To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Kristen Houghton reviews #14, Reunion in Death.
Lt. Eve Dallas is back in J.D. Robb's popular In Death series. This time, she’s facing a recently released murderer who is out to even the score with Eve. Early in her law enforcement career, Eve testified against the woman, and she hasn’t forgotten that the young lieutenant’s testimony was the final nail in the coffin. She plots a violent “reunion.” It turns out that the just-released killer has spent her years in lockup planning how to confuse, humiliate, and ultimately destroy Dallas.
It begins with the poisoning of middle-aged, wealthy men in seemingly innocuous circumstances on Eve Dallas’s beat.
Murder was work. Death was a serious chore for the killer, the victim, for the survivors. And for those who stood for the dead. Some went about the job devotedly, others carelessly.
And for some, murder was a labor of love.
When he left his Park Avenue condo for his regular morning stroll, Walter C. Pettibone was blissfully unaware he was in his last hours of life. He was a robust sixty and a canny businessman who'd increased his family's already considerable fortune through flowers and sentiment.
He was wealthy, healthy, and just over a year before had acquired a young, blonde wife who had the sexual appetite of a Doberman in heat and the brains of a cabbage. His world, in Walter C. Pettibone's opinion, was just exactly so.
He had work he loved, two children from his first marriage who would one day take over the business he'd taken over from his own father. He maintained a reasonably friendly relationship with his ex, a fine, sensible woman, and his son and daughter were pleasant, intelligent individuals who brought him pride and satisfaction.
He had a grandson who was the apple of his eye.
In the summer of 2059, World of Flowers was a major intergalactic enterprise with florists, horticulturists, offices, and greenhouses both on and off planet.
Walter loved flowers. And not just for their profit margin. He loved the scents of them, the colors, the textures, the beauty of both foliage and blossom and the simple miracle of their existence. Every morning he would visit a handful of florists, to check the stock, the arrangements, and just to sniff and chat and spend time among the flowers and the people who loved them.
Twice a week, he was up before dawn to attend the gardener's market downtown. There he would wander and enjoy, order or critique. It was a routine that rarely varied over the course of a half-century, and one he never tired of.
Today, after an hour or so among the blooms, he'd go into the corporate offices. He'd spend more time there than usual in order to give his wife the time and space to finish preparations for his surprise birthday party.
It made him chuckle to think of it.
The sweetheart couldn't keep a secret if she stapled her lips together. He'd known about the party for weeks, and was looking forward to the evening with the glee of a child.
Naturally he would act surprised and had practiced stunned expressions in his mirror only that morning.
So Walter went through his daily routine with a smile at the corners of his mouth—having no idea just how surprised he was going to be.
At exactly 7:30 p.m., Walter Pettibone was greeted by a hundred friends and family, all gathered for his birthday and gleefully shouting, “surprise!” It was his birthday.
But the real surprise was yet to come. At 8:45 p.m., a woman with emerald eyes and red hair handed him a glass of champagne. One sip of birthday bubbly, and he was dead.
Who is this murderous redhead disguised as a waitress who easily slipped into the party attended by a hundred people and poisoned the birthday boy? Her name is Julianna Dunn, and though horrified guests don’t know her, Detective Eve Dallas remembers her perfectly. Of course she’d remember someone she helped send to prison ten years ago. Someone for whom she was personally responsible in having sent away. Someone who was responsible for killing three husbands. A serial killer.
Julianna, let out on good behavior, has nothing but bad intentions. Revenge against Dallas is her goal, and she needs to get her attention. Her next victim is the wealthy Henry Mouton. Posing as an office temp this time, she poisons him by placing cyanide in his morning coffee.
Eve’s on her trail, but this serial spouse murderer is determined to make Eve pay for her years in prison. Julianna stays one step ahead of Eve’s pursuit, just waiting for the right moment to take her ultimate revenge. Ms. Dunn, it seems, intends to culminate her killings with the murder of Dallas’s own husband, Roarke.
Dallas’s search for Dunne takes her all over the country, all the way to Dallas, Texas. That’s the city that gave Eve her name and something else: a plethora of horrifying memories.
This is a chilling, fast-paced novel with a satisfying conclusion.
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Kristen Houghton’s new novel, Unrepentant: Pray for Us Sinners, the 3rd book in her bestselling A Cate Harlow Private Investigation series, is available at all book venues. She is the author of nine top-selling novels and is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own. Houghton is also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories which appear in popular horror anthologies.