Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Friday, January 2, 2009

Review: Salvation in Death, J. D. Robb

G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008, ISBN 978-0-399-15522-2, 353 pages.

Salvation in Death has a dramatic opening even for the In Death series - Father Flores drops dead during a funeral Mass after a sip of Communion wine, a victim of cyanide poisoning. The priest was well thought of in Spanish Harlem and Hector Ortiz, the subject of the Mass, a highly respected member of the community. Lt. Eve Dallas and her partner Detective Delia Peabody catch the high profile case and begin work through 'who was the target', 'who had motive', 'who had access'. Pretty soon Dallas and Peabody find enough discrepancies between Flores' known history and their dead priest to suspect that this Flores was not who everyone thought he was. Eve's blunt approach causes some conflict with the Church since she isn't inclined to soften her methods of investigation but this isn't overdone.

As with the other books in the series, the language is salty, the dialog punchy, and the humor often crude but the investigation is solid and doesn't rely on gimmicks.

The In Death series has been one of my favorites for several years. The books are a quick, fun read. If you haven't read any of these books, they are futuristic police procedurals with a dose of romance. In Salvation in Death it is the year 2060. The stories are heavier on procedure and investigation using methods common to all procedurals, than science fiction; deep data mining is the technology most often described.

There are now 27 novels in the series but only three years have passed since the first, Naked in Death set in 2058, introduced Eve Dallas. Besides interesting plots and snappy dialog, I've enjoyed watching the author grow the characters. Over the 27 books, J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) has gradually introduced back story for Eve and her Irish, billionaire, drop dead gorgeously handsome, computer hacker extraordinaire, husband, Roark (a character type straight out of romances). She has also evolved their relationship without sacrificing what makes the characters interesting. Both with extraordinarily strong personalities, Robb has introduced conflict that has evolved the relationship between Roark and Eve. The relationship was initially stormy but has settled down as Eve and Roark have found ways to compromise without losing themselves.

Eve's partner, Dalia Peabody, similarly has been grown as the series progresses. We first meet her as a patrolman. Eve mentors her, making Peabody her assistant, and seeing her become a full detective. The differences in their personalities makes for a lot of the humor in the books. Eve grew up in state care. Peabody is the daughter of hippy parents. Their different views on life and people adds much to the stories.

Besides Peabody, Robb has other characters who provide contrast to the blunt, no nonsense Eve Dallas. Take a look at this Wikipedia article on the In Death characters for a good summary. Mavis Freestone, in particular, is one of my favorites.

Besides the dark and mysterious Roark, another nod to the romances Nora Roberts is known for are the steamy love scenes between Eve and Roark. We are guaranteed several throughout a story. The love scenes are often used to help Eve through difficult times and to anchor her relationship to Roark.

J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts produces dependably enjoyable stories that have been remarkably consistent over 27 novels.