Janet Evanovich, best known for her Stephanie Plum novels, branches out with a new heroine named Barnaby, a mechanic for a driver on the NASCAR circuit who has a habit of getting into trouble. Motor Mouth, the second book in the series, demonstrates the fun and wild situations that Evanovich is famous for. Perhaps my immediately previous (unsatisfactory) reading experience made me even more susceptible to Evanovich's charms, but I really enjoyed this one. Yes, plausibility takes a nose dive, but the characters are fun and the situations are just outlandish enough to be entertaining and allowed me to suspend my disbelief - for the most part, anyway.
Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby is the mechanic (and former girlfriend) of NASCAR driver Sam Hooker. After the last race of the season, Barney is convinced that there is no way Hooker's competitor is good enough to have won the race, so he must have cheated. Determined to find out what sort of technology was used, she and Hooker steal ("borrow" is the word she would rather use) the trailer with the two cars in order to do some snooping. Unfortunately, they also stumble upon the shrink-wrapped body of Oscar Huevo, owner of the competitor's team. Hi-jinks ensue as the police are thinking Hooker did it and our heroes have to find out what's going on. Was there cheating? And is it worth killing for? And will Hooker, who cheated on Barney with a salesclerk, ever get into Barney's pants again?
Motor Mouth doesn't really bear a lot of scrutiny, because it is what it is - funny characters in a not-so-plausible plot where you don't really care about the latter. I think I like this book more than a lot of her fans do because I've never read one of her books, and thus the formula isn't stale yet. Barney is a wise-cracking, intelligent woman who's not afraid to show that she's in over her head occasionally. Hunter is a handsome horn-dog who has some intelligence as well, but lets his other parts do the thinking sometimes. The other characters are fairly stock (the congenital idiot man who blunders into bad situations, the oversexed female sidekick, etc.), but Evanovich breathes some life into them. They are a lot of fun.
The dialogue crackles (Evanovich had me with Gobble's rant about his wife leaving him partially due to his inability to find or take care of the "man in the boat" very early in the book) and the plot twists fly at you fast and furious. Of course, as the twists hit you, plausibility is visibly strained (the two guys that have been after Hooker and Barney for most of the book don't recognize their SUV parked right across the street?). Thankfully, by the time I reached my breaking point, I was having so much fun that it didn't really matter that much.
Now to some of the negatives. The ending of the book is excessively silly, devolving into a series of dog poop jokes that increasingly went nowhere. In fact, the ending is a little too pat, with everything working out just perfectly. It's a good thing that Oscar's wife is more than just the debutante she sounds like at the beginning! I appreciate Evanovich turning that stereotype on its head, but she does it in too convenient a setting.
Secondly, I can already see the Barney novels' formula getting stale by the end of this one. Yes, taken by itself, the plot of Motor Mouth doesn't sound too far out there (certainly not realistic, but it's at least plausible), but future murders? At least Stephanie Plum is actually in a crime-based job, but what's Barney's excuse? Being extremely bummed out from my last book, this one hit me right where it needed to. Will the next one?
Motor Mouth is everything Evanovich is known for, and there are no surprises. Whether that's what you're looking for, you'll have to decide. For me, it was the perfect tonic and I had a blast.