Review: Promises 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, Amber Keller reviews #28, Promises in Death.

In a more solemn entry in the series, book number 28, Promises in Death, sees a fellow cop at the New York Police and Security Department murdered.

Now, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no stranger to death, or even death that hits close to home, but when it’s one of her own, it changes the game. Amaryllis Coltraine—a recent transfer to the department from Atlanta, Georgia—falls victim to homicide. Her death shakes up the force, and seeing that she is the girlfriend of Dallas’s good friend and fellow co-worker, the Chief Medical Examiner Morris, she makes it her mission to find out who killed her.

The investigation does not come easy, and Dallas struggles to fit the pieces together. Along the way, we have the added benefit of classic scenes involving Dallas and Roarke to carry us through this tragedy as she figures out the killer. Their interactions are always a favorite for me, as they bring a necessary element out of Dallas. She seems so hard-assed and hellbent on solving crimes that it can be easy to forget there’s a loving side to her, as well. We learn more about Dallas during her times with Roarke than we do watching her at her job, which she’s brilliant at. Also, their relationship is truly one for the records. The love they have for each other seems to be endless, and Roarke’s support and even participation in Dallas’s job goes above and beyond.

As Robb writes here about Dallas:

She’d squeezed confessions out of stone killers, brow-beaten information out of slimy weasels, but she would never come out a hundred percent on top with Roarke in a negotiation.

The two of them balance each other out perfectly in a symbiotic partnership and a committed marriage.

Early on in the investigation, Dallas must rule out that the killer is someone Coltraine had used as an informant, or a weasel as they call them. Here we see the author’s amusing description and parallel on the nickname.

The guy looked a little like a weasel, Eve thought—or what she figured a weasel looked like. He sat in the back of his security glass, making a deal with a guy sweating for his next fix.

Bollimer’s long, sharp nose twitched in the center of his long, thin face. Scenting cop, Eve decided, as the man’s bright, black eyes darted over toward her and Peabody.

This story displays the loyalty of the department. When a cop is killed, despite any differences they may have with each other, they all come together to unite in the search for the killer. They will not rest until they get the bad guy.

Also, we see other factors that play into that world during a scenario like this. Whoever killed Coltraine also took her personal effects, only to return them to the station after the crime. There’s also a nasty note in the box that plays an important part in finding the killer. But the importance of receiving Coltraine’s items do not go unmentioned.

As Eve drove home, she wondered if Coltraine’s killer understood the full import of having the weapons and the badge back in official hands. Despite the insult of the message, and its implicit threat, their return meant a great deal.

A cop’s weapon wouldn’t be used to do harm.

In a little bit of a comedic break, we get to see Dallas and Roarke interacting with their good friend’s brand new baby. Dallas and Roarke are not kid people, to put it lightly, so this was bound to be a funny scene.

Smoothly, so smoothly she didn’t see it coming, he rose and plunked the baby into her arms.

Even managed to choke back a curse so the sound she made was more of a raw-throated squeak. She held Belle at arm’s length, much as she might a potentially incendiary device. “Ah, hi. Nice dress.”

The fact that it was pink and full and fluffy had hidden the tiny reality under it. How could anything that small be human? And what went on inside its brain when it stared that way? Stared until a thin line of sweat crept down your back?

Not sure what to do next, Even started to turn—very slowly—to pass the baby to Mavis, Leonardo. Even Summerset. Possibly the cat. When Belle blinked those big babydoll eyes, and shot out a huge, gummy grin.

There’s also a fair bit of exploration into Roarke’s past in this story. One of the main suspects that Dallas is looking into is the son of a man who has caused much turmoil in both of their lives: Alex Ricker. As it turns out, Alex and Roarke have had a similar upbringing. Both of their fathers had been terrible in their own ways. This leaves Roarke with empathetic feelings toward Alex.

He’d taken lives in his time, Roarke admitted. He’d spilled blood. But always for purpose. Never for profit. Never for sport.

He supposed, in some oddly twisted way, he’d learned more of his own lines, his own moralities from Max Ricker than he had from his own unlamented father.

What, he wondered, had Alex Ricker learned from his father?

It’s nice to see this one wrapped up, bringing closure to Dallas and Morris along with the others who mourned their fellow officer.


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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter @akeller9.


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