If This Is a Best-Seller, We're in Real Trouble

Janet Evanovich's Eleven on Top Bottoms Out.

Review by Aparna Balakrishnan

Eleven on Top
by Janet Evanovich
St. Martin's Press, 2005
310 pages

It seems an ominous sign that the opening paragraph of Janet Evanovich's most recent literary endeavor (if you can call it that) mentions the word "dog"--as in hot dogs--exactly seven times, four of which fall within the same sentence.

Unfortunately, this proves to be a fair representation of the overall quality of writing in Eleven on Top. There's a sad lack of creativity and basic literary skill. In one painful example, the same elementary adjective is repeated within a single sentence: " incredibly sexy, incredibly handsome badass named Ranger." How about just one "incredibly?" I think that's convincing enough. And "badass?" No comment.

Here's a book with plenty of action that still manages to bore the reader. It could put you to sleep while reading it on the beach. Maybe that's the whole idea.

Add to this the contrived colloquialisms of Stephanie Plum's (she's the protagonist) so-called black friend, the wooden romances replete with poor pick-up lines, and the bad similes ("Rex is pretty much nocturnal, so we're sort of like ships passing in the night"), and you've got the perfect recipe for a mediocre read; in this case, the read is billed as a mystery.

Dare I even mention the pitiful sentence structure or seeming lack of editing? It's hard to believe the book hit the New York Times' bestseller list, what with sentences like "Bob had already eaten his breakfast and gone for a walk so Bob was feeling mellow." At times I thought I was reading a second-grade composition. Even more lamentable is the fact that the editors at St. Martin's Press couldn't salvage this written disaster; it was a shock to find the word "site" used in place of the correct "sight."

I'd be remiss if I didn't address the actual story. Honestly, I had trouble following it. Confusing and minimally developed, the mystery plot is weak and entrenched in a myriad of subplots including weddings, funerals, and bumbling relatives. Even when the focus is on the attempts made on the primary character's life, it's hard to fight a feeling of boredom. The only real action is the geriatric spats between feisty grandmothers: swinging handbags, curses, and "evil eyes" abound.

A word of advice to potential Eleven on Top readers: save yourself the $26.95 expense and stick to the jacket blurb; it's a more than complete summary of the book.

Aparna Balakrishnan, of Baltimore and graduate of Roland Park Country School, is a senior at Columbia University, where she studies English literature and South Asian studies.

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This story was published on August 15, 2005.