Concealed in Death
Thirty-eight books into her Eve Dallas series, J. D. Robb just seems to be hitting her stride. At a point where Robb literally could phone in a plot and dialogue, wrapped around her carefully sculpted primary and secondary characters, she continues to nudge and push the canon forward, upward and outward, combining the elements of classic mystery and police procedure with bits and pieces of science fiction to present a somewhat unlikely but definitely winning series that maintains and expands its core readership. CONCEALED IN DEATH is an excellent example of how she maintains and exceeds her own standards, book after book.
Robb’s latest begins almost immediately after THANKLESS IN DEATH. There is a bit of irony at play in CONCEALED IN DEATH, given the nature of the murders, that puts Lieutenant Eve Dallas on a multiple murder scene that is both cold and very new. The story commences with Roarke, Dallas’s billionaire husband, making a startling discovery. He has purchased a derelict building with the intent of converting it into a habitat for youth with nowhere else to go. When he takes a partially symbolic first strike with a sledgehammer against an interior wall, a body wrapped in plastic is revealed.
"CONCEALED IN DEATH is an excellent example of how [Robb] maintains and exceeds her own standards, book after book."
Roarke immediately calls Dallas, who descends upon the crime scene with her partner Peabody and New York’s finest. This group includes a new medical examiner, a very exotic-looking woman who causes Dallas some faint irritation, at least in part because the two of them are so much alike. They also share an excellence of execution in their respective fields, which is very necessary in this case: before the crime scene has been cleared, a total of 12 wrapped bodies have been found. It appears that the victims, all girls on the cusp of adolescence, have been hidden in the walls for at least 15 years. As the painstaking task of identifying the victims commences, it becomes clear that the backgrounds and personalities of each of the girls were different; it was apparently their similar physical characteristics that marked them for death.
Dallas and Peabody do not lack for suspects, given that a shelter for runaways operated in the building at about the time that the bodies were hidden in the walls, thus everyone who worked there --- and on the building --- at the time is a potential suspect, as are the parents of the victims themselves. Roarke is there to lend his esteemed assistance, especially so because this time it is personal for him: the bodies were found in his building. Dallas is shocked to discover that there is a surprising connection between one of the victims and someone she knows. Should that person be eliminated as a suspect? Or is the ley line connecting the long-dead victim and Dallas’s present-day acquaintance the key to solving the case? That is but one question that ultimately leads to the book’s explosive conclusion.
I would love to see and hear Robb give a presentation as to how she creates and plots the Dallas series, book after book, twice a year. Given that approximately six years have passed in the time of the series, it appears that Dallas and Roarke will be working and living together for as long as readers might wish. If CONCEALED IN DEATH is any indication, that will be for some time to come.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 21, 2014