Review: Sweetwater and the Witch by Jayne Castle

Review: Sweetwater and the Witch by Jayne CastleSweetwater and the Witch by Jayne Castle
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: action adventure romance, futuristic, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, science fiction romance
Series: Harmony #15
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley Books on September 20, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Welcome to the world of Harmony, where--despite its name, things are anything but--danger lurks just beneath the surface in this new novel by New York Times bestselling author, Jayne Castle.
If there's something Ravenna Chastain knows, it's when to end things. And after she almost winds up the victim of a cult that believes she's a witch, it's easy to walk away from her dead-end career, ready for a new start. But where to find a job that would allow her to use her very specialized skill set? The answer is clear: she becomes a matchmaker.
But even a successful matchmaker can't find someone for everyone, and Ravenna considers Ethan Sweetwater her first professional failure. After nine failed dates, Ravenna knows it's time to cut Ethan loose. But Ethan refuses to be fired as a client--he needs one final date to a business function. Since Ravenna needs a date herself to a family event, they agree to a deal: she will be his (business) date if he will be her (fake) date to her grandparents' anniversary celebration.
What Ethan fails to mention is that attending the business function is a cover for some industrial espionage that he's doing as a favor to the new Illusion Town Guild boss. Ravenna is happy to help, but their relationship gets even more complicated when things heat up--the chemistry between them is explosive, as explosive as the danger that's stalking Ravenna. Lucky for her, Ethan isn't just an engineer--he's also a Sweetwater, and Sweetwaters are known for hunting down monsters...

My Review:

When I originally saw the title of this latest entry in the Harmony series, at first I thought it was going to be a Western – or at least a Weird West – kind of story. (The rhythm of the words in the title keeps taking me back to the movie McCabe & Mrs .Miller which was a sort of Western. I digress. Again. I know.) Harmony is absolutely wild enough and definitely weird enough to resemble the Weird West, but it’s a far-future lost colony world that presented some unique challenges to the first settlers and still does to their descendants even two centuries later.

The planet of Harmony – which doesn’t generally exhibit all that much harmony or we wouldn’t have this marvelous series – was settled by a group of human colonists that included members of the Arcane Society and their allies back on Earth. Who were people with psi powers as portrayed in the Victorian and contemporary set Arcane Society series and its offshoots, which were published under the author’s Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz pen names.

(If the setup sounds a bit familiar, it’s also the setup for the Celta series by Robin D. Owens, so if you like one you’ll like the other.)

By the time in Harmony’s history when this story takes place, Harmony has lost all contact with Earth, and the upheavals of that loss have settled back into a history that is still well-remembered but no longer as influential as it once was. Not that there aren’t some people looking to recreate the past glories of their ancestors. Even if those so-called glories are only in the minds of past – and present – psychopaths.

Which is what this entry in the series turns out to be about. Two people who think they can do their criminal predecessors one better, and two people who stand in their way. And eventually stand together to do it.

Escape Rating A-: What makes this entry in the series so much fun is the witty banter and slowly building romance between Ethan Sweetwater and Ravenna Chastain. She’s a police profiler turned matchmaker, and he’s the client she’s supposed to find a match for but it’s not working. At all. Which he refuses to acknowledge or let the project go for reasons that Ravenna doesn’t see but the reader probably does.

It’s only when Ethan helps her take out the trash – by which I mean the comatose body of her first stalker – that Ravenna gets the idea that there’s more to Ethan than initially appeared. Which is, of course, more than true.

He presented himself as a mild-mannered, kind of dorky engineer. And he is. But underneath that unassuming persona lurks a man who knows just who to call and how to dispose of a not-quite dead body. Ravenna is worried that he might be connected to the mob.

Ethan, on the other hand, knows that she’s his match. Lucky for him – in a twisted sort of way – the deadly adventures that keep finding them give them plenty of chances to bond into a relationship where they both know they’ll have each other’s backs through thick, thin, nightmares and flame-throwers.

All they have to do is convince each other it’s for keeps. And keep fighting to make sure that they will be a “keeps” to have.

That this turns out to be a delightful romance to go with the deadly danger has to do with the personalities of the three protagonists; Ethan, Ravenna, and Ravenna’s dust bunny Harriet. They make one hell of a team where each has a crucial part to play in taking down the villains and having a bit of fun along the way.

Dust bunnies excel at finding the fun in EVERYTHING!

