Portrait in Death, by J.D. Robb (In Death #16)

>> Monday, July 21, 2003

The books in J.D. Robb's In Death series have always been auto-buys for me. It seems I've been getting tired of the series, though, since I didn't feel the urge to immediately buy installment # 16, Portrait in Death. I bought this one used, and it got here only last Friday.

After a tip from a reporter, Eve Dallas finds the body of a young woman in a Delancey street dumpster. Just hours before, the news station had mysteriously received a portfolio of professional portraits of the woman. The photos seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary for any pretty young woman starting a modeling career. Except that she wasn't a model. And that these photos were taken after she had been murdered.

Now Dallas is on the trail of a killer who's a perfectionist and an artist. He carefully observes and records his victim's every move. And he has a mission: to own every beautiful young woman's innocence, to capture her youth and vitality-in one fateful shot...
I should have read this before, because the author fixed many of the things that seemed to be getting a bit stale. An A-.

It may sound heartless, but I was bored of Eve's backstory. Every single book, we get to see her nightmares and traumas about her childhood. Yes, I loved how it was originally done, how in-depth we went into Eve's psyche, but after 15 books + 2 novellas, it starts getting reiterative. In Portrait we get only a short mention of it, and it was a big relief. It was Roarke's past that got explored in this one, with pretty surprising revelations about his mother.

Something else that was getting annoying was certain dynamics in Eve and Roarke's relationship. Every single book, Eve gets absorbed by her case and won't eat or sleep and Roarke has to force her to take some down-time (how many times has he tranq'ed her soup so far? LOL!). And then she gets hurt and he has to force her to get medical attention. And whenever she gets any kind of personal trauma, she shuts Roarke out and he has to pry things out of her. This time, it's Roarke who closes down and Eve who has to do the work and help him deal with stuff, which was nice. Plus, I loved Roarke showing some vulnerability, he's much too perfect sometimes.

Finally, Roarke is only marginally involved in Eve's case this time. Has Nora been listening to on-line criticism? It's as if she's saying "Yes, Eve's a good cop. She solved cases without Roarke's help for a decade, and she can still do it, see?"

Eve was different in this book. I've mentioned before that I liked the early Eve better. In some of the latest books, she had become too mean and humorless and intolerant. She'd rip people's heads off for no reason, and treat everyone like shit. Here she's human again. She's still tough and strong (which I like, I don't want her to turn into a spineless, eyelash-fluttering girly-girl), but she's nice when there's no need for her to be otherwise, and shows flashes of humour, and I liked it very much. I also enjoyed the further development of her relationship with Summerset. Hilarious.

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about was the suspense subplot. I'm really tired of those snippets from the POV of killers, and do we really need another crazy psycho serial killer? I miss sane villains!

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