Review

Fantasy in Death

by J. D. Robb

I have no idea how J.D. Robb does it. Her futuristic crime
novels featuring NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas consistently rock. The
latest installment in the series, FANTASY IN DEATH, deals with a
topic about which her readership probably couldn’t care less.
Play a lot of video games recently? That’s where this book
goes. But even if you haven’t played a video game since you
slipped a quarter in a Ms. Pac-Man machine in 1980, or, more
recently, told your daughter to turn the Wii sound down while
playing Animal Crossing, you’ll wistfully wish to live long
enough to try the cutting edge of virtual reality video games that
Robb predicts will exist in 2060. That’s how good she is.

FANTASY IN DEATH centers on the murder of Bart Minnock, the
founder of U-Play, a computer-gaming giant that is to gaming in the
mid-21st century what Microsoft is to computing right now. Robb
gives us a front row seat at the time and place of Minnock’s
sudden murder by decapitation while he is playing a demo model of
U-Play’s latest creation, but the issue of whodunit and how
they managed to do it are reserved for the end of the book. What
Robb sets up for Lieutenant Dallas and the NYPSD is a futuristic
variation of the classic “locked-room” mystery. Dallas,
assisted in a quasi-official capacity by Roarke, her quietly
perfect and apparently all-powerful husband, spend a great deal of
the novel figuring out the who and the how. The former is just as
puzzling as the latter.

Minnock’s three partners in U-Play, each equally if
differently talented and quirky, seem as upset over his death as
they would over the demise of a family member. His lovely and
devoted girlfriend is quickly eliminated as a suspect, as is an
unscrupulous business rival. And the how --- a murder committed in
a secure room that no one entered, other than the victim, either
before or during the crime --- confounds the investigators as well.
When a second incident takes place, however, it provides Dallas
with the key to the solution to both puzzles, even as it draws her
and Roarke into potential mortal jeopardy.

Is FANTASY IN DEATH Robb’s best Dallas work? No, despite
the fact that it is practically impossible to put down from
beginning to end. While certainly worth reading, about midway
through the tale, I had the feeling that there might be a tad too
much padding to consider it as the equal or superior of some of the
other books in the series. Some may disagree; in fact, I am well
aware that it is the padding that a great percentage of her
readership enjoy as much as the mystery. I will say this, however:
the climax is terrific, certainly one of the best I have read this
year thus far. Designed to catch the reader napping --- not to
mention Dallas and Roarke --- I loved every single word of every
single sentence.

I will never knock on a strange apartment door again without
thinking of it. And for that, along with the brilliant locked-room
variation that is the key to the story, I heartily recommend
it.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Fantasy in Death
by J. D. Robb

  • Publication Date: February 23, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399156240
  • ISBN-13: 9780399156243