Book Review: Golden in Death by J. D. Robb
Golden In Death marks the 50th book in J. D. Robb’s remarkable In Death series following homicide detective Eve Dallas in a futuristic New York City.
The opening paragraph of Naked in Death, the first book in what’s now a fifty-book mystery series, has Lieutenant Eve Dallas, New York Police and Security, waking up to the sun streaming in through the slats of her small apartment.
She woke in the dark. Through the slats on the window shades, the first murky hint of dawn hit, slanting shadowy bars over the bed. It was like waking in a cell.
What happens at the end of Golden In Death, as Eve and her husband Roarke enjoy a quiet moment, shows how far the series and Eve have come:
Later, sometime later when the day was finally done, she sat with Roarke by the pond, beside the tree they’d planted, with the scent of spring in the air, the stars blooming overhead and the lights of the house glowing.
She’d done the job and would hold onto the peace while it lasted.
The most amazing thing is not that the In Death series has lasted fifty books (though that is a feat of admiration). Nor is it Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s impressive work ethic. She’s a prolific author who rarely misses deadlines and has perhaps the largest fanbase of any living author (hello, she revitalized a whole town).
No, the most amazing thing about the series is that it remains relevant—perhaps even more relevant today than ever—after twenty-four years.
How has it kept readers’ attention this long? Character growth of an ever-expanding and interesting cast.
Let’s start with Eve Dallas. Eve is still essentially the same person as she was at the beginning of the series. She’s still whip-smart, sarcastic, driven, and dedicated. But over the fifty mysteries she’s solved in this series, she’s become a better version of herself. Less haunted, more centered, and much more willing to love and let people love her.
That growth has happened gradually over the fifty books and it’s a fascinating progression not just for Eve but also for the other characters and even the story world of the In Death series.
The obvious change is the marriage of Eve and Roarke. The romance begins in Naked In Death and results in marriage in the second book, Glory in Death, and while Eve and Roarke hit bumps along the road, the bond between them remains strong, allowing their love as a base to open up to each other and those around them.
But there’s also been the introduction of Delia Peabody, once Eve’s trainee, eventually becoming her partner and fellow detective; the growth of Mavis, Eve’s one friend, a futuristic punk rocker who gains a happy marriage and motherhood, with a child who intrigues and baffles Eve; Eve’s colleagues in the NYPSD; plus Roarke’s own found family, including his father figure, Somerset, and the blood family he never expected to find.
The setting, too, has expanded. The series begins in the 2040s after a round of urban wars had reduced many cities to rubble and the next generation is in the process of rebuilding. That leaves this futuristic New York City where Lt. Dallas solves crimes with something of the feel of 1970s New York City, with its mix of citizens, young and old, rich and poor, of all genders and races. This New York City is a microcosm of Robb’s created world, where the scars of the past exist alongside the technology of the present.
And, as mentioned, the unchanging aspect has been the relevance of the mysteries. Naked in Death concerns (slight spoiler ahead!) a conservative Senator who’s a spokesman for family values pining for the good old days. He’s a presidential candidate. He’s also hiding a horrific family secret that’s totally at odds with his family-first attitude. That first mystery, in which Eve Dallas blows the secret open, and gains justice for the abused and maligned is as cathartic now, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, as it was when it first came out.
Check out an audio excerpt of Golden in Death!
Similarly, the plot of Golden in Death seems drawn straight from the headlines. Someone is sending packages containing a lethal toxin to those who seem to have no enemies. But as the clues are revealed, the mystery begins to surround a private school for children of the wealthy, where “boys will be boys” bullying behavior was forgiven by the administration.
One of those boys who seems to have grown beyond his “misspent” youth has only learned how to hide who her truly is.
In other words, the mystery concerns the wealthy abusing those without power with impunity. I cannot imagine a more relevant topic in today’s United States. And, yes, Lt. Dallas plays avenger of wrongs once again because the promise of the series is that Lt. Eve Dallas stands for justice for the dead and, hopefully, closure for the living whose grief is never forgotten or minimized.
Something tells me the fictional world will continue to need Lt. Eve Dallas. And sometimes I wish we had her in real life, too.