Review: Purity 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 #15, Purity in Death.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas of Cop Central is preparing to attend an evening soirée with her husband, Roarke, who’s rich enough “to buy a couple of continents.” But she is relieved of the snooty affair when she’s notified that one of her men, off-duty Officer Troy Trueheart, has shot and killed a man named Louis K. Cogburn. Screaming about the spikes in his head, Cogburn took a baseball bat to his neighbor Ralph Wooster, beat him to death, and then went swinging after Wooster’s girlfriend, Suzanne. By the time Eve and her assistant Peabody arrive at the apartment building, they discover:

Two men lay sprawled in the corridor, one of them facedown in a pool of congealing blood. 

The other was faceup, staring with some surprise at the ceiling. Through an open doorway beside the bodies she could hear the sounds of weeping and groaning. 

The door across was also open. She noted several fresh holes and dents in the hallway walls, splinters of wallboard, splatters of blood. And what had once been a baseball bat was now a broken club, covered with blood and brain matter.

While it’s noted that the oppressive heat has been driving people to violence, Cogburn’s extreme response to Wooster’s failure to comply with a request to turn down his music is viewed as far outside the norm. A search of Cogburn’s untidy apartment reveals he had a hand in the illegals line, primarily selling drug samples of Zoner and Jazz to school kids.

A major clue on Cogburn’s computer screen is the phrase ABSOLUTE PURITY ACHIEVED. A quick search reveals it has no meaning, and Eve’s first thought is to chalk it up to a neurological meltdown. That opinion changes, however, when a police tech named Halloway, attempting to crack the PURITY message, appears to have picked up a computer virus (yeah, the future of 2059 ain’t for wimps, kids) and has assaulted another officer, held his captain hostage, and held the entire station at bay. Eve swings into action:

She brought the syringe down on his shoulder and pumped the tranq into him. 

“Hold your fire! Hold fire!” She shouted it as Halloway ran in circles around the room, screaming as he ripped at his hair. “I disarmed him. He’s unarmed.”

The door burst open. She leaped between Halloway and the lasers. “I said hold your goddamned fire.”

She whirled around. It was taking longer than five seconds. Halloway was throwing himself against the wall. Shrieking, weeping. Then his body danced, as bodies do when a stream takes them down. 

Blood fountained from his nose as he pitched forward.

Publisher’s Weekly called an earlier In Death Eve Dallas book “Atmospheric … Followers will feel as if they have gone home to the future.” True enough; I feel like I’m in a future that will be a close approximation of now, and by the time we actually get there, these air minis for transportation, hookers called licensed companions, and wrist units will all seem old hat. But, no worries; other stories like Back to the Future II and Blade Runner still exist in their paleo futures quite nicely. 

The relationship between Eve and her husband, Roarke, is warm, playful, and real. She admits, going into their second year of marriage, that she can’t keep her hands off of him, which is a plus for fans of romantic suspense novels. Beyond the carnal, there’s an intellect shared between the two that brings out the best of qualities in both. A revered respect that’s timeless, and one of the pleasures I had in this J.D. Robb mystery.


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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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