Catching up with Eve Dallas

>> Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I was a bit behind with JD Robb's In Death series, but now I'm almost caught up, with only the short story in Suite 606 to go. I think I'll just wait until Promises in Death is out in February, because though I tend to like the In Death short stories, they do feel a bit unsatisfying, compared to the single titles.

Eternity in Death, in the Dead of Night anthology (also includes stories by Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan and Mary Kay McComas, which I didn't read).

The case: A young, spoiled heiress is found having been bled to death. Investigations soon lead Eve to discover that she'd recently become involved in an underworld where people play at being vampires. But when she meets her main suspect, it doesn't feel like he's actually playing at anything.

The character-based stuff: Well, not much of a conflict, here... probably no space for that in such a short story. We know by now that Roarke is a lot more open to the fantastic and supernatural than Eve (see Haunted in Death, for instance), and vampires aren't the exception. His readiness to believe annoys Eve, and her refusal to even consider there might be more things in heaven and earth irks Roarke even more. But not much of a problem, really.

I quite liked the story, especially the dark humour of the face-off between stubborn Eve and the almost stereotypical (but not quite) supposed vampire. I also enjoyed the different characters' reactions to the possibility of vampirism. Peabody, for instance is kind of in the middle of Eve and Roarke's positions. She wants to be rational and cop-like and dismiss all that out of hand, but can't quite convince herself. Very true to character.

Case vs character-based stuff: I'd say in this one the character stuff wins. The case was interesting, but only in how it affected the characters.


Creation In Death

The case: The New York of the In Death books is full of serial killers, and this is yet another of them. Only there's a twist: the serial killer known as The Groom had stopped killing years ago, and Eve and Feeney, who'd originally investigated the case, had assumed he was dead. But now dead women are again being killed in his signature, horrifying way.

The character-based stuff: When they had originally investigated the Groom case, Eve was a newbie detective and Feeney was leading. Now this is Eve's case and Feeney is merely assisting from his post as head of the E-section (or whatever it's called). This leads to quite a bit of tension between them when Feeney starts feeling sidelined.

Case vs character-based stuff: I think the police procedural angle worked best here. Maybe there was a bit too much time spent in the mind of the serial killer, but that was compensated by the fact that the hunt for him was good stuff: logical, detailed and satisfying. I'm a bit ambivalent about the ending, though. It had me laughing gleefully, but what Eve did there was so not Eve-like. Even worse, it wasn't treated as un-Eve-like. Still, that was better than the Eve-Feeney conflict, in which they both behaved in ways that I thought were completely unlike themselves. I really didn't get what they were fighting about!


Strangers in Death

The case: It was a very embarrassing way to die. Tied to the bed, clearly a victim of an erotic asphyxiation game gone wrong. But for Eve, there's something about businessman Thomas Anders' kinky death that doesn't ring completely true.

The character-based stuff: I'm afraid there was nothing too scintillating here, although I think it's the first time that I've seen them quarrel about money. I would have thought this wouldn't have been an issue by now, that Roarke would have understood Eve better in that sense, that he would have got her reluctance. Although I suppose this made him a bit more human.

Oh, and I did like the developments between Charles and Louise. That was fun!

Case vs character-based stuff: The case was again better. This was one case where Eve was pretty sure about who the killer was from early on, so it was more a howdunnit than a whodunnit. I quite like those as well. Eve knew where her investigative path would lead her, but it was finding what path to follow that was hard, and it was fascinating to watch Eve do it. I'm not always a fan of mysteries where we readers know more than the detectives (which was the case here, as Baxter and Truehart are investigating a seemingly unconnected case which turns out to be very much connected... something very obvious to us, simply because otherwise, why would it even be included in the book?), but it was very nicely done here. The pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly.


Salvation in Death

The case: When a priest falls dead in the middle of a funeral mass, poisoned by the wine in his chalice, Eve is called to investigate. Father Miguel seemed to have been loved by everyone, so why would anyone kill him? However, Eve soon finds clues that point towards him not being who everyone thinks he is, but someone with a much more problematic past.

The character-based stuff: Not much relationship development here, but it was interesting to see Eve struggling to understand the faith of the people she was dealing with. I quite liked what Robb did with this. Eve remains a non-believer, but she knows she needs to get this stuff much better than she does in order to solve the case, so she really does try to understand. Her constant questioning of Roarke, and his very lapsed Catholic-like "why are you asking me??" reaction made me smile.

I also enjoyed seeing Ariel again, a character we'd first met in Creation in Death. It was good to see her doing well, and it was even better that her showing up in the action was wonderfully integrated into the crime-solving bit of the story.

Case vs character-based stuff: Both were good, but there was a lot more meat in the case. Really, really good stuff there. It was a baffling case, and one where the solution made perfect sense.

I especially enjoyed the glimpses of past (future, for us) history. The crime ends up having links to an old string of bombings during New York's troubled past, and it was very interesting to see what had been going on in the barrios back then, how gang activity had gone out of hand.

I also liked the initial ethical question raised by the fake priest's actions. He seemed to be a good person now, conscientious about his duties, doing his best to serve his parishioners. Did this compensate for whatever crimes, however horrible, he had committed in his distant past? Unfortunately, Robb didn't quite go in that direction, as Father Miguel turned out not to be such a swell guy in the present, either. I really shouldn't blame authors for not taking the story where I would have liked it to go, but damn, it would have been such an interesting thing to explore!

MY GRADE: Another B+.


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