Review: Holiday 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, Janet Webb reviews #7, Holiday in Death.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas is the last person to write out her Christmas list and check it twice. But now she’s married to a gazillionaire and feeling the pain because Eve is not—and never has been—a fan of Christmas. After leaving the tranquility of the inner-city oasis she shares with Roarke, she’s confronted with garish billboards of Santa, complete with manic ho ho hos and reminders about the number of shopping days left before Christmas.

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you. You fat son of a bitch.” She scowled over as she braked for a light. She’d never had to worry about the holiday before. It had just been a matter of finding something ridiculous for Mavis, maybe something edible for Feeney.

There’d been no one else in her life to wrap gifts for.

And what the hell did she buy for a man who not only had everything, but owned most of the plants and factories that made it? For a woman who’d prefer a blow with a blunt instrument to shopping for an afternoon, it was a serious dilemma.

Mavis—a sprite-like grifter-turned-girlfriend—and Feeney—Eve’s mentor in the police department back before Roarke—were the sum total of her friends. Eve’s cluelessness of all things Christmas makes it necessary for Peabody, her sturdy assistant, to explain the meaning of the tattoo on the body of their latest victim. Peabody tells her it’s a partridge in a pear tree. Eve’s reaction is “What?”

“It’s an old Christmas song, Lieutenant. ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’ The guy gives his true love something on every day, starting with a partridge in a pear tree on the first day.”

Eve’s ignorance of holiday traditions and commonly-known phrases is a continuing motif of the In Death series. A childhood that was bereft of warmth and safety has left a huge gap in Eve’s upbringing, whereas Peabody’s new-age childhood makes her a repository of folk wisdom and everyday knowledge. 

Folk wisdom says that no one likes to be alone during the holidays. The murder victims of Holiday in Death were all connected to “New York’s most posh dating service, Personally Yours.” Eve and Peabody, with the assistance of Roarke, Feeney, and his computer right-hand man McNab, are in a race against time to stop a “Santa” who enters people’s apartments with death on his agenda. 

When Eve speaks with Jerry Vandoren—the lover of the first victim, Marianna Hawley—she is struck by the way he described his love for Marianna. He tells Eve “she’d been everything.” Married to Roarke, Eve understands exactly what Jerry meant, but in order to do her job, she has to “block out of her mind the devastation of emotion she’d felt from him.”

Love didn’t always win, she reminded herself. But justice could, if she was good enough.

As always, Roarke has Eve’s back. Whatever she needs: an expert civilian consultant or a man providing food to her troops. Always though, and most importantly, Roarke cares about Eve his wife. He sees her working past the point of exhaustion, and nothing frustrates him more. He tells her he misses her when her case consumes her.

“I guess we’ve both been busy the last couple of weeks.” It felt so good to lean against him and just be. “I can’t back off this case now.”

“I don’t expect you to.” For the pleasure of it, he rubbed his cheek against hers. “I wouldn’t want you to.” But it was the last case, what it had done to her, that weighed on his mind and his heart. “I’m content to steal a moment here and there.” He eased back, brushed his lips over hers. “I’ve always had a good hand at stealing … whatever.”

“You’re not supposed to remind me.” And, smiling, she framed his face with her hands.

Lastly, in every In Death story, J.D. Robb slyly inserts a bit of humor. Even a lieutenant intent on shutting down a murderous Santa has to get her Christmas shopping done. Watching Eve seize the opportunity to cross another name off her list in the middle of interrogating a jewelry shop clerk is a welcome respite from the horrors of a serial killer—plus, how it annoys Peabody!

A set of three chained ropes with clashing colored stones the size of her thumb caught her eye. It was ridiculously flashy, edging toward tacky. And just screamed Mavis.

“That,” she said and pointed.

“Ah, you’d like to see the Heathen Neck Ornament. Very unique, very—’’

“I don’t want to see it. I’ll take it. Just wrap it up, and make it fast.”

“I see.” Training kept him from goggling. “And how would you like to pay for that?”

Peabody marched up just as Eve was accepting the festive red and silver bag. “You shopped,” she said accusingly.

“No, I bought. There’s a difference.”

Eve and Roarke’s first Christmas has one wondering what gift Eve gave to the man who has everything. The answer is to be found in “Midnight in Death,” J.D. Robb’s novella featuring Eve and Roarke, featured in Silent Night, a Jove Christmas anthology (1988). 


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Janet Webb aka @JanetETennessee moved from the San Francisco Bay to eastern Tennessee. Baseball is my passion: I follow the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Nashville Sounds (farm team of my beloved Oakland Athletics). Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on the books of Helen MacInnes, Dick Francis, and Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm always looking for a great new mystery series. I also review at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

Read all of Janet Webb's articles for Criminal Element!


  1. MB

    This was one of the really good ones- BEFORE La Nora changed ghostwriters and ran out of plots…. Awesome review.

  2. Nora Roberts

    I don’t have, and never have had a ghostwriter. I always wonder about people who don’t know me and feel free to make assumptions that insult my integrity. Like the books or don’t, that’s reader’s choice, but making false and personal statements crossing a line.

  3. Janet Webb

    When I read comments like that, I just sluff them off, because they’re so ludicrous. The fertile imagination of J.D. Robb is a national treasure…although if she ever wanted reader suggestions for plot possibilities, I’m up for a Peabody/McNab wedding…can you imagine the fussing there’d be from Roarke and Eve?

    I reviewed the latest In Death, #43: … I look forward each and every year to my twice-yearly installments of the latest in the life of Dallas, Eve and her fabuloso husband Roarke.

  4. nora robeerts

    I don’t sluff off comments that question my integrity or honesty. That’s a bridge too far.

    A reader comments a book sucked for her, that’s her right, and I zip it. But stating as fact I use ghosts is an outright lie, and it’s insulting–plus lies can stick and spread. I stand up for my work.

    And while I appreciate you enjoy the books, and the characters, I don’t take reader suggestions. It’s an intreegal part of writing my books myself. For better or worse, the ideeas, plot lines, characters come from me, and I write every word.

  5. MB

    I stand by what I said last year. Also, it’s “slough” not “sluff”.

    If you are Nora Roberts (or Robeerts in the second reply), then you might want to tighten up your writing or get a new editor. I am an editor, and I’d never allow the sloppy mistakes that whoever is currently writing the JD Robb novels keeps making. The overall voice of the writers changes from book to book, some of it hugely noticeable; sometimes in the middle of the book. Character names are wrong, things mentioned in ten books in a row are wrong, the futuristic details are wrong; after 40-some books where Pepsi is the only beverage mentioned by name, suddenly Eve is drinking Coke? Get real.

    Maybe you are Nora Roberts, and maybe you are writing these books; if so, you’ve burned out on them or lost your editor. The more I read of the first 18 books, the more I realize they are not written by whoever is producing the current crop.

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