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, Leigh Neely reviews #23, Born in Death.
I freely admit that I avoided this series for several years. I was in my romantic era at the time and didn’t think I would enjoy this break from my favorite romance author. However, my best friend continued to urge me to try reading them, and I finally got a paperback copy of Naked in Death. I never looked back. I’ve been reading them ever since, and I always buy the hardback on release day. That’s why I’m so excited to be reviewing Born in Death.
These stories focus on Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPSD, and by now, she is married to the unbelievably handsome Roarke, one of the richest men in the universe. The life Robb has created for Eve Dallas is one we all dream of: a husband who is literally rich enough to buy you a world, a job you love and can be totally immersed in with support from your husband, a castle-like home in the heart of New York City, and the autochef that dispenses whatever food you want whenever you want it.
Eve and Roarke came from nothing and are determined to succeed, and Robb weaves their tales so well that you slip into their lives with ease. The secondary characters are also well-rounded, and even the likable minor characters often pop up throughout the series so you can get an update on them.
Born in Death has Eve and Roarke facing something that frightens both of them in a way nothing ever has—Mavis, Eve’s best friend and now Roarke’s successful singing star, is having a baby and wants the two of them in the room during the baby’s birth. Their reactions after attending a birthing class are perfect:
And at that moment, because he was taking her arm and leading her out of that nightmare, he was her ultimate hero. She grabbed her coat on the fly.
“They wanted to see if a friend of theirs could join us.” He still had Eve’s hand, and was rapidly walking toward the exit. “I told them we’d get the car, bring it around to the front. Save them steps.”
“You’re brilliant. Freaking white knight. If I ever recover from this trauma, I’ll screw your brains out.”
“I hope, eventually, my brain cells regenerate enough to make that possible. My God, Eve. My God.”
“Total tandem here. Did you see how it sort of slithered out when—”
“Don’t.” He pulled her into the elevator, called for their level of the parking garage. “If you love me, don’t take me back there.” He leaned back against the wall. “I’ve always respected women. You know that.”
She rubbed an itch on the side of her nose. “You’ve nailed plenty of them. But yeah,” she added when he just gave her a bland stare. “You’ve got respect.”
“That respect has now risen to admiration of biblical proportions. How do they do that?”
J.D. Robb has long said Eve will never have a baby of her own because it would mean she couldn’t do her job as fiercely as she does now. I agree, and I think Robb has done a great job of illustrating what a mysterious and baffling world motherhood is for the long-time cop.
Of course, the story turns to murder when two young lovers—both employees of a well-respected and affluent accounting firm—are brutally murdered. Though everyone professes to have loved the fallen couple, Eve is sure someone close to them has the answers.
In the midst of this difficult investigation, one of Mavis’s friends from the birthing class goes missing. Like Mavis, she could have her baby any day. The case should be given to the Missing Persons Department, but Mavis insists Eve must find the expectant mother. So now, Eve and her trusty partner, Delia Peabody, are working two cases simultaneously.
Since the murder case involves large amounts of money, Roarke comes on board as an expert consultant civilian. We all love it when that happens, especially when he and Peabody’s main squeeze, the electronics department detective Ian McNab, helps him out.
Oh, and one more thing: Eve is throwing a gala baby shower for Mavis. Well, it’s at her house—but, as usual, Peabody and others are making all the arrangements. Again, Eve is totally baffled by these female rituals she never experienced growing up in foster homes and living alone when she was older. Here’s what she’s thinking as she observes the women during Mavis’s shower.
Within the hour, the room was so full of estrogen Eve thought she could bottle it and sell it on the black market. Women nibbled, sipped, cooed over other women’s protruding bellies and chatted about when they got together as a species.
Hair. That’s a great look for you, and what a mag color! Where do you go?
Men. He just doesn’t listen to what I need to say.
And due to the nature of the event, they talked of babies, babies, and more babies.
The new fact she discovered was that women who’d already had children felt compelled to share their childbirth experiences with those about to head to the labor mines.
Eve’s obvious confusion with all the womanly stuff is always amusing.
I firmly believe Robb could have been a psychologist in another life. She knows how to get into her characters' minds and probe them with a depth of understanding many writers never achieve. She also does an excellent job of keeping the ropes of characters’ stories connected flawlessly from book to book. Truthfully, I enjoy the books that focus more on characters than those that are clear police procedurals.
And then there’s the lovely and satisfying way Eve takes down the bad guys, as evidenced here:
She saw it in his eyes, so when he yanked the stunner out of his robe pocket she was ready. She kicked out, disarming him, then pivoted when he charged so the fist he struck out with glanced off her shoulder. The elbow she jabbed into his solar plexus doubled him up, but he used his forward motion too ram her like a bull. Adrenaline pumped into her as her back hit the wall, and his hands closed around her throat. When her knee came up, hard, between his legs, the air wheezed out of him so he deflated like a balloon.
“By not cooperating you made my night. Now, [disclaimer: can’t reveal name], you’re under arrest for assaulting an officer. She bent down to roll him onto his face, hank his arms behind his back, and slap on the restraints. “And believe me when I say that’s just the beginning.”
God, I love a women who can take down a man like that. If I ever quit reading and eating potato chips, I’m going to learn some of that karate stuff myself. Ah, forget it. J.D. Robb has a new book coming out soon, so I guess I’ll just need to sit and read some more.
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Leigh Neely is managing editor of two regional magazines in Central Florida. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her own books with her writing partner, Jan Powell. Awakening Magic by Neely Powell was released in December from The Wild Rose Press.