aware of why I didn’t read either of these series anymore.
Sometimes, in the Plum series, I get tired of Stephanie needing to be rescued. I can only handle so much damsel in distress. However, the big killer for me is the love triangle. How long can she remain indecisive between Morelli and Ranger? And why does either man continue to fall all over themselves in their pursuit of her? I don’t know very many men who would be willing to continue the shit like Morelli does. Ranger I get a little more, he doesn’t want the house, white picket fence, minivan, 2.3 kids, and 1.7 dogs. For him, the situation with Stephanie is just about perfect. She has Morelli to deal with the day to day tasks of being a boyfriend, leaving him the ability to be mysterious.
But to me, it seems out of character for Morelli to continue it. Morelli isn’t opposed to the white picket fence, 2.3 kids, and 1.7 dogs. I feel like 19 books into this series, Morelli should be aware that love isn’t always enough and he and Stephanie have just as many unhappy moments as happy ones. As a result, while I find the storylines entertaining, I hate the execution and the back and forth between Morelli and Ranger. And I find I only read one book every couple of months. I did a marathon of 3 books last summer (16, 17, 18) and was ready to kill Stephanie myself and I lost a lot of respect for the character of Morelli who has essentially trapped himself in an unhealthy emotionally abusive relationship.
My objections on the Scarpetta series are a little less “tangible.” I find Scarpetta incredibly naive. This bothers me given her profession as a medical examiner and her work with both a detective and a profiler. She sees bad shit happens to people, often. Yet, she still believes that most people are killed by strangers and that the world is fundamentally good. I have an “online” pal that’s a coroner for a major city. When I told him I had picked up book 1 in the series, his response was “Let me know if you want me to point out all the things wrong in those books, starting with Scarpetta.” I didn’t want that and got through book 1 okay, except for the fact that Scarpetta somehow has the energy to make pasta from scratch and garden roses and vegetables, while never leaving her office at a decent hour.
Book 2 has reminded me why I only read two of them and then stopped. Scarpetta’s reactions to people are off. Not off like she might be Dexter, but off as in “I don’t know a single person that reacts that way to anything.” One of Scarpetta’s ex-boyfriend’s shows up in book 2 nosing around for information about a murder. He lies to her about his life, big lies, not little ones. She figures it out and instead of getting pissed, she becomes confused. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the ex was sleeping with the murder victim in question. PS: the ex’s name is Mark and the murder victim was writing letters to someone she only referred to as M. And Scarpetta knows about the letters and Mark admits he met the victim “once,” but after he’s lied to her about everything else, it seems likely he lied about that too. And he’s poking around for details of her murder. Why isn’t this raising red flags for Scarpetta?
The other thing that really bugs me is Scarpetta keeps insisting that the murder victim was killed by a stranger. Okay, so I don’t have a job that puts me in the thick of murder (that aren’t fictitious), but even I know that most people are killed by people they know. And my coroner friend has told me that a lot of times when he gets a murder victim in his autopsy room, the detectives say things like “she was killed by her husband.” Has no one ever said this to Scarpetta? Why is she convinced that everyone is killed by strangers? I definitely understand why he doesn’t read the series.
Essentially, I’m okay with fictional liberties, they are often necessary and unusual leaps of logic that solve cases. I love Sherlock Holmes which is definitely not a great series of stories involving all the clues being given to the reader except in retrospect and even then, sometimes I don’t think Sherlock should be able to solve the crime with the information he’s given.
But I am not okay with plot devices that exist simply to create more words or characters who might as well live at the bottom of a pit, because they have no connection to reality. Scarpetta and Morelli are both unrealistic characters. I think the love triangle has become a plot device to create more words in the Plum books, as it has almost no bearing on the series anymore. I cannot stand Scarpetta’s “all the world is beautiful and everything is exactly as it appears” attitude. I gave up reading the Anita Blake series, because of the love triangles, Blake going from practically virginal to sleeping with everything that winked at her, and as I look back, I realize even Blake’s character became extremely unrealistic and she began to do things completely out of character, simply because it was needed. Unfortunately, for the Blake series, Edward wasn’t as entertaining as Lula and Grandma Mazur. Which is the only reason I continue trying to get through the Plum books. Oh and I despise the between the numbers books in the Plum series… the last thing the series needs is supernatural creatures popping up, especially supernatural creatures Stephanie might sleep with like Diesel, since she seems to have very little sexual willpower against such activities..