One final note; there is obviously a long and storied history to Harmony but each book stands pretty much on its own. The necessary parts of the background history are always explained, while the occasional mention of a particular person or incident is more in the form of an “Easter Egg” that brings a smile if you know but lack of that knowledge does not detract from enjoyment of the book in hand. The romances are always self-contained to the individual book. That being said, the books in the series are a bit like potato chips in that you won’t want to read just one.

And I guarantee you’ll wish you had your own dust bunny to chortle at your side as you read!

Review: Desperation in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Desperation in Death by J.D. RobbDesperation in Death (In Death, #55) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #55
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 6, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a gripping new thriller that pits homicide detective Eve Dallas against a conspiracy of exploitation and evil…
New York, 2061: The place called the Pleasure Academy is a living nightmare where abducted girls are trapped, trained for a life of abject service while their souls are slowly but surely destroyed. Dorian, a thirteen-year-old runaway who’d been imprisoned there, might never have made it out if not for her fellow inmate Mina, who’d hatched the escape plan. Mina was the more daring of the two—but they’d been equally desperate.
Unfortunately, they didn’t get away fast enough. Now Dorian is injured, terrified, and wandering the streets of New York, and Mina lies dead near the waterfront while Lt. Eve Dallas looks over the scene.
Mina’s expensive, elegant clothes and beauty products convince Dallas that she was being groomed, literally and figuratively, for sex trafficking—and that whoever is investing in this high-overhead operation expects windfall profits. Her billionaire husband, Roarke, may be able to help, considering his ties to the city’s ultra-rich. But Roarke is also worried about the effect this case is having on Dallas, as it brings a rage to the surface she can barely control. No matter what, she must keep her head clear--because above all, she is desperate for justice and to take down those who prey on and torment the innocent.

My Review:

The desperation that leads to the death that brings Eve Dallas and her ever-expanding crew onto this case is one that Eve is entirely too familiar with. It’s the desperation of a girl who has been trapped into a life where she is merely an object for other people’s abuse and other people’s pleasure.

In Eve’s case, the “person” who kept her trapped and bound was her father Richard Troy. He’s dead. He’s dead because Eve’s desperation led to her killing the bastard at a point when she just couldn’t take it anymore. She was eight years old.

Mina and Dorian were kidnapped as preteens and whisked away to the Pleasure Academy, where they are being groomed and indoctrinated to become sex slaves for wealthy, influential and disgusting people, mostly men, who will take pleasure in raping them, beating them, and quite possibly even killing them if it strikes their or their so-called friends’ fancies.

In desperation, these two girls band together and attempt to escape from their well-appointed prison. Only one of them makes it. But the discovery of the other girl’s body opens up the kind of far-reaching case that will bring closure to bunch of families, freedom to a bunch of trafficked women, and visit justice upon a bunch of scumbags, one way or another, while letting Eve exorcize one or two of her own ghosts.

If she can just get one runaway girl to trust her with the truth. No matter how dangerous for the girl, and no matter how many nightmares it will give Eve along the way.

Escape Rating B+: Desperation in Death is a solid and compelling entry in the long-running In Death series – even if it is a trip to Eve and Roarke’s personal angst-factories by proxy. Or maybe because of that fact, as we get to see them work through a few more of their demons without the case reaching directly into either of their traumatizing childhoods.

Not that what Dorian Gregg and all the other girls the Pleasure Academy trafficked have experienced isn’t more than traumatic enough to give pretty much everyone on the team a few nightmares. But the lack of a specific personal connection to either Eve or Roarke makes the story a bit easier – just a tiny bit considering the subject – for the reader to get caught up in. But we’re caught the way the rest of the team is caught – wanting to catch the really, really disgustingly awful villains rather than caught up in the unspooling of yet more of either Eve or Roarke’s personal demons.

I follow this series, all 55 books and counting! because I love the found family that surrounds Eve and Roarke – including just how endlessly surprised Eve is that she has gathered a family of any kind around herself. So one of the things that made this entry in the series so much fun to read was the way that the gang really pulled together to nab the villains.

It also helped that in this case the villains were not just truly, despicably villainous, but that their villainy had nothing to do with any mental illness or trauma. They’re just awful people who need to get their just desserts. And if those just desserts get served in hell, so much the better.

This is in contrast with the previous book in the series, Abandoned in Death, which dealt with some similar crimes but came at them from an angle where everyone was traumatized including the perpetrator. I found that one hard-going because the villain’s head was one I didn’t want to be in at all and couldn’t read the parts from their perspective.

