Three to Get Deadly and Four to Score

Stephanie Plum, the brassy babe in the powder blue Buick, is back, and she's having a bad hair day—for the whole month of January.

She's been given the unpopular task of finding Mo Bedemier, Trenton's most beloved citizen, arrested for carrying concealed, gone no-show for his court appearance.

And to make matters worse, she's got Lula, a former hooker turned file clerk—now a wannabe bounty hunter—at her side, sticking like glue. Lula's big and blonde and black, and itching to get the chance to lock up a crook in the trunk of her car.

Morelli, the New Jersey vice cop with the slowburning smile that undermines a girl's strongest resolve is being polite. So what does this mean? Has he found a new love? Or is he manipulating Steph, using her in his police investigation, counting on her unmanageable curiosity and competitive Jersey attitude?

Once again, the entire One for the Money crew is in action, including Ranger and Grandma Mazur, searching for Mo, tripping down a trail littered with dead drug dealers, leading Stephanie to suspect Mo has traded his ice-cream scoop for a vigilante gun.

Cursed with a disastrous new hair color and an increasing sense that it's really time to get a new job, Stephanie spirals and tumbles through Three to Get Deadly with all the wisecracks and pace her fans have come to expect.

It was January in Trenton. The sky was gunmetal gray, and the air sat dead cold on cars and sidewalks. Inside the offices of Vincent Plum, bail bond agent, the atmosphere was no less grim, and I was sweating not from heat but from panic.

"I can't do this," I said to my cousin, Vinnie. "I've never refused a case before, but I can't pick this guy up. Give the paperwork to Ranger. Give it to Barnes."

"I'm not giving this two-bit Failure to Appear to Ranger," Vinnie said. "It's the kind of penny-ante stuff you do. For chrissake, be a professional. You're a bounty hunter. You've been a bounty hunter for five fucking months. What's the big deal?"

"This is Uncle Mo!" I said. "I can't apprehend Uncle Mo. Everyone will hate me. My mother will hate me. My best friend will hate me."

Vinnie slumped his slim, boneless body into the chair behind his desk and rested his head on the padded leather back. "Mo jumped bail. That makes him a slimeball. That's all that counts."

I rolled my eyes so far into the top of my head I almost fell over backward.

Moses Bedemier, better known as Uncle Mo, started selling ice cream and penny candy on June 5, 1958, and has been at it ever since. His store is set on the edge of the burg, a comfy residential chunk of Trenton where houses and minds are proud to be narrow and hearts are generously wide open. I was born and raised in the burg and while my current apartment is approximately a mile outside the burg boundary I'm still tethered by an invisible umbilical. I've been hacking away at the damn thing for years but have never been able to completely sever it.

Moses Bedemier is a solid burg citizen. Over time, Mo and his linoleum have aged, so that both have some pieces chipped at the corners now, and the original colors have blurred from thirty-odd years under fluorescent lights. The yellow brick facade and overhead sheet metal sign advertising the store are dated and weatherbeaten. The chrome and Formica on the stools and countertop have lost their luster. And none of this matters, because in the burg Uncle Mo's is as close as we come to a historic treasure.

And