With the In Death series, J.D. Robb has written an
amazing set of novels that utilize elements from a number of genres
without pitching too far over into this one or that. There is a
familiarity with the characters and the settings from book to book.
Eve Dallas is an NYPD homicide lieutenant in the year 2058 who is
married to Roarke, a babe magnet with a checkered past who rose
from humble beginnings to acquire more money than God. Accordingly,
each of these books has elements of romantic suspense, science
fiction, mystery and thriller woven through it in such equal parts
that one doesn’t have to be a fan of a certain type of novel
to fully appreciate what is occurring from moment to moment.
I can’t entirely buy into the relationship between the
lieutenant and her Everyman, but I dutifully read each and every
installment. Why? Because what occasionally gets lost in the hoopla
is that the titles in this series are consistently well written and
feature terrific mysteries. Robb doesn’t repeat her plots,
though she is not above presenting an occasional variation on them.
In fact, she tacitly acknowledges this through the characters in
her latest novel when one turns to another and (to paraphrase)
says, “Gee, this is like that other case we had.” Well,
maybe so, but only slightly. There are enough differences all the
way around that even readers who have committed to memory every
word that Robb has ever written will not mind at all.
INDULGENCE IN DEATH, book #31 in the series, begins with the
enigmatic Roarke taking Eve back to Ireland, which has changed very
little in a half-century or so. Another thing that never changes
would be the inclination of human beings to commit crimes of
passion, and indeed, Eve and Roarke have barely sipped their first
stout before they are embroiled in a murder investigation, one that
is quickly resolved but I suspect will have some repercussions upon
at least one member of Roarke’s Gaelic family at some point
in the future. Similarly, it is not long after they return to New
York that Eve is embroiled in a fresh homicide. The owner/driver of
a livery service is found murdered at LaGuardia Airport, done in by
bizarre instrumentation. A second murder follows almost
immediately, with the victim being a very high-priced licensed sex
worker. Eve is able to figure out just who is responsible for the
murders. The problem, though, is that the suspects are rich and
powerful, have iron-clad alibis and no apparent motive other than
the thrill of doing what they are doing. But are they going to get
away with it?
INDULGENCE IN DEATH is one of those mysteries that is closer to
Columbo than Agatha Christie. There isn’t much of a whodunit
aspect here; the thrill is if the perps will get away with it, or,
to be more accurate, how Eve will catch them. She has the resources
of the NYPD as well as her husband, who, as she would say, owns
almost everything. But there is an additional, very interesting
wrinkle here. The murderers are actually taunting Eve, and not for
an undefined purpose. There is a cat-and-mouse game being played
here, and everyone wants to be the cat. And, at story’s end,
only the cat will be left standing.
Of course, there are any number of subtle changes in the lives
of the secondary characters to provide some continuity from book to
book. Eve remains her prickly self, so much so that some male
readers might wonder why Roarke doesn’t trade her in for a
model with an engine of equal power that rides just a bit more
quietly. Actually, the sharp edges of her personality play a part
in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and in a subtle yet
striking way. One of the more interesting passages in the story
present Eve and Roarke as you’ve never seen them before.
Well, at least in public. And INDULGENCE IN DEATH is worth reading
for that moment alone.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011