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, Corrina Lawson reviews #33, New York to Dallas.
New York to Dallas may be the most important book in the entire In Death series. In a nod to the story’s unique place, it’s the only book not to have “In Death” in the title.
The title has a two-layered meaning. The first is the obvious physical journey that Lt. Eve Dallas must take from New York City to Dallas, Texas to chase an escaped serial killer who has already taken a hostage. The second journey is symbolic, as Eve returns to the city where she was found wandering in an alley, injured, bloody, and amnesiac—the place where she initially became Eve Dallas. Now, she’s become Lt. Eve Dallas of New York. But the events of this book strip her emotions back down to that lost and broken child, and it’s only with supreme effort that she defeats her internal and external demons.
The murderer she’s chasing is Isaac McQueen, a kidnapper, rapist, and killer who was Eve’s first big arrest back when she was in uniform, only six weeks out from the Police Academy. Arresting him and rescuing his multiple victims brought her the initial recognition that eventually led to a career in homicide. Now, McQueen is intent on revenge not just on Eve, but on one of the victims who escaped him all those years ago—the only one who spoke to him in prison to erase his hold on her.
It’s impossible to review this book without talking about Eve’s long emotional journey through the series and the major turning point in the book, which means:
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
McQueen’s escape forces Eve to chase him to Dallas, but there is a more personal component to this case. First, McQueen has much in common with Eve’s biological father, who raped and abused her until she killed him in self-defense. Like her father, McQueen enjoys using and abusing young girls, and, like her father, McQueen also works with an older woman to help keep his victims in line. Naturally, McQueen eventually discards and kills these women as well.
When I first read the book, I was surprised but not shocked to learn that McQueen’s partner in his escape was Eve’s biological mother, long ago lost to Eve’s jumbled childhood memories. That’s a serious gut punch for Eve. She recognizes her mother, but her mother has no idea who she is and wouldn’t care if she did unless she could use the relationship to her own advantage. Eve’s mother never cared about her and never will.
There is no happy ending here between biological mother and daughter, no last-minute regrets, no reconciliation. In their one conversation, as Eve demands to know where the kidnap victims are being held, Eve’s mother rejects any chance to remove her blinders about McQueen.
“He’ll kill you, just like all the others, when he’s done. You’re the one being used now, after all the years of using. With him, you’re dead. With me, you’ve got a chance to live. Where are Melinda and Darlie?”
“Fuck them. Fuck you.”
“He killed his own mother, and all those substitutes who came after. He’ll do the same to you. Slit your throat and toss you in the nearest river.”
“He loves me!”
It shocked Eve to hear that passion, that desperation. Just for a moment, she felt something close to sympathy.
Eve must push past the emotions surrounding her biological mother and concentrate on the case because two lives are at stake: Darlie and Melinda, a teenage girl and one who got away. Eve investigates around the clock to find them before McQueen tires of his toys.
To ramp up the tension, Eve is working in an unfamiliar place, Dallas, with unfamiliar allies in the local police department and federal law enforcement. The only constant in this book is Eve’s husband, Roarke, also out of his element and wanting to support his wife but uncertain of how to do that.
The story is a dark examination of the soul—as past crimes and present lives collide with stakes as high as they’ve ever been—that uses the setting to increase the emotional isolation of the characters.
The story uses all the emotional growth Eve’s undergone in the entire series effectively, a terrific piece of emotional continuity. The Eve Dallas of Naked in Death might well be broken by the events of New York to Dallas, but she’s gained strength and purpose through her love of her husband and her new friendships.
In a nice glimpse into how far Eve has come, the book begins with a public ceremony honoring Eve, her partner Peabody, and several others for their role in closing a case detailed in an earlier book. Aside from Roarke, Dr. Charlotte Mira is the only other supporting character with a major role in this story. Dr. Mira is Eve’s mother in every way that matters, and her presence is a bright mirror to Eve’s biological parent.
The climatic hand-to-hand fight in the story between Eve and McQueen is particularly brutal (even for this series), but it’s no spoiler to say that she eventually wins. A true turning point in Eve’s life, it’s a victory not just over one person, but over her demons—the past that will always exist but will continue to lose its power over her.
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Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.