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, Doreen Sheridan reviews #6, Vengeance in Death.
I’ve read that J.D. Robb writes the In Death books in threes, and it’s easy to see how this 6th book of the bestselling series continues a narrative arc that explores the power of belief in the year 2058. Whereas the 4th book, Rapture in Death, spoke of unwilling and unwitting mind control through technology, the next two discuss a different, willing adherence to a formal structure of belief—however perverted it might be made by those who claim to believe. Whereas Ceremony in Death discussed pagan religions, Vengeance in Death looks at Catholicism—and in particular the Irish version—as we dive into self-made billionaire Roarke’s criminal past.
Back when Roarke was first trying to establish himself in the underground of his Irish homeland, a horrifying crime was committed against someone beloved of both himself and his faithful now-butler, Summerset. When the investigating officer was paid off, Roarke took matters into his own hands, executing the perpetrators over the course of three years and ensuring that his tracks were completely covered … or so he believed.
For someone has begun to murder the people who helped him in his vendetta in the most gruesome ways possible. Worse, the killer is setting up Summerset—if not Roarke himself—to take the fall and directly challenging Roarke’s wife, Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York Police and Security Department, to put an end to the murderous spree. The killer quotes the Bible to Eve and leaves religious relics at each scene, including a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Eve at one point finds herself talking to:
Gently she set the statue down again, staring into that serene and lovely face. “Just another sin on [the killer’s] plate,” she murmured, “using you as part of his obscenities. I have to stop him before he does it again. I could use a little help here.”
Eve caught herself, blinked in shock, then laughed a little as she ran a hand through her hair. The Catholics were pretty clever, she decided, with their statues. Before you knew it you were talking to them—and it was a hell of a lot like praying.
And because the killer’s brand of Catholicism is heavily influenced by an Irish upbringing, Ireland herself makes a notable appearance in the proceedings. Alongside Eve, we learn a great deal about where Roarke came from. It’s hard not to empathize when she finds herself scrambling to protect the man she loves not only from suspicion by other cops, both in New York and in Eire—there’s no statute of limitations on murder, after all, not even in the future—but also from the bodily harm the killer intends. Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with the In Death series, this latter leads to another of Eve and Roarke’s explosive arguments:
“You had no right. No right to stand in front of me.” He turned back now, his eyes vividly blue with temper than had gone from frigid to blaze. “No fucking right to risk yourself on my behalf.”
“Oh really. Is that so?” She stalked forward until they were toe to toe. “Okay, you tell me. You keep looking me dead in the eye and you tell me you wouldn’t have done the same if it was me in jeopardy.”
“That’s entirely different.”
“Why?” Her chin came up and her finger jabbed hard into his chest. “Because you have a penis?”
He opened his mouth, a dozen vile and furious words searing his tongue. It was the cool, utterly confident gleam in her eyes that stopped him. He turned away and braced both fists on the desk. “I don’t care for the fact that you have a point.”
Ordinarily, I find their arguments tedious, as they usually boil down to Eve refusing to take care of herself in some way and Roarke freaking out at her before bullying her into submission. This one, however, was quite different and marks an assimilation of the feminism that stamps the book’s complex, inventive worldbuilding into (finally!) the relationship of the main characters.
Oh yes, there have been promising signs before, but this book makes it feel as if Roarke finally accepts Eve’s agency, however grudgingly. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both perfectly awful to one another at times, but Vengeance in Death is the novel which, I feel, firmly establishes their equal footing—now that the truth of Roarke’s past is revealed—along with the vulnerability it necessitates on his part.
I won’t be reviewing the series here again until the 9th novel, but you can bet I’ll be reading the next two books in anticipation! See you in a few!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.