The villains in this case are so cold and dispassionate about the whole thing, and their points of view are both few and equally icy that the only peeks we needed into their heads were superficial.

In a way, this story was at one remove from both its villains and its heroes, and that made it easier to follow the action without diving too deeply into the motivations.

All of that is a way to loop back around and say this is a solid and solidly entertaining entry in the series for long-time fans. If you love Dallas and Roarke you’ll enjoy this season’s peek into their lives as much as I did.

And I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series, Encore in Death, coming out in February. A little murder among the rich and famous should be just the ticket to warm up a winter night or two!

Review: Abandoned in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Abandoned in Death by J.D. RobbAbandoned in Death (In Death, #54) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #54
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 8, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Homicide detective Eve Dallas must untangle a twisted family history while a hostage’s life hangs in the balance—in the new In Death novel by #1 New York Times bestselling J. D. Robb.
The woman’s body was found on a bench in a New York City playground. She was clean, her hair neatly arranged, her makeup carefully applied. But other things were very wrong—like the tattoo and piercings, clearly new. The clothes, decades out of date. The fatal wound hidden beneath a ribbon around her neck. And the note: Bad Mommy, written in crayon as if by a child.
It seems clear the killer’s childhood was traumatic—a situation Eve is all too familiar with herself. Yet the clues point to a perpetrator who’d be around sixty, and there are no records of old crimes with a similar MO. What was the trigger that apparently reopened such an old wound and sent someone over the edge? When Eve learns that other young women have recently vanished, the case grows even more urgent—and to solve it she’ll need to find her way into a hidden place of dim light and concrete, into the distant past, and into the depths of a shattered mind.

My Review:

This series is a strange sort of comfort read for me, so I usually say that each entry in the series is at least a chance to visit with old friends. Sometimes it’s more, but it’s always at least that.

Abandoned in Death is one of the instances where it was also at most that. I loved seeing how Dallas, Roarke and the gang are doing, but the way this one began – and the entire case – really, seriously creeped me out.

I felt creeped enough the whole way through that I didn’t enjoy this entry in the series as much as I usually do. And I’m a bit sad about that because I was seriously looking forward to this one.

Once upon a time in Eve Dallas’ world, which is actually now in ours, a desperate and despairing young woman left her child on a church doorstep in the middle of the night. Then she drove straight into a lake and prepared to drown.

But she didn’t. Instead, she dragged herself out of the car and the water and passed out along the side of the road not too far away. She was rescued by a good Samaritan who happened to be a doctor, who took her home, treated her injuries, fell in love with her and married her.

Between the trauma of her injuries – along with the effects of her depression and her drug addiction – her life before her rescue was a complete blank. She didn’t remember the child, the drugs or the attempted suicide. She lived her life from that point forward in the here and the now and it was a good life.

In Eve Dallas’ here and now, someone dumped the corpse of a young woman in a children’s playground. The playground is just around the corner from the house that Eve’s friend Mavis is moving into, with her family. It hits MUCH too close to home, putting Eve in a bit more angst than any trip to the “angst factory” of her own.

Not that this case doesn’t have a bit of that as well.

The investigation of the case is interesting. Weird, but interesting. Weird because the body was dressed and made up to fit a certain image – that of a blonde woman in her mid-20s with a tramp stamp, a belly piercing, cheap party clothes and overdone makeup.

She’s made up to be a woman in her mid-20s in the early 2000s. All the brands, the style, the look, the colors all fit that era. Which means that if someone is getting vicarious revenge on their mother, that person is now in their 60s.

And the first thing that Dallas and company discover about the crime is that their victim isn’t the only woman taken who could be made up to fit the image. She’s just the first to die.

Escape Rating B-: So, the opening of this one weirded me out and the parts of the story that were told either from the killer’s perspective or from the mother’s distant past just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to be inside the murderer’s head AT ALL and found myself skimming through those sections and the past bits.

Some of that may have been that the originating events were already in the past of the real world – kind of like that double-take you do when confronted with the fact that 1980 is as far away from 2020 as 1940 is from 1980. That time passes way more quickly than we like to think about.

However, whether it was because of skimming those bits quickly or because the murderer was simply very good at hiding in plain sight I had absolutely no idea who was doing it before Dallas gets there herself. I recognized that the wild goose she chased at one point was a red herring, but hadn’t figured out who the real culprit was until the investigators got there.

