Original Title: Hard EightHard Up Fugitive Apprehension Agent Stephanie Plum has a big problem on her hands: Seven-year-old Annie Soder and her mother, Evelyn, have disappeared. Evelyn's estranged husband, Steven, a shady owner of a seedy bar, is not at all happy. Finding a kidnapped child is not an assignment for a bounty hunter. But Evelyn's grandmother lives next door to Stephanie's parents, so Stephanie follows the trail left by Annie and Evelyn-and finds a lot more than she bargained for. Hard Risk Steven Soder is somehow linked with a very scary Eddie Abruzzi. Trenton cop and on-again, off-again fiancé Joe Morelli and Stephanie's mentor and tormentor, Ranger, warn Stephanie about Abruzzi, but it's Abruzzi's eyes and mannerisms that frighten Stephanie most. Stephanie needs Ranger's savvy and expertise, and she's willing to accept his help to find Annie even though it might mean getting too involved with Ranger. Stephanie, Ranger, Lula (who's not going to miss riding with Ranger), and Evelyn's lawyer/Laundromat manager set out to find Annie. The search turns out to be a race among Stephanie's posse, the True Blue Bonds' agent-a Rangerette known as Jeanne Ellen Burrows-and the Abruzzi crew. Plus, there's a killer rabbit on the loose! Hard Eight Strap on your helmet and get ready for the ride of your life! Hard Eight. The world of Stephanie Plum has never been wilder. Amazon.com Review In Hard Eight, Stephanie Plum picks up a case a little nastier than anything the wisecracking bounty hunter's seen before. Evelyn Soder and her young daughter have gone on the run, leaving an angry ex-husband who's planning to collect on a child custody bond that will leave Evelyn's grandmother homeless. Stephanie's first clue that there's more to it than that comes in the form of Eddie Abruzzi, a shady local businessman who warns her to butt out of the case. Stephanie doesn't scare easily, but when Abruzzi's henchmen leave a bag of snakes on her doorknob and tarantulas in her car, she has no choice but to call Ranger, the hunky man of mystery whom she already owes too many favors. Steph knows that Ranger will soon be calling in his marker, but with her ex- fiancé Joe Morelli out of the picture, that should be OK--shouldn't it? In the meantime, she's got other fugitives to catch, aided by the usual band of misfits, plus a bumbling correspondence-school lawyer who's developed the hots for Stephanie's sister, Valerie. And Steph's in for a surprise from her mother, who proves she's not above wielding a dangerous weapon to save her daughter's life. Author Janet Evanovich has made a bold move in using a soupçon of child jeopardy to pull this series out of the comfortable but formulaic pattern it was threatening to fall into. It's still funny, and yes, some cars are destroyed, but now there's a real edge of darkness under the humor. Fans needn't fear, though: Jersey girl Stephanie is still full of sass and Tastykakes. --Barrie Trinkle From Publishers Weekly The menace is more personal for Trenton's favorite bounty hunter and the energy more manic in this latest outing than in last year's Seven Up. As a favor to her mother's next-door neighbor, Mabel Markowitz, Stephanie agrees to check up on the lady's granddaughter, Evelyn Soder, who has suddenly taken off with her little girl, Annie, leaving behind a child custody bond against Mabel's house. The son-in-law is a bad guy who lost his bar to Eddie Abruzzi, a very nasty character who owns evelyn's building. Soon someone in a bunny suit is trailing Stephanie, her car is blown up, her apartment infiltrated and a dead body appears on her couch. She calls in her associate, Ranger, the gorgeous and mysterious Cuban bond agent, while her sometime boyfriend, Morelli the cop, also gets on the case - a real doozy for which she's not getting paid. On the home front, ever-raunchy Grandma Mazur is eager to assist. Sister Valerie and kids have moved back in as well, so there's nowhere but the couch for Stephanie and one bathroom for all. Valerie is inexplicably attracted to Evelyn's goofy lawyer, who's been tagging along with Stephanie and the ever-outrageous file clerk and ex-hooker Lula, further complicating this twisted case. Life in the Burg takes on a sinister turn with serious results. Evanovich does it again, delivering an even more suspenseful and more outrageous turn with the unstoppable Stephanie, heroine of all those who have to live on peanut butter until the next check comes through. Waiting for nine will be tough. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.