Review: Divided in Death by J.D. Robb

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, Debbie Meldrum reviews #18, Divided in Death.

I’ve heard great things about Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s books but had not read any before this one. Dropping in this far into the series left me a bit confused, at first, but simply flipping to the back cover helped. This is the near-future and, while technology has made great leaps forward, some humans still have a long way to go.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has just enjoyed a romantic reunion with husband Roarke, who has been away on business. He receives a call from his assistant, Caro. It seems her daughter—also an employee of Roarke’s—found her husband and best friend in bed at her friend’s home. Both are dead. Worse yet, Reva Ewing had gone to confront the two of them. She meant to override the security system, but found it already off when she got there.

She could see the two figures huddled together under the silk and lace coverlet. They’d fallen asleep, she thought bitterly. All cozy and warm from sex.

Their clothes were tossed over a chair, messily, as if they’d been in a hurry to start. Seeing them, the tangle of clothes, broke her heart in hundreds of places.

Bracing against it, she strode to the bed, gripped the stunner in her hand. “Wake-up call, you piss-buckets.”

And whipped the silk and lace cover away.

The blood. Oh my God, the blood. The sight of it all over flesh, all over the sheets, made her head spin. The sudden smell of it, of death, mixed with the scents of flowers and candles, made her gag and stumble back.

Reva is a security expert and former Secret Service agent. She was injured in the line of duty, taking a bullet for the President of the United States. Now, she works on a “Code Red” project with Roarke. They are creating a code that will shield government systems from techno-terrorists.

The murdered husband was a famous sculptor, constructing abstract works of metal that Peabody classifies as creepy and mean. Eve calls them sick.

“Who buys this shit?” she wondered.

“Collectors,” Roarke supplied, eyeing a tall, obviously female form that was, apparently, giving birth to something not completely human. “Corporations and businesses that want to be seen as patrons of the arts.”

“Don’t tell me you have some of this?”

“Actually, I don’t. His work doesn’t . . . speak to me.”

“That’s something anyway.”

The investigation opens up bad memories of her childhood for Eve. And she finds out some even more disturbing information about that painful past. Information that has Roarke ready to play avenger, causing even more stress for Dallas.

The character of Roarke is an intriguing one. A dangerous man who also cares deeply for those close to him—who would do anything for them. And it’s that “anything” that causes friction with his wife, the cop. Lots of books pair the good girl protagonist with a bad boy romantic interest. But here, the good girl doesn’t always overlook the bad behavior just because he’s handsome. And that good girl has a bit of dark side herself.

Perhaps my favorite relationship, though, is the one between Eve and Peabody. The two women have great respect for each other. While Dallas holds back personal information, Peabody lets it all hang out. The contrast works, both within the story and as a literary device. It seems several of Eve’s relationships are with her opposites: Mavis the performer and Mira the psychiatrist, to name two.

Peabody gets to show her stuff when she and boyfriend McNabb go in search of a potential suspect, or at least another source of information about the victims.

She selected the two young men, one black, one white, sitting on a stoop and smoking Christ knew what out of a black pipe they passed between them. Gearing herself up, she put on her coldest cop face and swaggered up to them. And ignored McNab’s hiss of warning from behind her.

“See that scooter?”

The black man smirked, took a long slow drag on the pipe. “Got eyes, bitch.”

“Yeah, looks like you’ve got a pair each.” She shifted her weight, used her elbow to ease the jacket back so her badge and weapon peeked out. “If you want to keep them in your skulls, you’ll keep them on that scooter. Because if I come back out and it isn’t where I left it, in the same condition I left it, my associate and I are going to hunt you down like sick dogs. While he’s shoving that pipe up your ass,” she said, showing her teeth to the white guy, “I’m going to pop your fellow asshole’s eyes out. With my thumbs.”

The investigation takes several satisfying twists and turns. Dallas and the rest of her team work hard to get to the answer. Even Roarke, with all his money and computer savvy and a crack team of his own, doesn’t just take three taps on the computer and come up with the answers.

I am so glad I was given this opportunity to confirm all the good things I have heard about the In Death series. Going back and reading all of them in order will take some time, but it will be worth it to watch the evolution of Eve Dallas and the others around her.

Read David Cranmer's review of #17 in the In Death series, Imitation in Death!


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Debbie Meldrum reads just about everything she can get her hands on. She was the short fiction editor for Apollo's Lyre and the Editor in Chief of the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMag. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her first novel.

Read all of Debbie Meldrum's posts for Criminal Element!


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