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Janet Evanovich’s daring new novel

In the mood for hilarious situations, breathtaking action and unforgettable characters ? Pick up  Evanovich's'  latest book, "Lean Mean Thirteen."  It's about fan-favorite bounty hunter Stephanie Plum,  but this time she's  caught in a cat-and-mouse game where the ultimate prize might be her life.
/ Source: TODAY

Best-selling author Janet Evanovich teams up again with Stephanie Plum. The bounty hunter with a flair for finding trouble is back! But this time, her ex-husband is missing and she's at the top of the short list of people who'd want him to disappear. The latest book is called “Lean Mean Thirteen,” and it’s filled with new secrets, old flames and hidden agendas.

Here's an excerpt from her new novel:

Chapter One
For the last five minutes, I’d been parked outside my cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office in my crapola car, debating whether to continue on with my day, or return to my apartment and crawl back into bed. My name is Stephanie Plum, and Sensible Stephanie wanted to go back to bed. Loco Stephanie was thinking she should get on with it. I was about to do something I knew I shouldn’t do. The signs were all there in front of me. Sick stomach. Feeling of impending disaster. Knowledge that it was illegal. And yet, I was going to forge ahead with the plan. Not that this was especially unusual. Truth is, I’ve been dealing with impending doom for as long as I can remember. Heck, when I was six years old I sprinkled sugar on my head, convinced myself it was pixie dust, wished myself invisible, and walked into the boys’ bathroom at school. I mean, you don’t know the water’s over your head until you jump in, right?

The door to the bonds office opened, and Lula stuck her head out. “Are you gonna sit there all day, or what?” she yelled at me.

Lula is a black woman with a Rubenesque body and a Vegas wardrobe that’s four sizes too small. She is a former ’ho, currently working as a file clerk for the office and a wheelman for me ... when the mood strikes. Today, she was wearing big fake-fur Sasquatch boots, and her ass was packed into poison-green spandex pants. Her pink sweatshirt had Love Goddess spelled out in sequins across her boobs.

My wardrobe runs a lot more casual than Lula’s. I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved knit shirt from the Gap. My feet were stuffed into knock-off Ugg boots, and I was bundled into a big quilted jacket. I have naturally curly brown hair that looks okay when I wear it shoulder length. When it’s short, the best you can say is that it has energy. I’d swiped on some extra mascara today, hoping to boost my bravado. I had a favor to perform that I suspected was going to come back to haunt me. I grabbed my bag, wrenched the driver’s side door open, and angled myself out of the car.

It was the end of February, and there was gloom as far as the eye could see. It was almost ten a.m., but the streetlights were on, and visibility in the swirling snow was about six inches. A truck chugged past, throwing slush halfway up my leg, soaking my jeans, bringing out my trash mouth. Winter wonderland Jersey-style.

Connie Rosolli looked around her computer at me when I walked into the office. Connie is Vinnie’s office manager and his first line of defense against the stream of pissed-off bondees, bookies, hookers, various bill collectors, and stiffed smut peddlers hoping to reach Vinnie’s inner sanctum. Connie was a couple years older than me, a couple pounds heavier, a couple inches shorter, a couple cups bigger, and had hair a couple inches higher than mine. Connie was pretty in a kick-ass, central Jersey, third-generation Italian kind of way.

“I have three new skips,” Connie said. “One of them is Simon Diggery again.”

Skips are people who fail to show for a court appearance after Vinnie has bonded them out of jail. Vinnie loses money when bondees fail to appear, so that’s where I come in. I work for Vinnie as a fugitive apprehension agent, better known as bounty hunter, and my job is to find the skips and drag them back into the system.

“Don’t look to me to help you out with Simon Diggery,” Lula said, plunking herself down on the brown Naugahyde couch, picking up her copy of “Star” magazine. “Been there, done that. Not doing it again. No way.”

“He’s an easy catch,” I said. “We know exactly where to find him.”

