Pro: Quick, mildly entertaining read
Con: Some dumbness; characters don't take anything seriously
Bottom Line: I'm glad these books are so far apart – reading them in quick succession would get really old, really fast.
Wicked Charms is the third book in the Lizzy and Diesel series. In case you didn't already know, Diesel is a character with some above normal abilities who's showed up in Stephanie Plum novels from time to time to make Stephanie's life even more interesting than it already is (if interesting is the right word for it). Lizzy has the ability to sense objects of power, and she's only one of two people in the world to be able to do so. Diesel's cousin, Wulf, is after certain stones that embody the Seven Deadly Sins, so it's a race to see who can get what stone first.
This time we're after Greed.
The base of the story is good. Kind of Goonies-esque, if you will. There's a rich and powerful man involved who hopes to become the incarnation of Mammon, a Prince of Hell who's all about greed. There are pirates, treasure, traipsing through thick island woods (we're off the East Coast so it's not jungle), dead guys, cupcakes, and more. Characters are quirky as usual, Diesel is his sexy self although his timing for leaving people in peril is impeccable, and I still really want to see more of Wulf, but it's understandable that we don't.
It's not a difficult read and will keep you entertained for about 4 hours or so; I brought the book home and read the entire thing that night. It's not that it's, "Oh, I can't put it down" but more like, "This won't take long so I'll just get it out of the way." As I mentioned above, it's mildly amusing, but I think it would be even better if the characters weren't so stupid and occasionally over the top.
That's where the book falls down and things get annoying. There are so many moments in which people come face-to-face with awful or terrifying situations but don't have anything close to a normal reaction. Instead they're too busy making casual statements or silly quips. From seeing fresh dead bodies to having guns shoved into one's back, it doesn't matter. I can only recall two times where Lizzy has somewhat of a normal reaction, but even these are glossed over: once when she is grossed out by a dead guy (and even then all that's mentioned is that she tries not to look at it), and the next when it's mentioned that she's panicking. That's it. Otherwise it doesn't matter if people are left to drown or going to be shot in the head, it's all no big deal.
The problem with this is that is totally takes away from the tension that would normally be there. You never have to worry about characters being hurt, much less killed. I mean, these books are clearly meant to be the "read and have fun" sort, but you can still insert some tension in there so I'm at least concerned someone is going to get injured. Heck, Diesel leaves to get groceries, people break into Lizzy's house (for the umpteenth time), but they're unscathed, Diesel comes back, and basically has the air of, "What happened? Oh, okay. Let's have dessert." Really? Also, you're not going to speak in pirate dialect when in certain situations. You're just not.
And while it's deviated some from the design of Stephanie Plum books (not sure if Phoef Sutton is there for the research aspect, as I was admittedly impressed with some of the pirate information being accurate, or to help change things up a bit), it's still pretty clear that Lizzy is 50% Stephanie, Glo is Lula, Clara is Connie, and now Clara's Gramps is the male version of Grandma Mazur.
Lizzy is also a moron for wanting to publish a book but does zero research and signs the first thing put in front of her – despite knowing the guy is a scumbag and possible sociopath.
Oh, and Carl the monkey is still there grinning his monkey smile, mooning people, and giving them the finger. *sigh*
Ok. So I complain about the dumbness. A lot. And there's plenty of it. So why am I still reading these? Enough time goes by that I'm able to brace myself for the ridiculous antics because I'm in it for two things – Wulf and the overarching storyline. I'm curious to see what happens when the last stone is found (either a lot of shit will go down or it will be like all the other books and no big deal), and I like Wulf's character. Probably because he's actually got some meat to him and isn't absurd like everyone else in the book. So I'm interested to see how he does over the next four or so books. And if Janet Evanovich is now working with another writer, maybe things will change up a bit in the future.