Memory in Death, by JD Robb

>> Monday, March 20, 2006

book coverBy my count (that is, not counting the two short stories in anthologies, but counting the Nora Roberts / JD Robb combo Remember When), Memory in Death is book number 23 in JD Robb's In Death series. Does this make it the longest-running romance series ever?

Eve Dallas is one tough cop. She's got no problem dealing with a holiday reveler in a red suit who plunges thirty-seven stories and gives new meaning to the term "sidewalk Santa." But when she gets back to the station and Trudy Lombard shows up, it's all Eve can do to hold it together. Instantly, she's thrown back into the past, to the days when she was a vulnerable, traumatized girl-trapped in foster care with the twisted woman who now sits in front of her, smiling.

Trudy claims she just wanted to see how Eve was doing. But Eve's husband, Roarke, suspects otherwise-and his suspicions prove correct when Trudy arrives at his office, demanding money in exchange for keeping the ugly details of his wife's childhood a secret. Barely restraining himself, Roarke shows her the door-and makes it clear that she'd be wise to get out of New York and never bother him or his wife again.

But just a few days later, Trudy's found on the floor of her hotel room, a mess of bruises and blood. A cop to the core, Eve is determined to solve the case, if only for the sake of Trudy's bereaved son. Unfortunately, Eve is not the only one to have suffered at this woman's hands, and she and Roarke will follow a circuitous, dangerous path to find out who turned this victimizer into a victim.
Just when I think the In Death series has settled into a comfort, B-range series for me -very enjoyable, but without the sparkle that characterized some of my favourite entries-, there comes Memory, and I'm blown away yet again. An A-, and I'm almost tempted to give it a higher grade.

23 books and 2 short stories. One would think we know all there is to know about Eve and Roarke and their lives, both past and present. And yet, this book makes it clear that there is still plenty of new terrain to delve into, especially in Eve's past. If you've been reading the series, you'll know that Eve's early life with her evil creep of a father has been explored in depth already. We know quite a bit about how her life was until she was eight. After that point, however, we knew only the basics until Memory. We knew she'd spent time in the system (foster homes, etc) until she'd entered the police academy, but not much more.

Memory gives us a fascinating glimpse into Eve's life right after she became Eve Dallas. This is a life Eve has largely forgotten (or rather blocked, just as she'd mostly done with her earlier years), until a woman named Trudy comes to her office. Trudy ran the first of the foster homes Eve was sent to, and while her constant little (and not so little) cruelties didn't really reach the horrificness of her father's treatment of Eve, they definitely qualified as abuse and made her life hell.

Seeing Trudy is a shock to Eve (at least, once she recognizes her), but she recovers enough to throw her out of her office, in spite of Trudy's claims that she is just a loving former foster mom, so proud of what her former charge has made of her life. Trudy's luck isn't better when she goes to see Roarke and tries to shake him down in exchange for not ventilating the details on Eve's file about her early life. Roarke can get pretty scary when he wants to, and with Trudy, he definitely wants to.

A couple of days later, Eve has bounced back enough to actually want to go and confront Trudy, so she and Roarke go knock on the door of her hotel room, only to find Trudy's body there, savagely murdered. Being the first cop on the scene, Eve claims the case, and starts an investigation which will hit much closer to home than she would have liked.

I think what made Memory so amazing for me was that Robb kind of went back to the basics here. The mystery itself was less weird, less full of strange stuff than the ones we'd been seeing lately, and the solving depended more on some regular, normal police-work than on high-tech gadgets. Plus, it's been a while since we've seen a mystery which touches Eve or Roarke so personally. Would Eve have been allowed to investigate a case in which she was so personally involved? Probably not. Did I mind? Did this detract from the story in any way? Definitely not. For me, it added a lot of emotional tension to the story, and I thought Robb did wonderfully in showing the way Eve dealt with having to investigate the murder of someone she so despised.

Also, as much as I love the cast of secondary characters that Robb has created to surround our protagonists, I loved that Memory was more about Eve and Roarke than many previous books. Peabody and McNab, Mavis and Leonardo, the Miras, Nadine... they all showed up at some point, but they never drew the spotlight away from Eve and Roarke as they dealt with the case and the psychological ramifications it had on Eve.

Maybe because the mystery wasn't as horrifying as others we've seen, this was a particularly funny book. Eve's thoughts, especially, cracked me up. Oh, and there's one particular scene, with Galahad and the antlers, which had me practically in tears! Only someone who really understands and loves cats could write this scene so perfectly.

What this entry in the series has done is make me hungry for more, because it has made me realize that there's still a lot we don't know. This was a good start, but I'd love to hear more about Eve's life after leaving Trudy's house. I want to know about Eve the teen and about Eve the rookie cop. There's a hint of the latter here, in the photo she gives Roarke, and I would love for a future book to get into that. What I've read about the next book, Born in Death, doesn't look hopeful, but I'll still be there the minute it comes out!


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