Fantasy in Death, by JD Robb

>> Thursday, February 25, 2010

TITLE: Fantasy in Death

PAGES: 433

SETTING: New York in the 2060s
TYPE: Police procedural / romance
SERIES: 31st full novel in the In Death series

REASON FOR READING: Autoread series

Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world, to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king, in his company's latest top-secret project, Fantastical.

The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game. . . .

NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim's girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a prob lem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks-as Eve's husband, Roarke, one of U- Play's competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one.

Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death...
Fantasy in Death falls into the good but not spectacular group of In Death books. It was an interesting case, with well drawn characters, and Eve's interactions with her friends were nice and satisfying. I enjoyed it, but it was basically a comfortable read, without much oomph.

Robb pushes the technology she has dreamed up for her series to the limit in this case. Bart Minnock is found by his girlfriend locked up in his holo room, decapitated while he was playing an exciting new game his gaming company was developing. It's a perfect locked room mystery. How did the killer get through building security and his droid? How did they smuggle in an electrified sword, and where on earth did they get it? Eve and her team are baffled.

Only we readers know that they are barking up the wrong tree, because the very first scene of the book shows the murder from Bart's point of view, and it looks like, to all intents and purposes, the game killed him.

So this was one of those mysteries where the reader knows more about the murder than the police we see investigating. That can be frustrating, if the investigators are too oblivious, but that wasn't the case at all. I couldn't fault Eve or any of her team for not seeing a clue, or not coming to the right conclusions. When Eve finally does make the leap of logic and guess what could have happened, it was a moment of brilliance. At the same time, it was plausible that she would be the one to do it, rather than one of the geek squad. As she explains, coming at it from the outside, she didn't have the "knowledge" that such and such a thing couldn't be done.

It also worked because even though we saw the murder happen, we couldn't be 100% sure of what exactly had happened. Clearly Bart didn't run into his murder and invite him/her in for a quick game, that was clear enough, but how exactly did the murder happen? We saw it, but we saw what Bart saw, so we're not sure.

On the personal areas, friendship plays a large role in this book. We see a lot of Eve interacting with her female friends, and she's much more mellow and relaxed about it now. For her it's never going to be girly-girly relationships with her friends, but what she has with Mavis and Nadine and Reo is real and is strong.

And this links in with the case, because friendship is important there as well. Bart and his partners look like an ideal group of friends. They love and complement each other. When the possibility that one of them could have done that to Bart, I really, really recoiled at the idea.

On the romance front, nothing much going on. Roarke knows the murdered man and so his death affects me, which leads to a bit of a spat at one point, but that's pretty much it. No big developments here, but still always nice to see Eve and Roarke together.



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