Devoted in Death, by JD Robb

>> Saturday, January 23, 2016

TITLE: Devoted in Death

PAGES: 384

SETTING: 2060s New York
TYPE: Police procedural
SERIES: By my count, 43th full-length title in the In Death series

It's a new year in New York city, and two star-crossed lovers have just discovered an insatiable appetite... for murder.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has witnessed some grisly crimes in her career and she knows just how dark things can get on the streets. But when a much-loved musician is found dead, Eve soon realises that his murder is part of a horrifying killing spree, stretching right across the country.

Now the killers have reached New York, and they've found themselves another victim. Eve knows she only has a couple of days to save a young girl's life, and to stop the killers before their sadistic games escalate. Eve's husband Roarke is ready to put his brains and his considerable resources behind the search. But even as the couple works closely together, time is running out...

The start of this book almost put me off, and I only continued because I’ve liked every single In Death book before. A young couple, she a small-town waitress and occasional prostitute, he just out of jail, get into an altercation trying to steal a car. Things get out of hand, and the driver is killed. They are shaken, but they realise they loved killing together, and decide that the next time they’re going to take a bit more time over it. And off they go to New York, leaving a trail of death and suffering behind them.

The problem was that the premise put me in mind of Thankless in Death. I liked that one well enough, but a little of it went a long way. I feared Devoted in Death wouldn’t be a whodunnit, but about Eve and her team hunting for these people, and that we would be with them every step of the way. That’s not a problem per se, the thing is, these people are basically completely bonkers and psycho, so they don’t even have an interesting motivation. I really didn’t want to spend time in their head, because I did not really believe in them as characters.

Fortunately, although we see the killers very occasionally, the focus of the rest of the book was fully on the investigation. We know who the killers are, but that’s doesn’t ruin the hunt for us, because Eve and her team have no idea and need to figure out, first of all, what's going on, and then the identity of who's been doing it, which isn’t easy. And they’ve got a deadline, which really ramps up the pressure.

I did have some issues at the start. When the investigation starts, it’s somewhat easier than it should be. Usually one of my favourite things about the In Death books is the painstaking process of investigation, where every step leads logically to the next. With this one, it felt like Robb took some shortcuts. I felt some of the big breakthroughs were guesses, not deductions. They just weren’t logical enough to make sense. When Eve immediately becomes convinced that her victim (and this is right at the start, when she knows of only one) was killed by a couple and that these two were a romantic couple; when she immediately decides that a seemingly random victim, one who died in a completely different way to all the other known victims, is the first one, and the one that got the killers going... that’s not good, solid detective work, that’s supernatural divination. That's about it, though, and after that things get back to normal and Eve and her team again start relying on the good, solid detective work I find so satisfying.

Still, the hunt against the clock really got the book going, particularly in the second half, and I ended up fairly racing through. Initially I had a bit of a feeling that I found the crimes much more disturbing and horrific than was reflected in the characters’ reactions. They do say, oh, how horrible, but I didn’t really feel it completely. Once the deadline kicks in, that wasn't an issue any more. I felt the characters were taking things fully as seriously as they should.

Anyway, I ended up enjoying the procedural aspect of the book a lot more than I expected to when I started it. And you’ll notice I’ve only talked about that aspect here. That’s because there really wasn’t much going on on the character development front. Well, there are a few little things, like Trueheart taking his detective exam, Eve and Garnet DeWinter deciding that they really need to start communicating better, a new friend from Arkansas, but nothing on the Eve and Roarke relationship. That’s fine with me, actually. The OTT nature of Roarke’s character has become increasingly out of place in this series, and if Robb wants to focus on the police procedural side of things, that's not a problem.



meljean brook 23 January 2016 at 16:25  

I liked this one, too -- of the later books, I've been putting them off longer and longer after their release, mostly because sometimes the characters start feeling like caricatures of themselves (which is okay when it's Roarke, because I don't really love his more intrusive moments in the series, anyway, but when it's Peabody who feels like a sketch of herself, I start getting irritated).

I found myself really rooting for the two who were being held captive and afraid that one of them wouldn't make it out. I assumed that at least one would, but I wasn't sure about both. So by the end I was racing through.

Rosario 24 January 2016 at 17:59  

I know what you mean, sometimes it feels a bit as if Robb is going down a checklist with Peabody... scene where she threatens to freak out Eve by discussing her and McNab's sex life, scene where she is tempted by junk food while on duty, etc. Not always, not often, but sometimes it does feel that way. I kind of gloss over it when it's Roarke and the amazingness of the house, because that's OTT and predictable all of the time.

I was sure the guy wouldn't make it! Not sure why him, possibly because I thought he'd have a worse time than her getting over what had happened (that was truly fucked up), so Robb might prefer to spare her over him. That element worked really well for me.

meljean brook 24 January 2016 at 21:02  

I thought the same -- that the guy might not make it. And it was so strange because the circumstances were so terrible and horrific, yet somehow the interactions between them managed to be sweet. So I really, really wanted them both to survive.

I think my irritation with the checklist level is probably inversely proportional to my engagement with the story, ha. And I can see where Robb might run into these problems -- she needs the characters to be consistent from book to book, so the repetitive stuff shows up from book to book. Mira is going to have her elegant matching accessories and floral tea, to show her personality. McNab is going to have his fluorescent pants, to show his. Eve is going to chase down a purse-snatcher and get a bruise that Roarke will comment on later, to show their personality. And sometimes it feels like sinking back into comfortable territory while reading, and sometimes it feels like a re-tread. But I couldn't say why it works sometimes and doesn't other times, so I just tell myself it's how much I'm immersed in the mystery/story surrounding all of these repetitive events.

Rosario 26 January 2016 at 18:12  

They both seemed like really decent people, and like real people, too. That's something I really like about Robb: she does pay attention to the victims and takes the trouble to make them people, rather than just puzzles to solve.

I guess nitpicking of any kind only happens if you're not too engaged in the story! I agree with you that some of the repetition is just needing a shortcut. It might not be necessary if Robb focused on a small number of the recurring characters in each book, though. She usually has a bit of a parade, ergo, shortcuts.

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