That there’s a clock ticking more obviously in this case from the usual made some of the normal cop shop gallows humor fall a bit flat – at least for me. No one has much of a sense of humor in this one.

At the same time the rather humorous blossoming of young love between Feeney’s intern and Nadine Furst’s intern (and their respective mentors reaction to same) was a nice little bright stop that did fit well into the story. It also points out just how huge the team ended up being on this one as Dallas needed people to investigate not just the murders happening now, not just whodunnit, but also who in the past it was being done to in proxy.

They were solving an equation for multiple unknowns, and that level of research and search and cooperation and puzzle solving was, as always, fascinating. Whatever team Dallas puts together for a case always gives a master class in competence and this time was no exception.

In spite of the mess that’s uncovered at the end.

All of this adds up to Abandoned in Death being an interesting entry in this marvelous long-running series that wasn’t quite as satisfying for me as they usually are. That’s happened before, as is expected in a series that is 54 books and counting and shows absolutely no sign of stopping. Next up is Desperation in Death, coming this fall and I’m already looking forward to it!

Review: Guild Boss by Jayne Castle

Review: Guild Boss by Jayne CastleGuild Boss (Harmony, #14) by Jayne Castle
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: action adventure romance, futuristic, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, science fiction romance
Series: Harmony #14, Ghost Hunters #14
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley Books on November 16, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Welcome to Illusion Town on the colony world of Harmony—like Las Vegas on Earth, but way more weird.
Living in this new, alien world doesn’t stop the settlers from trying to re-create what they’ve left behind. Case in point—weddings are still the highlight of any social calendar. But it’s the after-party that turns disastrous for Lucy Bell. Kidnapped and drugged as she leaves the party, she manages to escape—only to find herself lost in the mysterious, alien underground maze of glowing green tunnels beneath Illusion Town. She’s been surviving on determination and cold pizza, scavenged for her by a special dust bunny, when help finally shows up.
Gabriel Jones is the Guild Hunter sent to rescue her, but escaping the underground ruins isn’t the end of her troubles—it’s only the beginning. With no rational reason for her abduction, and her sole witness gone on another assignment for the Guild, whispers start circulating that Lucy made it all up. Soon her life unravels until she has nothing left but her pride. The last thing she expects is for Gabriel Jones to come back to town for her.
The Lucy that Gabriel finds is not the same woman he rescued, the one who looked at him as if he were her hero. This Lucy is sharp, angry, and more than a little cynical—instead of awe, she treats him with extreme caution. But a killer is still hunting her, and there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to heroes. Despite her wariness, Gabriel is also the one person who believes Lucy—after all, he was there. He’s determined to help clear her reputation, no matter what it takes. And as the new Guild Boss, his word is law, even in the lawlessness of Illusion Town.

My Review:

This entry in the Harmony series has one of the best opening lines in pretty much ever, “The Lord of the Underworld showed up with the dust bunny and a pizza.” Not that Gabriel Jones is actually Hades – even if he does go along with the somewhat macabre joke.

The pizza is a small cheese and olive from Ollie’s House of Pizza. The dust bunny’s name is Otis, and a small is all he can manage to carry. He gets a slice and Persephone, otherwise known as Lucy Bell, gets dinner in the underground chamber she’s been trapped in for the past several, hazily counted days.

Gabriel Jones is there to rescue her – with the help of the dust bunny. After all, Otis has been helping Lucy all along, and Gabriel is just carrying out yet another mission for the sometimes famous, sometimes infamous Ghost Hunters’ Guild.

Welcome to Harmony, a planet in the human diaspora that lost contact with the homeworld a couple of centuries back, and has been not just surviving but thriving ever since. With the help of the dust bunnies and the boost in psychic power that comes from living on this planet with a murky alien past and a wealth of finely tuned resonating amber.

No one knows why the aliens left, only that they left their ruins behind both above and below ground. And that the colonists from Earth discovered that their psychic powers were enhanced by the amber – and that they needed to hone those enhancements to survive on this planet where so much of the weather and everything else could be deadly to those without protection from the psychic phenomena that permeate the place.

But the colonists were part of Earth’s Arcane Society, so they had what it took to make a go of Harmony when their Earth tech began failing after they were cut off.

Two centuries later, everyone on Harmony has at least a bit of talent. Guild members have a lot as they handle security in the most ghost-ridden and psychic phenomena rich areas – and are both celebrated and envied as a result. And occasionally good guild members, like good cops, go bad or get seduced to the dark side by the power and adulation.