“There’s no ‘we’ gonna happen. You’re on your own. I’m not freezing my sweet Jesus, sitting in some bone orchard in the dead of night, waiting for Simon Diggery to show up.”

Diggery was, among other things, a professional grave robber, relieving the recently deceased of rings, watches, and the occasional Brooks Brothers suit if it was Diggery’s size. Last time Diggery was in violation of his bond, Lula and I caught him hacksawing a cocktail ring off Miriam Lukach. We chased him all over the cemetery before I tackled him in front of the crematorium.

I took the three new files from Connie and shoved them into my shoulder bag. “I’m off.”

“Where you going?” Lula wanted to know. “It’s almost lunchtime. I don’t suppose you’re gonna be passing by some place I could get a meatball sub. I could use a meatball sub on a nasty day like this.”

“I’m going downtown,” I told her. “I need to talk to Dickie.”

“Say what?” Lula was up on her feet. “Did I hear you right? Is this the Dickie that called the police on you last time you were in his office? Is this the Dickie you told to go screw hisself? Is this the Dickie you were married to for fifteen minutes in another life?”

“Yep. That’s the Dickie.”

Lula grabbed her coat and scarf from the chair. “I’ll ride with you. I gotta see this. Hell, I don’t even care about the meatball sub anymore.”

“Okay, but we’re not making a scene,” I said to Lula. “I need to talk to Dickie about a legal issue. This is going to be non-confrontational.”

“I know that. Non-confrontational. Like two civilized people.”

“Hold on. I’m going too,” Connie said, getting her purse from her bottom desk drawer. “I don’t want to miss this. I’ll close the office for a couple hours for this one.”

“I’m not making a scene,” I told her.

“Sure, but I’m packin’ just in case it gets ugly,” Connie said.

“Me too,” Lula said. “It isn’t diamonds that’s a girl’s best friend. It’s a .9mm Glock.”

Connie and Lula looked at me.

“What are you carrying?” Connie asked.

“A brand-new can of hairspray and this lip gloss I’ve got on.”

“It’s a pretty good lip gloss,” Lula said, “but it wouldn’t hurt to have a piece as a backup.”

Connie stuffed herself into her coat. “I can’t imagine what legal problem you’d want to discuss with Dickie, but it must be a bitch to get you out in this weather.”

“It’s sort of personal,” I said, relying on the one really decent bounty hunter skill I possessed . . . the ability to fib. “It dates back to when we were married. It has to do with . . . taxes.”

We all went head-down into the cold. Connie locked the office door, and we got into Lula’s red Firebird. Lula cranked the engine over, hip-hop blasted out of the CD player, and Lula motored off.

“Is Dickie still downtown?” Lula wanted to know.

“Yes, but he’s in a new office. 3240 Brian Place. His firm is Petiak, Smullen, Gorvich, and Orr.”

Lula cruised down Hamilton and turned onto North Broad. The wind had cut back, and it was no longer snowing, but there was still a thick cloud cover overhead. At best, the weather could now be described as grim. I was silently rehearsing my fake speech about how I needed information for an audit. And I was making promises to myself as performance incentive. I was seeing macaroni and cheese in my near future. Butterscotch Tastykakes. Onion rings. Snickers bars. Okay, so this had all the makings of a cluster pile of crap, but there was a Dairy Queen Oreo CheeseQuake Blizzard waiting for me somewhere.

Lula took a left at Brian and found a parking place half a block from Dickie’s office building.

“I’m gonna smack you on the head if you don’t stop cracking your knuckles,” Lula said to me. “You gotta chill. You need some tax information, and he’s gotta give it to you.” Lula cut her eyes to me. “That’s all there is to it, right?”

“Pretty much.”

“Uh oh,” Lula said. “There’s more, isn’t there?”

We all got out of the Firebird and stood huddled against the cold.

“Actually, I have to plant a couple bugs on him for Ranger,” I told Lula. There it was, out in the open, swinging in the breeze . . . the favor from hell.

Excerpted from “Lean Mean Thirteen” by Janet Evanovich. Copyright © 2007. Excerpted by permission of All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.