This is an anniversary book in a way; It is the 40th novel of the In Death series, probably one of the longest running detective series out there. J.D. Robb is to be congratulated. Not every book in the series is a DIK, but to keep a series running this long and still deliver above average work says a lot about her as a writer.
Outside the ad blimps are touting the after Christmas sales taking place all over New York and commuters are bustling busily about on their way to work. But inside the luxurious apartment in which Eve Dallas stands everything is still as death. No surprise since Eve is a murder cop, here to figure out just what happened to the victim. What is a surprise is the writing on the wall that reads: “For Lieutenant Eve Dallas, With Great Admiration and Understanding, Her life was a lie; Her death our truth, She showed you no respect, spoke ill of you, Sought to profit by undermining all you work for, It was my pleasure and honor to balance the scales, Justice has been served. It is signed Your loyal friend.”
The victim is a defense attorney whom Eve has verbally sparred with on more than one occasion. It is clear from the message that her death is supposed to be some sort of gift to Eve. It is also clear it is a gift from someone who doesn’t know Eve very well at all. Eve stands for the dead. She would never agree to or admire this form of vigilante justice.
One of Eve’s first steps is to make sure she stays on the case. Under normal circumstances Eve would be removed due to the personal link but she convinces the commander that having her serve as the investigating officer will keep the killer more invested in the sick game they are playing. Once approval is received, Eve goes on the hunt for her fan. Pretty quickly she realizes that the fan is on the hunt for her too. And they don’t care who they have to hurt to get close to her.
One of the highlights of this book is that it emphasizes how far Eve has personally progressed since we first met her in Naked in Death. At that time Eve was a young cop who had only a best friend (Mavis, a young woman she had met while arresting her) and a partner (Feeney, whom she worked with). Lovers tended to be one night stands, such as Lt. Donald Webster (we met him inConspiracy in Death). Now she is married to a man she deeply loves and has lots of friends besides. When Eve realizes that her fan is trying to get to her by killing those who might take Eve’s attention away from them, she becomes aware of just how many people she has developed ties to. From Sommerset the butler she loves to hate to Nadine the reporter (whom she also loves to hate) Eve finds herself surrounded by those who might be a target simply because she cares about them. I found it interesting to watch Eve wrestle with this dilemma since it ties in to so many issues she has carried for so long. She has always had a sense that she is somehow bad news, and now that knowing her literally might get you killed, she finds that feeling somewhat justified. There is a moment when she realizes just how far the killer will go when they strike at someone who is connected to Eve only with the slimmest of ties and she really has to struggle with the emotions that creates. I love how the author has worked out a slow, steady character growth in these books that has allowed Eve to build a friends and family base without changing the essentials of who she is. It is definitely one of the strengths of the series.
Another high point of the novel for me were the interviews conducted with Eve’s “fans”. Her high profile status has led to more than a few people trying to make contact with her via the department and of course all those folks have files on them. One of them was a very sweet scenario that highlighted that Eve has become a far more compassionate person over the years. Another fan was a sex addict and for some reason I found the scene where Eve confronts her hilarious. Overall, those interviews were a lot of fun and did a nice job of emphasizing Eve’s character growth.
On the downside were two things. I found the killer rather boring and once again I was irritated by the civilian consultant working his magic to help Eve solve the crime. I love Roarke but the time has come for him to step out of Eve’s investigations. The whole scenario just screams out “You’re reading a romance novel!” so loud I get jarred right out of the story. In some books it works a little better than in others so I don’t think it has to be eliminated completely. However, the fact that it is used in every single book marginalizes any impact that might have been made about him being personally invested in this case because of its ties to friends and family.
Those complaints aside I found this an easy to read, enjoyable book. I didn’t love it or find it game changing but I think it will work well for fans of the series.
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