THANKLESS IN DEATH is the best to date of J.D. Robb’s long-running Eve Dallas series. Robb really doesn’t do anything different here; those who have been with the series since the beginning, or have jumped on at some point and read back and then forward, needn’t worry that Robb does major surgery to anything. If it isn’t broken, why fix it? As for those who have sampled a book or two of the series, set in a futuristic but comfortably familiar New York of the mid-21st century, you should come back and try THANKLESS IN DEATH, even if you don’t intend to read any more. It’s a great police procedural thriller, driven by an antagonist you won’t soon forget.
There is no “whodunit” element here. One of the reasons that the series has been so popular for so long is that Robb is not afraid to change things up from book to book while advancing her primary characters in small increments. THANKLESS IN DEATH reveals its criminal almost immediately. Jerry Reinhold is a three-year-old spoiled brat in the body of a mid-20s metrosexual wannabe. He has never been successful at anything, a state of affairs that is everyone else’s fault, most notably his hard-working, long-suffering and soft-hearted parents, with whom he is residing until a ship floats into his dry dock. With less than a week to go before Thanksgiving, Reinhold’s mother tries to gently lay down an ultimatum to him during breakfast, an attempt that results in her very violent death.
"Jerry Reinhold is arguably Robb’s greatest antagonist to date because he is the most realistic.... a one-sit read and compelling reading for fans of the genre, whether or not they’re regular Robb readers."
Reinhold does not have a history of violence, but his impulsive act of matricide reveals something to him: he likes it. He murders his father in short order, quickly transfers all of his parents’ assets into his name, and decides that it is time to settle old scores with everyone who has ever disappointed him or, in his mind, kept him from being the success he should be and deserves to be. That, of course, is quite a long list, stretching back to his little league baseball coach and high school teachers all the way up to his most recent girlfriend, who gave him the heave-ho after he stole money from her.
Dallas, with the somewhat scattered but nonetheless competent Peabody in tow, starts playing catch-up when the deceased Reinholds are discovered a few days after their tragic murders. Meanwhile, the younger Reinhold has moved on to another victim, and then another, acquiring more money and changing his appearance and identity. He has seemingly vanished, just another face in a city of millions, all the while taking revenge. Dallas wants to catch him. All else, including an awards ceremony that she does not want to attend, and a Thanksgiving Day holiday that will include her husband Roarke’s extended family, becomes secondary, as she closes in on a killer who means to celebrate the holiday in the most violent of fashions.
Jerry Reinhold is arguably Robb’s greatest antagonist to date because he is the most realistic. It pains me to say this, but if you are old enough to have children who have reached their majority, you either have at least one kid who will remind you of Reinhold or know someone else who does. I’m not saying all such people are capable of murder, but the sense of entitlement that Reinhold displays is one that you might find to be uncomfortably familiar. What is even more significant is the clue that ultimately leads Dallas to Reinhold; it is nothing less than genius, and will make you want to stand up and cheer. Of course, there is more that makes THANKLESS IN DEATH a one-sit read and compelling reading for fans of the genre, whether or not they’re regular Robb readers.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 20, 2013