Festive in Death
Over the years I’ve quit a lot of series. Sometimes because I just got tired of the story line, other times because the sameness of each book got to be too much for me. In spite of the fact that this is the 39th book in the In Death series I am pleased to say that I am still enjoying the stories.
It is dark o’clock in the morning when Eve gets the call from her frenemy Trina regarding a dead body. Half-convinced it is some sort of practical joke – and if so Trina is so getting arrested for filing a false report – Eve nevertheless heads out into the “frozen bowels” of December to deal with the situation, whatever it may be.
What it is is Trey Ziegler, personal trainer, womanizer, self-absorbed arse extraordinaire. Trina had been visiting his apartment to help his ex put itching powder in his socks when the two had found him propped up in bed, head bashed in and kitchen knife jammed into his heart pinning a note to his chest that read “Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!! Ho. Ho. Ho!”
Quickly clearing Trina and her friend from her list of suspects doesn’t help Eve shorten the list of who wanted her vic dead. The man was a cheater and user. When a large sum of money is found in his gym locker it doesn’t take long to learn he was a blackmailer with a nasty twist as well. Still, even if he is a scum he is her scum and Eve is determined to see justice done. But just what does justice look like when the killer is probably a more sympathetic human being than the victim?
This book highlights the strengths Eve has as an investigator. She is tenacious. She is suspicious of everyone. And she loves to dig beneath the surface. Eve and Peabody spend the first half of the novel doing the dance they do so well – interview, check backgrounds, interview, follow new thread, interview and check the details from that. Because this is a long running series we’ve gotten to really see Peabody grow as an investigator and learn to use her own style – very different from Eve’s steely eyed stare of intimidation – to get the information she needs. There is one scene about three quarters of the way through that I felt really highlighted how comfortable and confident she has become. She no longer looks to Eve to cue her every sentence but has learned to trust her own instincts as well. This was more true partners than mentor/mentored and I loved seeing that come to fruition.
Another high point of the novel for me was that for the first portion of the story there was a clear separation between work and personal life for Eve. Sure, she encountered a lot of people she knew but she wasn’t having them do more than answer questions she would have asked of strangers. She shopped for Christmas on her own and not in a shop associated with the crime. McNabb and her usual crew make an appearance but it is the kind of background noise that you would expect them to make. They are doing their jobs or being encountered in halls, not being one of thirty cops involved in a single case. Even her consult with Mira this round was more professional than mother-daughter-y. This made things much more realistic to me.
An exception to that is the holiday festivities at Eve’s house. We get to see her deal with some of the decorating – shocker! – and actually enjoy being with her friends and Roarke’s friends for one glamorous night. This made the appearance of Baxter, Nadine, Feeney, Mavis, Leonardo, Louise, Charles, Trueheart et al feel much more natural to the storyline. It also allowed us to see some growth on Eve’s part; at the start of the series she couldn’t have done any of this. This time around, she had some moments of awkwardness but for the most part was very natural in her role as hostess.
In the second half of the book we get back to what I find a serious weakness in the series – the civilian consultant working his magic to help Eve solve the crime. I love Roarke but I really love him more as support and love interest for Eve; when their work and home lives combine like this it just screams out, “You’re reading a romance novel!” so loud I get jarred right out of the story. Part of what I enjoyed so much about the early half of the story was how Eve had grown as a human; she came home, had sex with her darling, talked about a few things other than the case, had sex and just generally had a life that wasn’t “the job”. Bringing Roarke into the case changed that. It wasn’t enough to dim my interest or pleasure in the tale but it certainly kept this from being a DIK read for me.
That minor complaint aside I found this a thoroughly enjoyable book. If you are a fan of the series I certainly recommend this one to you.