I’m sure it must be true that you cannot write at this pace without turning out a clunker or two. And I know it’s true that not all of the In Death novels have made it to my re-read shelf. But the quality, while not precisely consistent, has not trailed off, which is what you might expect after 20 or 30 novels featuring the same characters.
From the very first book (Naked in Death), Eve Dallas, our prickly heroine of the near-future, has fought a valiant action against New York City’s incredibly inventive serial killers (of whom there are a surprising number). One would expect that this would lead to repetitive use of plot and action that would tend to drag the series down. I won’t say that each novel is as good as the last or that there isn’t an occasional repetitive plot element, but Robb keeps the work remarkably fresh with razor-sharp characterization, loads of angst and passion, and an undercurrent of gallows humor that keeps me reading regardless of the fact that more than a few of the murderers have squicked me out. Be warned! If you haven’t read Treashery in Death yet, there are some spoilers ahead. . .
The fact that I was immediately hooked after reading Naked in Death says it all. This first book of the series deals with a particularly nasty murderer and includes some explicit description of the particularly nasty murders. In most cases, I would probably not have continued reading the series, and perhaps not even finished the book. But the characters grabbed me from the beginning, and I immediately dove into Glory in Death and worked my way through the series until I got to the point where I was counting the days until the next one was released.
For me, the appeal of these books lies in the characters and the way they have grown throughout the series, as much as in the admittedly interesting investigations. Eve Dallas, horrendously damaged as a child, has, throughout the series, overcome many of her psychological barriers enough to form deep relationships and even to fall in love. Roarke, the man she marries, is the perfect hero: handsome, clever and rich. Although he gives up some of his favorite (and not quite legal) pleasures for Eve, his character does not have the growth of our heroine. But he is the ideal foil for Eve and someone you’d want to have in your corner when investigating complex murders. The secondary characters are equally engaging and grow and change over the course of the series.
The most recent book, Treachery in Death, was released in hardcover in February of this year and will be released in paperback at the end of July. This book is the perfect example of a series that is definitely not running out of steam. Like all the other In Death books, Treachery involves murder, but, in this case, murder is the vehicle for a complex tale of police corruption.
The story begins with Eve’s partner, Peabody, accidentally overhearing two bad cops talking about killing an informant and spirals out from there to include a bad lieutenant and her (mostly corrupt) team. Although this story includes a murder investigation, it is really a study of a good cop going after a bad cop, and it highlights Eve’s rock-solid belief in the importance of doing the job right. It does this by setting her investigation and her team in high-relief against the unscrupulous conduct of a police lieutenant who has every reason to be as good a cop as Eve, but who chooses a criminal path to wealth.
The investigation pulls in many of the secondary characters we have come to love over the course of the series: Mavis Freestone, grifter-turned-rock-star, gets to resurrect her grifting skills in aid of the investigation; Delia Peabody, who overhears the conversation that kicks off the investigation; and her co-hab partner, McNabb, who is part of the Electronics Detection Division under Captain Feeney, both Eve’s former partner and the man who trained her. They are joined by many of the members of Eve’s squad, including Baxter, the ladies’ man, and his trainee, Truelove, the mama’s boy, and Santiago, the new guy. And, of course, Roarke. In the end, as in the end of all the books, Eve gets her perp. In this case, Eve also gets the added benefit of a little hand-to-hand combat before taking the villain down.
In the last chapter, we get to see the difference between the good lieutenant and the bad in the way Eve’s squad responds to the arrest of the villain (and the preceding fist fight).
“What’re you all still doing here? Don’t you have homes? Dismissed?”
To her utter shock Baxter shifted to attention, snapped a salute, held it. “Lieutenant,” he said and every cop in the room followed suit.
She forgot every ache, every pain, every bruise and cut. There wasn’t room with the pride.
“Good work. All of you. Good work.” She returned the salute. “Dismissed.”
J.D. Robb can tell a story, she can create a robust character and, by God, the woman can write. I’m looking forward to New York to Dallas, scheduled for release in September. But what does it mean that the title is not “in death?”
Myretta Robens, The Republic of Pemberley