Ten Big Ones is both the best and the worst of the series so far.
It's the best, because it shakes up the structure of the books. Yes, she is still torn between Ranger and Morelli, and yes her car gets blown up, but it is refreshing that the main bad guy isn't a bail jumper. It feels like--finally--Stephanie is becoming competent at her job. Sally Sweet the cross-dressing rock and roller from a few books back makes another appearance and Lula and Grandma Mazur are two of my all time favorite characters.
I also liked the pull between Ranger and Morelli. I have a hard time appreciating stories that normalize cheating (like Something Borrowed, which would have been fantastic if I could only buy in to the premise that cheating is okay if you are in love). But in these books, it almost feels okay, because Stephanie doesn't play her men. They treat her like an object and compete with each other to win her. Again, not a great message, but for some reason, completely enjoyable. In this book, Stephanie breaks into Rangers apartment when she needs a safe place to hide and that is totally worth throwing my morals out the window for.
The structure also contributes to 10 being the worst in the series. When Stephanie pisses people off to the point they want to kill her, it's usually because she is just doing her job and really wants to pay her rent. When the major bad guy is a gang and not a skip, Stephanie's pissing them off to the point where they bring in a contract killer is because Stephanie is stubborn and just plain stupid. The entire book, while enjoyable, was also built upon a frustrating and avoidable conflict.
And the ending is rushed and disappointing. Stephanie is the worst bounty hunter ever--that's part of her charm. She always requires help with her take downs, but in the end, she does something crazy and unconventional (emphasis on the crazy), gets her guy, and has the body receipt to prove it. No matter how much help she has, it always feels like Stephanie is successful and almost competent. In Ten Big Ones, she kicks a guy in the nuts, then someone else saves her (there are 8 more, so I assume it wasn't a spoiler that she makes it out alive).
This is the first book that I have started and finished in the new year. It counts toward the following challenges: 312 pages for the 15,000 page challenge, Finish the Series, Crime/Mystery for the Eclectic Reader, and Support Your Local Library. I'm feeling particularly accomplished with this quick and easy read. Track my progress on the 2012 Challenges page.
PS--The movie comes out in two weeks and I already have plans to buy donuts and see it with my girlfriends. I am so unbelievably excited for it.