Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, treats us to another
installment in her Death series, a scant six months after ORIGIN IN
DEATH. This series is properly considered to be "futuristic
suspense" --- the books take place in the mid-21st century --- but
such a classification ignores the strong elements of mystery,
police procedure, and romance that inform each of the titles.
Readers familiar with the series have witnessed the evolution of
Eve Dallas, a believably difficult NYPD Homicide Detective who's
married to the mysterious, charming and wealthy Roarke.
Eve's past, always a shadowy presence in her life, comes back to
haunt her when Trudy Lombard, her former foster mother, abruptly
appears in her office. This has a dramatic and profoundly
detrimental effect upon Eve due to the physical and emotional abuse
Trudy heaped upon Eve while she was in her care. Trudy's intent is
soon made clear. Attracted to Eve by Roarke's numerous and
apparently bottomless pockets, she threatens to blackmail him and
Eve with revelations about events that took place during Eve's
childhood --- events that, it turns out, were engineered by Trudy.
Roarke, who suffers neither fools nor thieves, quickly sends her
packing. A few days later, however, Trudy is found brutally
murdered in her hotel room.
Robb wisely avoids the classic plot vehicle of having either Eve or
Roarke appear to be responsible for her death and then having to
work to clear themselves. Rather, the focus is on the locked door
(with open window) mystery that is the heart of the book. Eve does
not lack for plausible suspects, given that she was far from the
only foster child who Trudy abused or who would have ample
simmering motive for revenge as adults. There is also, of course,
Trudy's son and daughter-in-law, who were staying in the same hotel
just a few doors away from her, and the mysterious, shadowy figure
who was Trudy's partner in crime.
Veteran fans of the mystery genre --- even those without the
resources of a Roarke in their life --- may well discern the
culprit's identity ahead of Eve. Whether that is the case for you
or not, however, the enjoyment of the novel is derived in large
part from watching Eve, with invaluable assistance from Roarke,
ferret out the clues and put them all together. What makes MEMORY
IN DEATH unique from its predecessors is Eve's intimate though
painfully acquired knowledge of Trudy's personality and motivation,
a key factor in solving this particular crime.
Fans of the science fiction genre who rarely venture into the
mystery section of their bookstore should enjoy MEMORY IN DEATH due
to the futuristic setting of the novel specifically and the Eve
Dallas series in general. The speculative touches that Robb
furnishes are just heavy enough to make the series special and just
light enough that we in 2006 can almost see them coming. And given
the quality invested in MEMORY IN DEATH, this long-running series
should continue to have a bright future indeed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011