J. D. Robb’s Eve Dallas novels, also known as the In
Death series, are an institution. Robb, a pen name for the
prolific Nora Roberts, publishes a Dallas thriller on the average
of twice a year, with nary a complaint or chance of flooding the
market. She has never been one to sacrifice quality for quantity.
Everyone who has encountered the somewhat prickly Lieutenant
Dallas, either as a casual reader of the series or as a religious
one, has a favorite volume. Mine happens to be PROMISES IN DEATH,
the latest installment in the series.
PROMISES IN DEATH is a classic whodunit, set in mid-21st century
New York. The Big Apple of the future is different, though not
radically so, from our own. It’s like encountering a one-time
close friend you haven’t seen in 30 years; the edges are
different, but the core is the same. This also applies to the New
York Police Department. When an officer of theirs is murdered with
her own weapon in her apartment building, the force takes it
personally. And no one takes it more personally than Dallas, given
that the victim is Detective Amarylis Coltraine. Li Morris,
Coltraine’s significant other, is the Chief Medical Examiner
and a close friend of Dallas’s.
Coltraine’s murder, for which there are at once no motives
and a thousand, means that Dallas has a detective’s arsenal
at her disposal, both official and unofficial. The latter would
include the formidable, almost omnipresent, assets of Roarke,
Dallas’s husband, whose seemingly limitless wealth, derived
from sources legal and potentially otherwise, is quantified in
terms of both money and information. It is found in due course that
Coltraine’s past includes a link to that of Roarke and
Dallas, one that may have indirectly resulted in her death.
Dallas slowly yet doggedly compiles and eliminates suspects,
using a combination of psychology, investigative forensics and
“tingles” (what the rest of us would call intuition),
as she slowly but surely sees that justice is done not only for the
victim but also for her friend. It is the mystery element here that
arguably brings the book above its other (excellent) companion
volumes. There are many suspects from which to choose, some more
obvious than others. The key, as is often the case, lies in the
past, and is one that will delight long-time readers of this
venerable series and intrigue newer ones.
In PROMISES IN DEATH, as in other Dallas novels, Robb
demonstrates that she is not afraid to tinker with the ongoing cast
while ensuring that such changes actually mean something, with
repercussions sure to play out over the course of several future
installments. And while this series is aimed primarily at women,
there is much for male readers to enjoy here as well.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011