Review: Salvation 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, Kristen Houghton reviews #27, Salvation in Death.

Hector Ortiz had been a good man. He had lived for a hundred and sixteen years, and his large family and many friends were gathered for his funeral mass. At St. Cristóbal’s Church, the priest officiated with the dignity and respect Señor Ortiz deserved.

But while Father Flores is performing the Rite of Communion at the mass, he suddenly and unexpectedly dies on the altar. This is no death related to natural causes; it is a murder. Someone has spiked the communion wine with poison, causing the priest to die in front of a church filled with mourners. 

Miguel was officiating the funeral mass, and was taking Communion. He drank, and he seemed, almost immediately, to seize. His body shook, and he gasped for air. And he collapsed.” López spoke with the faintest of accents, an exotic sheen over rough wood.

“There were doctors and other medicals here, and they tried to revive him, but it was too late. One said, one thought, it was poison. But I don’t believe that could be.”


López merely lifted his hands. “Who would poison a priest in such a way, and at such a time?”

“Where did the wine come from? In the cup?”

“We keep Communion wine locked in the tabernacle, in the anteroom.”

“Who has access?”

“I do. Miguel, Martin—that is, Father Freeman—the Eucharistic ministers serving the Mass.”

A lot of hands, Eve thought. Why bother with a lock? 

“Where are they?”

“Father Freeman is visiting family in Chicago, and expected back tomorrow. We have—had—three ministers today due to the large attendance at the Requiem Mass.”

“I’ll need their names.”

“Surely you can’t believe—”

“And this?”

He actually paled when Eve lifted the silver disk holding the wafer. “Please. Please. It’s been consecrated.”

“I’m sorry, now it’s evidence. There’s a piece missing. Did he eat it?”

“A small piece is broken off, put in the wine for the rite of fraction and commingling. He would have consumed it with the wine.”

So begins Lt. Eve Dallas’s newest case. Who killed the beloved Father Miguel Flores and why?

There has to be a damned good reason for this, and there is. During the investigation, Eve begins to surmise that the good father wasn’t all that good after all. The wine had been poisoned by someone who hated him enough to make his death a very public one. He had been specifically targeted. 

And there’s more. An autopsy of the body reveals knife wounds and tattoo removal, plus telling evidence of expensive plastic surgery. Did the man whom the parishioners loved and knew as a priest have a criminal past? Was he hiding secrets of his own? Was he who he claimed to be? Was he even a priest at all?

When a second person is murdered on video in front of an even larger number of the faithful, Eve begins to see a trail that will lead her to solving the priest’s death.

The chase for the murderer and how Dallas finds out the true identity of the priest makes for a riveting story. At the end, Eve asks Roarke a question about the firm stance of the Catholic Church on suicide, which shows a softer, more human side of the tough lieutenant. A curiosity of what makes some believe in a faith’s dictates while others choose not believe makes for a highly recommended read. 


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Kristen Houghton’s new novel, Unrepentant: Pray for Us Sinners, book 3 in her best-selling series A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, is available at all book venues.

She is the author of nine top-selling novels and is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own. Houghton is also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories which appear in popular horror anthologies.


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