Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #56
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
It was a glittering event full of A-listers, hosted by Eliza Lane and Brant Fitzhugh, a celebrity couple who’d conquered both Hollywood and Broadway. And now Eve Dallas has made her entrance—but not as a guest. After raising a toast, Fitzhugh fell to the floor and died, with physical symptoms pointing to cyanide, and the police have crashed the party.
From all accounts, he wasn’t the kind of star who made enemies. Everyone loved him—even his ex-wife. And since the champagne cocktail that killed him was originally intended for Eliza, it’s possible she was the real target, with a recently fired assistant, a bitter rival, and an obsessed fan in the picture. With so many attendees, staff, and servers, Eve has her work cut out determining who committed murder in the middle of the crowd—and what was their motivation. As one who’s not fond of the spotlight herself, she dreads the media circus surrounding a case like this. All she wants is to figure out who’s truly innocent, and who’s only acting that way…
This one is all about what Dallas refers to as ‘the marriage rules’. While that’s the way she thinks of them, they’re not exactly ‘rules’ and they’re not just about marriage. What she’s really thinking about are all the often little things about one’s life that change – or at least should – when another person becomes part of that life. It’s about acknowledging the effect that having another person deeply a part of your life and how things change as a result. It can be as simple as realizing that if you’re running late you need to text that person that you’ll miss dinner to understanding that you have to be present for things that are important to them and in all cases very much vice versa.
Figuring out what those ‘marriage rules’ are in her own marriage is a work in progress for Dallas. She expected to go through life alone – she certainly never expected to fall in love and get married to anyone, let alone to an ex-thief turned business mogul. All of which is pretty much the story of the entire In Death series starting with Naked in Death, 56(!) books ago and STILL counting.
In the context of Encore in Death, however, those marriage rules trip Dallas up. Not in regards to her own marriage, but in the way that she has come to see the world and the people in it.
When she’s called to a swanky party of Broadway and Hollywood glitterati at an even swankier penthouse apartment, both she – and we – are probably expecting something along the lines of rich people behaving badly until it gets someone killed. Dallas may be capable of setting aside her preconceived notions when it comes to investigating a murder scene, but the readers don’t have to.
But that’s not what the investigation turns up. The victim, Brant Fitzhugh, and his still-weeping widow Eliza Lane were the real Tinseltown fairy tale. They didn’t just pretend devotion – they truly were. And people didn’t just give lip service to the idea that Fitzhugh was a wonderful person – they meant it. No snide remarks, no catty asides, no equivocation. People really can’t imagine he had any enemies and Dallas’ investigation doesn’t uncover any.
There weren’t any money problems, there weren’t any financial shenanigans, both Fitzhugh and Lane were wealthy in their own rights so it wouldn’t have been about money and there was absolutely no extramarital hanky-panky on either side.
The widow, on the other hand, well, there were plenty of people who at the very least didn’t like her much. At all. If she were the corpse there would be plenty of suspects. Which is when, based on the evidence, it really starts to look like the literal poisoned chalice was meant for her and he was just drinking the wrong drink at the wrong time.
Dallas should be looking really closely at the widow. It’s textbook investigative procedure to look at everyone the victim was close to in search of their killer. After all, familiarity does breed contempt and there’s no one more familiar than a spouse or domestic partner. And that’s where those ‘marriage rules’ get just a bit in Dallas’ way.
Not that she hasn’t put plenty of widows and widowers behind bars for being the instrument of their late spouse’s becoming their late spouse, but in those cases there’s usually at least some inkling of trouble in not-exactly paradise. This time there’s nothing. Her bullshit detector is telling her that Lane really did love her husband and is truly bereft that he’s gone.
And that bullshit detector is totally, utterly correct. While leading Dallas and the investigation down the primrose path at the same time.
Escape Rating B: I was so very grateful to sink into the comfort of yet another absorbing case with Dallas and Roarke that I’m tempted to give this one all the stars because it was absolutely the right book at the right time for this reader, particularly after yesterday’s rant-fest of a book.
All things considered, however, this isn’t one of the great cases in Dallas’ career – not nearly as absorbing in itself as last year’s Faithless in Death for example, which was both terrific as a mystery/suspense story and as well as just showcasing how uber-competent Eve and her team are.
The problem, at least for this reader, with Encore in Death is that the motive for the initial murder feels like really weak sauce. All the crap that Dallas discovers when she finally starts digging in the right place showed a pattern that was considerably more interesting and diabolical, but the reason the initial murder happens and brings down the perpetrator’s whole lifelong house of cards was just a bit meh.
Not that it isn’t always good to see how Dallas and her whole team are doing, not that it isn’t always fun to visit that bullpen, and not that I’m not always happy to learn that Galahad the cat is still ruling the mansion that Roarke built.
It was also refreshing to read a murder mystery that doesn’t center on rich people behaving badly. While I do enjoy the schadenfreude of those mysteries, such as last week’s The Skeleton Key, too much of a good thing starts to get a bit stale.
All of that being said, I very much enjoyed my visit to Dallas and Roarke’s 2060s New York City, this isn’t the book I’d put in someone’s hands if I wanted to get them hooked on the series. For those of us who already are hooked, it’s a great reading time.
Dallas, Roarke and the gang will be back in September in Payback in Death. I absolutely plan to be there!