Thankless in Death, by JD Robb

>> Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TITLE: Thankless in Death
AUTHOR: JD Robb

COPYRIGHT: 2013
PAGES: 416
PUBLISHER: Putnam

SETTING: Futuristic: 2060 New York
TYPE: Police procedural & Romance
SERIES: By my count, 39th full-length title in the In Death series

In the latest suspense thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, the year 2060 is drawing to a close in New York City and loved ones are coming together for Thanksgiving. But sometimes the deepest hatreds seethe within the closest relationships, and blood flows faster than water…

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has plenty to be grateful for this season. Hosting Roarke’s big Irish family for the holiday may be challenging, but it’s a joyful improvement on her own dark childhood.

Other couples aren’t as lucky as Eve and Roarke. The Reinholds, for example, are lying in their home stabbed and bludgeoned almost beyond recognition. Those who knew them are stunned—and heartbroken by the evidence that they were murdered by their own son. Twenty-six-year-old Jerry hadn’t made a great impression on the bosses who fired him or the girlfriend who dumped him—but they didn’t think he was capable of this.

Turns out Jerry is not only capable of brutality but taking a liking to it. With the money he’s stolen from his parents and a long list of grievances, he intends to finally make his mark on the world. Eve and her team already know the who, how, and why of this murder. What they need to pinpoint is where Jerry’s going to strike next.

The latest installment of the series is not a whodunnit, or even a why- or how-dunnit. It's all about how Eve and her team can catch a useless, entitled, self-absorbed arsehole who's determined to get even with the multitudes he feels have slighted him.

Jerry Reinhold, mooching off his parents' after his ex girlfriend kicked him out for stealing her savings and losing them in Las Vegas, is incensed when his mother tells him they'll be asking him to move out. He snaps and, angry, stabs her with a knife (the same one she's using to make him a sandwich). But instead of being horrified about what he's done, he finds it a revelation. He feels he's found his life's calling. Killing will be both a way of getting even with the multitudes he feels have wronged him throughout his life, and of getting the big money he needs to live the life he deserves.

I initially thought "oh, no". Jerry is a horrible, horrible character: entitled, mean, and generally hateful. He's also rather stupid, and only gets away with so much because of dumb luck. So when I realised we would end up spending quite a bit of time from his POV, I really, really didn't look forward to the way it seemed the book would develop. But it was a lot better than I thought.

The hunt for Jerry turned out to be solidly enjoyable. As usual, Eve and her team follow all the logical avenues and there are no unlikely intuitive leaps. It's all solid police work, and very satisfying to read. As for Jerry's POV, well, I won't say I liked it, but it was necessary for the book to work. It was also less disturbing than I would have thought, which was weird. There is some very graphic and explicit on-stage violence (torture, mainly), and I tend to find this really traumatic. But here, after the first couple of scenes, I didn't really find myself that disturbed by it. I think it may have been because it was so graphic, so horrendous, that I disconnected myself from it as a sort of defence mechanism.

On the personal front, there's all the stuff about family and friends coming to Eve and Roarke's for Thanksgiving, and although that was fun, it was something else that was my favourite. More and more in the last few books, Robb has focused on aspects of Eve's job beyond her day-to-day work as a detective. For instance, an earlier book explored her role as a leader (and euw, this does sound horribly managementy, almost like some sort of case study, but it really isn't how it's done in the books. It feels very natural there). Here, we see Eve struggling with an issue I've been thinking about more and more in the last couple of years: the move from a specialist role into a more senior, managerial one. There's opportunity to have more influence and the prestige of the more senior role, but there's also the nightmares of management and the leaving behind of a hands-on occupation that is enjoyable, and has become intertwined with one's identity. So far I've been making the same decision Eve makes, and for exactly the same reasons, but like her, there's always the sense that the move will have to happen at some point. For someone who, from her bio, has never worked in jobs where she's had to face these issues, Robb gets it remarkably right.

Something else that was interesting here (to me, at least!) was my reaction to Roarke. I know a lot of readers have been put off from the series by how OTT everything about him is. I do agree he's OTT and really would prefer someone not quite as perfect in every single way, but this book was the first time I felt he was out of place in the series. As I said earlier, in the last few books, the focus has been on Eve as a leader, Eve as a boss, and this has felt so realistic that having Roarke pop up owning everything in the known world kicked me out of the story a time or two. It felt wrong, and like he was in the wrong book.

I also found the Irish relatives (they visit for Thanksgiving) annoying, maybe because constant contact with actual Irish people has made me realise how off Robb's rendering of the language is, and how stereotypical and cringey is her portrayal of the actual characters. It was a tiny part of the book here, but it's making me sort of dread her upcoming Dark Witch.

MY GRADE: A B+.

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