Possession in Death, by JD Robb

>> Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TITLE: Possession in Death (from The Other Side)


SETTING: 2060s New York
TYPE: Romantic suspense short story
SERIES: Comes after the 32nd book

'The devil killed my body. I cannot fight, I cannot find. I cannot free her. You must. You are the one. We speak to the dead.'

Immediately after hearing these words, uttered to her by an old Romanian woman bleeding to death in the street, detective Eve Dallas begins to notice that her latest case has come with a number of interesting side-effects: visions of the deceased, instant familiarity with rooms she's never seen before, and fluency in Russian. Likewise, there appears to be a force inside of her, a spirit other than her own, that won't let her rest until she's found Beata, the old woman's great-granddaughter, whose disappearance two months prior remains a mystery. Desperate to be free of her new 'gifts' , Eve pursues the facts until she discovers a link between Beata's disappearance and the disappearance of eight other young women, all of whom attended the same dance classes, none of whom were ever heard from again.
In this short story, which takes place right after the 32nd full-length entry in the series, Indulgence in Death, Eve stumbles upon an old Eastern European woman who's clearly just been stabbed. Preocupied about keeping her from bleeding to death, Eve doesn't quite understand what the woman is on about when she asks her if she'll take her in and finish the mission of finding her great-granddaughter. But soon, Eve can't help but notice that something weird is going on, when she seems to just know stuff she shouldn't (like how to speak Russian, or how to make goulash, much to Roarke's amusement), and that's when we get just why this story is called Possession in Death.

The case here was actually really interesting, and although the investigation was abbreviated, the police procedural element was satisfying and well-done. It's not obvious at all, and the red herrings seem believable and are genuine possibilities. When Eve hits upon the results, it's based on solid police work and a dollop of her intuition, but just the right combination of the two.

What I really did not like was how... definite, I guess, the paranormal elements are here. A lot of the previous short stories in this series have introduced the possibility of something paranormal going on (ghosts in one, say, or vampires in another), but in the past those have been a bit more ambiguous. Eve is left wondering whether there might be something to all that woo-woo stuff that Roarke is much readier to believe in, but that's it.

Here, there's no doubt, and that creates several problems. Eve accepts it all much too easily for the woman we know her to be. Yes, she'd have to be very stubborn and hard-headed to deny some of the things going on, but the thing is, the character Robb has developed so painstakingly over dozens of books would be stubborn and hard-headed about this sort of thing. She'd immediately speculate that her father might have had some Russian mafia cronies and she might have overheard them speak as a baby, or that she must have somehow absorbed what's in goulash, that sort of thing. But no, she just accepts it here, and that felt wrong.

The other thing that annoys me to no end is that all this new character development doesn't seem to carry over to the main books at all. I mean, finding proof that the paranormal exists in such a way is pretty huge. Once you realise that it's possible for people to possess others, then you have to wonder if that's what's going on when you see someone behaving strangely! But no, the Eve in the full-length books doesn't seem to have incorporated this new awareness into her world-view at all, which feels wrong. If Robb is going to do these short stories, they should be fully part of the series, otherwise, what's the point?

MY GRADE: C+ (since the case was really good, and I liked some of the other character stuff).


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