J. D. Robb has published 41 novels in her Death series since Naked in Death appeared with much fanfare in 1995. The fanfare because ‘Robb’ was the best–selling author of romantic, fantasy novels, Nora Roberts (200–plus novels and counting, 300 million books in print).
The series’ lead character is Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a New York homicide detective. Her life partner, Roarke, a billionaire who apparently first turned up as a charming but slightly sinister suspect in Naked in Death and has been with her ever since. Roarke helps Eva with insider information and even tags along to Eva’s crime scenes – so likely! To me it is a worry that since 1995 she has published at least one, and much more often two, Death novels a year, despite also steadily adding to her Nora Roberts booklist. With so much quantity could there possibly be quality? Well, no. Years ago, I abandoned the first Death series after only a chapter. I had forgotten what had put me off when, reluctant but curious, I decided to review her first of two titles to appear in 2016. After all, this is the 42nd novel in just this series.She must be doing something right! Having read this one from cover to cover there is bad news and good news. There is a gesture toward sci–fi by setting the stories 50 or 60 years in the future. (I had found this an unnecessary, un–convincing gimmick at my first try.) It mainly rears its head in matters culinary and references to ‘droids’ who are human–looking domestic workers. Her capacity for writing dialogue is below suspect, and although fans have praised her characters I found them almost pasteboard flat. Compared to Robb’s creations, Dorothy L. Sayers’ aristocratic sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, appears a man of Tolstoyan complexity, while Georges Simenon’s Maigret stories appear to examine life with the profundity of Dostoyevsky. The good news: Robb is a good storyteller and plots investigations that suck the reader in. From the moment a man hurries into his old family home to confront a cousin who is illegally trying to sell it and finds his cousin sitting bloody and terrified – and is then struck unconscious by an unknown hand, the story carries you along. The series of horrific murders that follow, all clearly inspired by hatred and desire for revenge, convince Eve Dallas a team of at least three women are involved. The victims are all socially prominent and include former senators and judges. What had these men done to inspire such hatred? Read on. Author: J. D. Robb Publisher: Piatkus/Little Brown