Janet Evanovich’s 19th book in the Stephanie Plum series, Notorious Nineteen, was just released.  The timing seemed perfect since I just finished Mad River by John Sandford (good book; Virgil Flowers is becoming one of my favorite characters.  Who else would use a focus group of prisoners to help search for serial killers?).

However, my timing was in fact not so perfect as a lot of people are waiting ahead of me to read #19.  While waiting I decided to explore some authors from an “If You Like Janet Evanovich Try” list.

Deborah Coonts’ Lucky O’Toole series seems tailor made for Evanovich fans.  Lucky is head of Customer Relations at a Las Vegas mega casino/resort, The Babylon.  It’s her job to make sure the guests are happy and to handle any and all situations; and she is ideally suited for the task.

She is a work-alcoholic with a mother who runs a bordello. Her best friend, Teddie, is a female impersonator, looks better in her clothes than she does, and wants to be her boyfriend.  Throw in some outrageous characters and a dead body or two and you have a very entertaining series.

There are three Lucky O’Toole titles so far: Wanna Get Lucky?, Lucky Stiff, and So Damn Lucky, which came out this year.  This third book in the series finds Lucky undergoing some significant changes in her personal life while preparing for the big Halloween bash, a Houdini Séance, and UFO enthusiasts.

The events begin with the final show of the Calliope Burlesque Cabaret.  After 40 years the show is closing and magician Dimitri Fortunoff has a special event planned, Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell.

Amid much excitement the tank is examined and Dimitri is shackled and padlocked in the chamber of water.  Excitement soon turns to restlessness then anxiety and horror.  Something has gone wrong and Dimitri is dead.

Dimitri was the recipient of several threats and the police are not ready to call this an accident.  But before they can examine the body they have to find it.  The paramedics who took away Dimitri have disappeared along with body.

Was Dimitri’s death an accident or homicide, what happened to the corpse (if it was a corpse), and what does Area 51 have to do any of this?  The action doesn’t stop as Lucky searches for the truth while putting out fires and trying to find time for a personal life.

Donna Andrews also made the “If You Like Janet Evanovich Try” list with her Meg Langslow series.  The series revivals the Stephanie Plum series in number and the latest installment came out earlier this year.

I started with the first in the series, Murder, with Peacocks. Meg is a blacksmith by trade but in this first book her primary job is wedding planner.  She has gone home to York, Virginia to almost single-handedly put together three weddings.

Meg is the maid of honor for her best friend Eileen, her brother’s fiancée Samantha, and her mother.  No explanation is given why she is responsible for every detail of each elaborate wedding; a daunting task even with her “tell-me-when-to-breathe” notebook.

When Meg’s Dad finds one of the wedding guests dead the sheriff is ready to call it an accident.  Meg and her Dad disagree and begin their own investigation into what happened to the disagreeable Mrs. Glover.

As her Dad, with Meg’s help, disproves the sheriff’s theory, suspicious accidents begin to happen.  The investigation convinces the sheriff that the death was not accidental and the suspicious accidents turn into serious murder attempts.  Despite the growing body count, the plans for the weddings move forward.

Meg, with cunning and threats, shepherds her three brides and their attendants through fittings, parties, and rehearsals.  But can she get them all to the altar before anyone else dies?

Both of these series will entertain Evanovich fans waiting their turn to read Notorious Nineteen and those that are now waiting for #20.  Not an Evanovich reader?  If humor, light mystery, and the ridiculous appeals to you, I recommend you try all three authors.