On Stephanie Plum

Exploding the Myth of the Jersey Girl

By Devon Ellington

“Everything in New Jersey has a bad odor. It’s one of the few things a person can count on” (38). That’s one of Stephanie Plum’s early comments in the first of her adventures, One for the Money. The first time I read those lines, I howled with laughter. I’ve spent many an hour on the New Jersey highways, windows rolled up, holding my nose as I drove past Newark or “The Toxic Swamp” around the Meadowlands. And just recently, in January 2007, frantic 911 calls were made from Washington Heights to Greenwich Village about a noxious, gas-like odor. Midtown office buildings were evacuated, and the PATH train was shut down for two hours. No one, including Con Edison or the Emergency Services/Terrorist Task Force teams, could figure out immediately what it was–but it was believed to be wafting over the Hudson River from Jersey. You read Stephanie’s words and you laugh; they’re funny, but they’re also true. There’s a dryness, a wryness, in the line, and it’s one of the hints that Evanovich is not going to use Stephanie to embody a clich©, but explode it.

Every culture has its myths, be it fourth century B.C. Etruscans or twenty-first century A.D. Americans. When we think of Greek, Roman, and Celtic myths, we think of pantheons of gods and goddesses, and stories that explain the behavior of the natural world. Today, the word is often used just to refer to something–say, a popular story or belief–that isn’t true. Focusing on the myth  …

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