Picks and Pans Review: Visions of Sugar Plums

updated 12/02/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Janet Evanovich

It's a few nights before Christmas, and spunky bounty hunter Stephanie Plum finds a stranger in her Trenton kitchen, an "annoyingly likable" man named Diesel. He's there to lend a hand on Plum's current project: tracking down a toy store owner named Sandy Claws, wanted for burglary. Meanwhile Sandy Claws has—yep—hired some dwarfs for the season to make toys.

In the ninth Plum tale, zingy scenes (a pal explains that, for her holiday shopping, she buys the stuff closest to the register, since it'll be returned anyway) are offset by unexplained weirdness: Who is Diesel, and why can he magically open locked doors? This Plum is canned. (St. Martin's Press, $19.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Ho-ho-hum

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