But Lucy Bell isn’t a guild member – she’s a weather channeler. She’s able to direct and redirect the deadly power-storms that Harmony regularly throws up. When this story begins, she’s trapped underground among the storms and the phenomena without her amber while recovering from Harmony’s equivalent of a “Mickey Finn”. Even when he locates her, Gabriel doesn’t believe she was drugged by ‘person or persons unknown’. He’s sure, just as everyone else seems to be, that she got herself drunk, took the drugs voluntarily and got herself lost in a blackout. That she’s unstable and damaged.

Even her parents believe it.

That her rescue results in another forced round of hallucinogenic injections only makes her situation worse – but by that time Gabriel Jones is off on his next mission leaving Lucy to suffer the fallout.

He expects her to fall straight into his arms when he returns to Illusion Town as the new Guild Boss. She just wants to give him a piece of her mind over the downturn her life has taken since he carried her out of the Underground and left her in the hands of the men she saw as demons.

It’s only when they combine forces, he looking for a lost Old Earth artifact with still deadly powers and she attempting to revive her reputation and her business by assisting him, that they discover that her kidnapping and his hunt are all part of the same deadly game.

Just because you’re paranoid does not preclude someone being out to get you – and there’s definitely someone, or perhaps more than one – out to get them both.

Escape Rating B: All of the Arcane Society’s chickens have come to roost on Harmony to lay some VERY bad eggs. Some, but not all, are Easter Eggs in this book for anyone who has ever read any of the author’s interconnected series, her historical Arcane Society (written as Amanda Quick), her contemporary Arcane Society (written as Jayne Ann Krentz) and her futuristic Harmony (sometimes referred to as Ghost Hunters) books, of which Guild Boss is the 14th, written as Jayne Castle. (The author referred to it as the “Jayneverse” although I personally prefer “Arcaneverse” as a collective title).

I actually read this back in May when I first picked up the eARC. I have to admit that it didn’t grab me at the time the way that this author’s books usually do, no matter what pen name they are written under. And because I didn’t get into it the way I usually do, I didn’t write it up.

Having reread it over the holiday weekend, I’m not sure what happened the first time that it didn’t work for me, because it certainly did this time. Whether it was the right book at the right time now when it wasn’t then, or I’m just in the mood for an action/adventure type romance, I don’t know. But I did like Guild Boss the second time around quite a lot so I’m glad I went back to it.

One of my favorite things about the Harmony series are the dust bunnies. Every single one of them has a personality that is just so huge compared to their size. And they are, every last one of them, inveterate scene stealers. Otis is no exception. In fact, he loves to be in front of the camera. Any camera. All the cameras. For a dust bunny he’s kind of a ham.

The mystery in this one is big and convoluted and it’s a bit easy to get lost in it. There are a lot of moving pieces and it doesn’t quite all tie up neatly. Likewise, the romance is hot and electric, but a bit on the instalove side of that equation.

I think I felt like a couple of issues were a bit unresolved or got swept under the carpet. When Gabriel comes back to Illusion Town, Lucy, well, I want to say she didn’t make him grovel enough but her situation wasn’t his fault. At the same time, it’s understandable that she blamed him for it. That internal conflict, and it is mostly internal, got wrapped up a bit too easily, especially considering how often she chided him throughout the book about her being just another mission to him and how focused he was on climbing the Guild ladder.

It also seemed like her conflict with her parents was left hanging. Not that life’s conflicts generally get wrapped up with a tidy bow, but their disappointment and disapproval was a bit Chekhov’s Gun, even if the only possible resolution would be inside her head.

All of that being said, my re-read of Ghost Boss was much more fun than my original read, so I’m very glad I took the trip back to Harmony. While it looks like it’s going to be awhile before the author returns to Harmony, I still have two books with her signature blend of romance, adventure and psychic phenomena to look forward to this year, Lightning In a Mirror next month and When She Dreams in May. I expect them both to be marvelous reading treats, just as Guild Boss turned out to be!

Review: Forgotten in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Forgotten in Death by J.D. RobbForgotten in Death (In Death, #53) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, eboook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #53
Pages: 384
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 7, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the latest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas sifts through the wreckage of the past to find a killer.

