Pros: Quick read, lighter tone than the rest of the Plum books, lots of funny
Cons: Supernatural world not well developed or needed
Apparently, Janet Evanovich decided a few years ago that her popular bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, needed some more lighthearted stories written about her. Thus began the "between the numbers" series, of which there are three so far. Visions of Sugar Plums is the first in that series, and takes place between the eighth and ninth books in the Stephanie Plum series.
This book opens with a mysterious stud named Diesel literally "pop"ping into Stephanie Plum's kitchen, as part of a mission. Without giving away too much of the story, Diesel is basically part of a society of people with supernatural powers who is looking for someone connected to Sandy Claws, the FTA (Failure to Appear) that Stephanie is searching for. The two work together to find both Sandy and the man Diesel needs to find.
Of the usual characters you come to expect in a Stephanie Plum novel, the only ones with any significance in this book are the members of Stephanie's family. In fact, her sister Valerie is the only one who actually has any advancement of storyline here, which I won't spoil for potential readers. There are a couple of brief scenes with Stephanie's now on-again boyfriend, the hunky Joe Morelli, and with Connie and Lula, Stephanie's co-workers. Conspicuously absent is Stephanie's mentor/lust interest, Ranger.
What I Liked
I really liked that this book offered so much of Stephanie's dysfunctional family, as the dinner scenes at her parents' house have always been a great source of humor in the Plum books. I was also glad when Lula finally came on the scene. A former hooker who loves to cram her 200+ pound body into clothes that are two sizes too small, Lula always brings humor to these books, between her fashion choices and her comments. For example, her Christmas shopping policy is to just buy whatever's closest to the register and distribute the gifts at random, since everyone always returns their gifts anyway.
I also appreciated that, at 149 pages consisting of five chapters, this book was a quick read. Since I wasn't particularly fond of the story, and it had a lighter tone, it was nice to be able to breeze through it.
What I Didn't Like
I felt like Evanovich was trying too hard to jump on the supernatural/sci-fi bandwagon in this book. The supernatural society is not well developed at all (just a few hints here and there), and I think the allusions of Sandy Claws to Santa Claus could be made just fine without trying to throw in the magical aspect. Evanovich has a great franchise going on with the crime-solving stories, that there is no point in trying to make the "Holiday" chapter of Heroes, especially not in 149 pages with big font.
Overall, I would recommend this book for a quick, fun read. Its biggest plus is that since the tone is lighter (no murderous psychos after Stephanie) there is a much higher percentage of humor than in the regular books in the series.
Other Books in the Stephanie Plum Series:
One for the Money
Two for the Dough
Three to Get Deadly
Four to Score