Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #52
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 9, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
In the new Eve Dallas police thriller from #1 New York Times-bestselling author J. D. Robb, what looked like a lover's quarrel turned fatal has larger--and more terrifying--motives behind it...
The scene in the West Village studio appears to be classic crime-of-passion: two wine glasses by the bed, music playing, and a young sculptor named Ariel Byrd with the back of her head bashed in. But when Dallas tracks down the wealthy Upper East Side woman who called 911, the details don't add up. Gwen Huffman is wealthy, elegant, comforted by her handsome fiancé as she sheds tears over the trauma of finding the body--but why did it take an hour to report it? And why is she lying about little things?
As Eve and her team look into Gwen, her past, and the people around her, they find that the lies are about more than murder. As with sculpture, they need to chip away at the layers of deception to find the shape within--and soon they're getting the FBI involved in a case that involves a sinister, fanatical group and a stunning criminal conspiracy.
I’ll try to keep the squeeing to a minimum over here, but with this OMG 52nd book in the In Death series it’s going to be damn difficult.
Because this entry in the series, after last fall’s admittedly excellent trip to the angst factory with Shadows in Death, is all about the case. And also JUST about the case. While there are plenty of personal – and generally wonderful – things going on in the background for several members of this found family, the crime and hoped for punishment that this story is centered on is a murder case and JUST a murder case.
There are plenty of people and events that surround the murder and its coverup that many readers – including this one – may see as a commentary on our contemporary events in spite of this series being set in a future that is 40 years beyond our time and probably not the one we’re going to get.
But this case, in spite of it coming directly on the heels of the events in Shadows in Death, doesn’t do any deep diving into the nightmares that haunt the pasts of both NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband, thief-turned-multi-billionaire Roarke.
In fact, as this case opens, Eve is wrapping up the paperwork for that previous case. (NYPSD is a bureaucracy and a city department. Of course she has to deal with the demon that is paperwork.)
At first, the case seems relatively simple. Ariel Byrd, a promising artist. is dead, bludgeoned to death in her studio with one of her own tools. The cause of death in this particular case is screamingly obvious. Initially, the killer seems so too. The woman who discovered and reported the dead body is just as screamingly obviously lying as the victim is dead.
The question that Dallas and her detective partner are stuck on and stuck with is wrapped around exactly what the woman is lying about. The facts, the evidence and the woman’s story are jumbled into a big ball of wrong, but the exact nature of that wrong is considerably less obvious.
As the dive gets deeper into the background of the lying, manipulative and utterly faithless Gwen Huffman, Dallas discovers that there be monsters there, in the shape of Gwen’s parents and their friends, the founders of and true believers in the cult of the Natural Order. A cult that espouses total racial segregation, absolute female subjugation and the elimination with extreme prejudice of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans men and women and anyone who is non-genderconforming in any way.
There isn’t a law enforcement agency on the entire PLANET that doesn’t want to bring the Natural Order down. They’ve been trying for years, but just as with the past and present KKK and with contemporary white supremacy, there are plenty of people among the powers that be who are either true believes themselves or have been paid off to look the other way, which has put the righteous takedown this bunch really deserves out of reach.
Until this case, a case that at first doesn’t seem to connect at all, develops tentacles that reach all the way down into the heart of this darkness.
After all, like so many cases that begin small and end up being really, really big – it’s not the initial criminal act that causes all the trouble. It’s the cover up. This one just turned out to need way more cover up than the perpetrator or the cult could ever handle.
Especially with Dallas on the case.
Escape Rating A: The books in this series generally begin with a murder and in a certain sense the situation tends to go straight downhill from there, at least until justice triumphs and evil gets its just desserts. In this particular case, actually in MANY of Dallas’ cases, those desserts are very just indeed.
Very much on the other hand, this series is a comfort read for me, even if the case that Dallas and Roarke are involved in doesn’t turn out to be all that involving, although this one certainly did.
But, very much and very surprisingly like reading fanfiction for a beloved book or TV series, the world that Dallas and Roarke live in is a world that I can slip into as easily as an old sweater or a comfy pair of slippers. After 52 books (and counting!) I know these people, this found family that Dallas and Roarke have gathered around themselves, very much to their own continued astonishment.
With each entry in the series, I get to visit with all my old friends, see how they are doing, catch up on what has been happening in their lives. I don’t need to be introduced to them, I don’t need to figure out the worldbuilding. I’m immersed in the story from the very first page because everything is so familiar and beloved.
Except the murder, of course. That’s always new. But the way that Dallas investigates that murder, and the people who help her along her way – they are known and familiar. To the point where I laugh along with them, not because anyone has necessarily said anything particularly funny, but because the humor is built into the way they interact. Like old friends with fond and familiar stories.
This case, however, was absorbing in and of itself, which doesn’t always happen. But it certainly did this time. The cult that turns out to be front-and-center of the case, after being successfully hidden and behind and in back for so many years, is just plain evil. Not fantasy villainy, but purely the evil that humans do, to each other and to themselves, all too frequently in history.
There are seeds of that evil in the here and now. Today. As there have always been. That’s what makes the entire story so chilling, and makes the takedown so very righteous.
So come for the camaraderie. And for the romance between Dallas and Roarke that still manages to be both romantic and hot after 52 books. Stay for the horror show, because you’ll be riveted.
Stand up and cheer for the ending. The end of the cult. The end of the case. But not the end of the job. Dallas and Roarke, along with the rest of the family, will be back in the fall in Forgotten in Death. I already have it scheduled on my reading calendar!