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, Jenny Maloney reviews #31, Indulgence in Death.
Even on vacation, there are two things Lieutenant Eve Dallas can’t avoid: being billionaire Roarke’s wife and murder. The first is a pleasure, even though reporters follow their every move and report her food and clothing choices. The second is business as usual.
After helping local Irish police on a case—when she’s supposed to be relaxing—Dallas arrives back in New York to find violence has not taken a holiday. Limo driver Jamal Houston, a man who has overcome his past as an illegals drug dealer and built a driving service from scratch, is found shot with a crossbow in the front seat of one of his limos. Houston’s final fare was registered under a stolen identity, and there are no immediate clues to help a just-back-from-vacation detective out.
Soon, another victim, a licensed companion named Ava Crampton, is murdered in an amusement park with a bayonet. Again, her last customer was registered under a stolen identity. As the pattern begins to emerge—a service industry employee who is very good at their job, odd locations, and elaborate murder weapons—Dallas realizes these murders are indulgences, like rich chocolate or good shoes, for a particularly arrogant breed of killer. And it looks like he wants Dallas to join in the game.
Indulgence in Death, the 31st In Death novel, centers on a killer who thinks that death is a game: Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick. And each of his victims falls into that pattern: the driver in the limo with the crossbow; the companion in the amusement park with the bayonet. Only, to Dallas, death is not a game and the victims are not puzzle pieces.
Dallas’s stance on death and treating the dead with respect is reinforced during—of all things—her vacation. She’s in Ireland with Roarke, visiting family and celebrating their anniversary, when young cousin Sean finds a woman beaten and strangled in the woods.
She turned to Sean. “We’ve got her now, okay? I’ll stay with her, but you need to go back. You and Brian need to go back, take the dogs. Leave this to me now.
“She has a name. She’s Holly. I’ll remember it.”
“You stood up, Sean. You stood up for her. That’s the first thing a cop has to do.”
With a ghost of a smile, he turned to the dogs. “Let’s go, lads.”
“I’ll look after him.” Brian laid a hand on Sean’s shoulder and walked with him.
Eve turned, looked at Roarke. “There are always bad guys.”
“It’s a hard lesson to learn that young.”
“It’s hard anytime.”
She took Roarke’s hand and stood over the dead, as she had countless times before.
After helping find that killer, she and Roarke finish their European tour and wind up back in New York refreshed … for the moment. The case Dallas immediately catches on her return home—that of limo driver Jamal Houston—induces a sleeplessness that would probably kill a mere mortal. But Dallas doesn’t need sleep. Just lots of coffee. Though, even coffee seems to be failing as she stays up for hours trying to catch this killer.
All kinds of tangles are snarled around this case. First, you have the victims, who appear to be random. Then, you have the murder weapons, which are strange and exotic and without any kind of registration attached. Then, you have the whole methodology of securing the victims, who are top performers in their respective fields and don’t schedule random people into their lives; therefore, the killer uses stolen identities. Stolen IDs means that Dallas and her intrepid partner, Detective Delia Peabody, have to verify a stream of alibis.
The tangle of evidence itself becomes one big clue. Trusting her instincts, Dallas takes a theory to Dr. Mira, the department psychologist.
“Showing off, that’s how it hits me.”
“Yes. God this is good,” Mira murmured over her coffee. “He has wealth or access to it. Excellent e-skills, or again access to them. His choice of the men whose identification he used tells me one of two things: He either resents those in authority, specifically in the corporate world, or he considers them subordinates, those to be made use of.”
Mira angled her head. “Why does that make you smile?”
“It fits with this theory I’m playing with, which seemed a long reach. You just shortened it. We’ve looked at people who work under Sweet and Urich, particularly the immediate staff, ones who’d either know the codes and passwords or would be able to get them. As it is I’ve got one asshole I’m bringing in today on another deal just because he fits. So I thought, maybe look up instead of down.”
Intrigued, Mira nodded and gave herself the pleasure of just breathing in the scent of coffee. “Higher up the corporate level?”
“Might as well start at the top. Let’s play this.” Eve sat on the corner of the desk so she faced Mira. “He buys his kill—boy, I like that one—he feels entitled to them. They’re expensive, exclusive. They’re indulgences only people with enough scratch can have so buying them makes him important. Now he wants more bang for the buck, isn’t that the expression? And he wants to show off his smarts, his skills, his … creativity.”
But Dallas is also smart, skillful, and creative. She works the case. Going without sleep, pounding the pavement, drinking gallons of coffee, and pulling in every available detective in her bullpen, she manages to hunt down a couple possible murderers … and slowly realizes that this killer’s ultimate indulgence might be her: a police officer who’s at the top of her field.
Indulgence in Death makes Dallas the focus—both her determination to do a good job and as a playing piece in a killer’s game. Like Strangers in Death, the identity of the murderer is revealed pretty early on and the reader is pulled along through the struggle of figuring out how to catch the guilty party. The chess match is the entertaining part, but Dallas—and Robb—never lets you forget that lives are on the line.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing, feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.
Read all posts by Jenny Maloney for Criminal Element.