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Devoted in Death


Devoted in Death

I have a friend who is in a book club that is semi-devoted to J. D. Robb’s Eve Dallas series. I’m of the opinion that the book discussions simply serve as a vehicle for the ladies to discuss Roarke, Lt. Dallas’ enigmatic husband who owns a good deal of the earth and all that is on it. That’s fine, but there is much, much more to this comfortably futuristic series set in the New York of 2061.

There are a number of minor subplots that have been present in this long-running series, yet they never get old. My particular favorite is that of the candy thief, who helps themselves to the apparently-no-longer secret stash of Dallas’ chocolate, right there in her office, no less. For all its romantic-tinged interplay between the perfectly balanced, tough and tender Dallas and Roarke, the series never loses sight of the fact that it is a police procedural, and a very good one.

"Robb has upped her game yet again. If you are unfamiliar with this series and wonder about its continued popularity, you need to read DEVOTED IN DEATH if you have even a passing interest in romantic suspense or police procedurals."

When one has been writing a series for as long as the In Death books, the characters have to stay familiar and in form within certain boundaries. This is not as limiting as it might seem, as it gives one the opportunity to break the door down, if you will, with adversaries. This is precisely what Robb does in her latest effort, DEVOTED IN DEATH. The story begins not in New York but rather in America’s heartland, where an ill-fated meeting between a barmaid named Ella-Loo Parsens and small-time thief Darryl Roy James results --- following a three-year interlude due to Darryl’s incarceration --- in a cross-country murder spree that ultimately lands the pair in New York and in the crosshairs of Dallas and the NYPSD. Ella-Loo and Darryl are obviously modeled after Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, but Robb’s portrayal of the pair in the first chapter is terrifying nonetheless for their casual and impulsive violence.

The narrative leaves them just as they arrive in New York; their presence, however, is manifested by the grim discovery of their first victim, a much-beloved classical musician whose mutilated and discarded body is found in an alley. The only real clue is a crudely tattooed heart on his torso that contains the initials “E” and “D.” Dallas and her partner, Peabody, don’t know what that means, of course, but the reader does. Law enforcement information databases have evolved in the mid-21st century to the degree that Dallas is quickly able to determine that this is just the latest in a series of similar victims stretching over time and distance from Oklahoma to her jurisdictional doorstep. The question then becomes how to find the doers, who have slipped through the cracks of documentation for most of their lives and are living within and beyond the fringes of several million people, who themselves constitute a target-rich environment for casual and impulsive torture and mayhem.

That is where the police procedure comes into DEVOTED IN DEATH, and it consists of a combination of scientific forensics, connections (Roarke is nothing if not connected) and old-fashioned dogged determination, which Dallas possesses in bucketfuls. The clock is eternally ticking and is never louder than when Ella-Loo and Darryl set their sights and acquisitions on another victim and up their game just a bit. It’s a foregone conclusion that they will be caught; the question is whether they will be nabbed in time. You won’t be able to read fast enough in order to find out.

I keep saying this, but it’s true: Robb has upped her game yet again. If you are unfamiliar with this series and wonder about its continued popularity, you need to read DEVOTED IN DEATH if you have even a passing interest in romantic suspense or police procedurals. The futuristic setting intrigues, with just enough technological advances to make one jealous, but the interaction between and among the characters --- good and evil, lovers and enemies --- demonstrates that some things never change, particularly in well-told tales. This is one of them.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 18, 2015

Devoted in Death
by J. D. Robb

  • Publication Date: January 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425279146
  • ISBN-13: 9780425279144