Review: Innocent 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, David Cranmer reviews #24, Innocent in Death.

A young, seemingly healthy history teacher, Craig Foster, dies at work while eating lunch alone in his classroom. Craig was recently married to a woman named Lissette and, according to his co-workers and the student body, was a beloved educator. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her assistant Peabody are called to investigate.

Spider legs of broken vessels ran through the whites of his eyes. There were traces of foam as well as vomit clinging to his lips. “Tried to crawl after it hit him,” she murmured. “Tried to crawl for the door. Get the formal ID, Peabody, verify TOD.”

Rising, Eve moved carefully around the puddles of what Craig's body had voided, and picked up the insulated cup she saw, which had his name engraved in silver over black. Sniffed.

“You think somebody poisoned this guy?” Peabody asked.

That she does. Craig’s body had been found by a couple of his ten-year-old students, Rayleen Straffo and Melodie Branch. Both traumatized, they explain to Eve how they had planned to meet with their teacher during lunch for help with some schoolwork. Also interviewed are more students and faculty, plus the wife who made Craig’s lunch daily despite being quite busy herself working as an independent publisher. 

The autopsy reveals a highly-concentrated dose of Ricin in his system, and it was verified the hot chocolate that had been prepared by Lissette was laced with the poison. Still, Eve doesn't suspect her; the paltry $50K insurance policy isn’t motive enough for Lissette to do him in. Rounding out an abundant list of suspects is a straight-talking former cop living in the same apartment building as the deceased as well as a woman named Mirri Hallywell who claims to be a friend that met with Craig once a week to study.

One of the entertaining sidelines of the Robb In Death series is Eve’s close-knit relationship with her billionaire husband Roarke, and Innocent in Death explores a dust-up in their bond when some of Roarke’s unexpected baggage complicates Eve’s life with the reappearance of an old flame named Magdelana.

She was stunning, in a bold red dress that managed to be both elegant and sexy. Long legs ended in the glitter of paper-thin silver heels. Her hair was a long, waving stream of delicate blond, clipped at the sides with something small and sparkling. Her eyes were brilliantly green, full of life and excitement that translated to sexual power. Her lips were full, very red and lush against luminous skin.


She said it again in a kind of throaty purr that brought up the hackles on Eve’s back. And she glided as such women do, to the table, holding out her hands for his. 

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world,” she murmured as he rose, and lifted her face for a kiss.

Roarke reassures Eve that he and Magdelana were an item more than a decade ago and he’s sweet on Eve only now. She isn’t one-hundred percent convinced, believing for just a second that she saw a glimmer in his eyes that she's accustomed to seeing directed her way—though, as Magdelana begins finding clever ways to cross paths with Roarke, there may be a genuine reason for concern. 

Even so, for my critical eyes, Ms. Robb sends Eve off the rails to crazy-jealous maybe a bit too soon. Her knee-jerk anger when Roarke calls his ex-fling “Maggie” coupled with an immediate assumption that dearest hubby has cheating-on-the-mind sets up an insecurity that isn’t in keeping with the police lieutenant’s strong constitution—a resilient woman who has, soon enough, two homicide cases to solve. 


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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.


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