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, Corrina Lawson reviews #10, Witness in Death.
This book begins with a murder, as so many of the In Death books do, but this is the only one that begins with Eve Dallas, Roarke, and a packed audience witnessing a murder in a theater.
Witness in Death is a classic whodunit. Opening night for a revival of the classic play Witness for the Prosecution ends with the actual, on-stage murder of the leading man, cleverly cloaked under the guise of the play’s final death scene. The investigation leads Eve into the world of the theater, still recognizable despite any possible changes the future might have ushered in.
The fun of this entry in the In Death series is watching Eve interrogate actors whose job it is to present a false face, and there’s no more memorable character than the play’s leading lady—an actress at the end of her prime yet still captivating. Did she know the prop knife had been switched out for the real thing? Could she truly be faking her surprise? Or is she just another victim?
Then, there’s the up-and-coming actress who had an affair with the murder victim that ended with him humiliating her, the older supporting actor who’s clearly still in love with the leading lady, and numerous stagehands. Not to mention the unexpected involvement of ace reporter Nadine Furst, who also once had an affair with the late, unlamented victim. It all ends, naturally, with Eve Dallas gathering all the suspects together on the main stage of the theater for a final and classic mystery confrontation.
The emotional core of this story is Eve’s growing realization that her murder victim was not just an egotistical jerk, but also guilty of criminal sexual assault. His choice of victim hits too close to home for Eve, stirring up her horrific childhood memories. What happens when Eve sympathizes more for her killer than for the killer’s victim? She still must stand for justice and the law.
At the end of the book, someone asks Eve: “Do you save everyone, Lieutenant?”
The answer is: yes, yes, she tries.
There are some items of note for longtime readers in this story. Officer Troy Trueheart has a prominent role in this book, firmly a member of Eve’s team now. That gives us a chance to see more of how Eve interacts with her people in the Homicide division, a growing presence in the series and far from Eve’s loner status at the beginning.
In a tense scene, Eve and her aide, Peabody, have a temporary falling out because of what Peabody perceives to be a callous interrogation of one of the suspects. But when the lightbulb turns on, not only has Peabody learned a lesson in detective work, but she’s gained insight into her mentor as well.
Eve’s friendship with Nadine also deepens, as Eve goes above and beyond to save the reporter from the embarrassment of the hidden affair with the murder victim. Nadine is one of my favorite characters (I love nosy, crusading reporters), and she hasn’t been given a starring role at the center of a mystery in some time, so I enjoy these glimpses of her background and past life whenever I can.
As for Roarke, well, he’s still the prettiest and most charming man in the world, and he still owns everything, but it’s nice to see his love of old black-and-white movies again. He could use more quirks like that.
In all, it’s a satisfying book that is a worthy homage to the classic Agatha Christie story that inspired it.
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Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.