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change―and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel on litterers and other such offenders is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains―in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing―unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke―not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away…

My Review:

While I fully admit that I’ve been planning to read this since the minute I finished the previous book in the series (Faithless in Death, which was one of the truly EXCELLENT entries in the series), I picked this up over the Labor Day weekend because I was having a difficult time getting stuck into a book and I knew that, even if this was just an average book in the series – which I have to say that it was – I would still have no difficulties whatsoever getting immersed (again) in this world and these characters. Which turned out to be completely, totally and utterly true, as it always does.

I even finished this before yesterday’s book, but that left me so sad that I didn’t want to end the week on such a down note. So here we are with Forgotten in Death. Not that Eve Dallas ever forgets any of the murder victims that she stands for, even after she gets the justice they are due.

As usual with this series, the story begins with a body. A dead body poorly concealed in a dumpster near a construction site. It seems that, in death as well as in life, someone saw Alva Quirk as trash and threw her away.

But this site isn’t through with Eve Dallas yet, as she gets called to another body in the midst of New York City cleaning up the shoddy construction hastily erected in the aftermath of the Urban Wars that are not that many years from now in the alternate timeline of Eve’s world.

Or at least we hope it’s an alternate timeline. Because if it isn’t, the bad years are coming up really fast.

The second body is the opposite of the first. This victim was at least upper middle-class based on the items found with her. She was at least 20 years younger than the first victim, probably more. And she was very, very pregnant at the time of her death.

Which was nearly 40 years ago, just at the time that all of the buildings now being demolished were first and hastily built. And the site that she was found in now belongs to, of course, Eve’s mega-rich husband Roarke.

But he didn’t, and couldn’t have, owned it when that young woman and her viable baby were entombed. He would have been all of 2 years old or thereabouts, and in Ireland at the time. Roarke may be an overachiever in a whole lot of ways, but not THAT much.

Because the long arm of coincidence isn’t nearly that long, at the time each murder happened, and it was definitely murder in both cases, what are now two building sites were one, both owned by the same company, Singer Family Developers. Singer still owns the site where Quirk was found, and the main players in the company from the earlier murder are all still alive and more or less active in it.

And entirely too involved and interested in covering up whatever happened all those years ago.

Escape Rating B: Forgotten in Death is a solid – and solidly enjoyable – entry in this long-running series. As plenty of reviewers have said, one of the things I look forward to every year are the Spring and Fall updates to the world of Dallas and Roarke. So even when the story doesn’t break any new ground – and this one doesn’t – it’s always a good reading time and it’s always great to see what the gang is up to.

One of the things I love about this series is the way that the world is set up. The first book in the series, Naked in Death, was published in 1995, when I was also in my 30s, just as Eve and Roarke were at the time. In 1995, the 2058 setting of the series seemed an impossibly long time away.

And yet it isn’t. Eve’s world doesn’t move as fast as ours, so 50+ books in Eve’s world have only moved the time needle three years forward to 2061. Her world is still far enough in the future that many things are different, while close enough to our time that many things are still the same. Also 2021 is near enough in their rear-view mirror that plenty of people actually remember the time we’re living in right now.

Part of the charm of this series, in addition to the ever-present romance between Dallas and Roarke, is the cop shop vibe of Eve’s Homicide Division of NYPSD. Over the books in the series we’ve gotten to know all the people in Eve’s ever-growing circle of friends, colleagues and frenemies so it’s always fun to see how everyone is doing. And how everyone pulls together when the chips are down.

So even when the case isn’t all that fascinating, I still love this peek into Eve’s world.

Speaking of the case, this one is all about real estate chicanery and family legacies – and just how a family that thinks it’s cut from a finer bit of silk than the rest of us covers up it’s less than savory shenanigans – and shenanigators.

Because all of the real estate, let’s call them irregularities, go back a century – in other words to the 1960s – and because some of the scions of the family have been less than stellar representatives of it, I kind of got the feeling that the author might have been venting some spleen at the long term shady dealings of a family of former high-level government officials. Or at least I got that vibe and enjoyed that vibe very much. I’m totally speculating about the author’s feelings on the matter. Plenty of New York City real estate history – and other history – is filled with people and families who dealt on both sides of the law.

So that part was fun but not deep. But speaking of deep, I really enjoyed the research and historical digging involved both in determining the identity of the long-buried victim and in getting some much overdue justice for the circumstances that eventually put Alva Quirk into that dumpster.

And it’s always great to catch up with the gang. Including Eve’s word-salad descriptions of Detective Jenkinson’s horrendously clashing ties. They always give me a giggle. So I’ll be back in the spring for the next book in this series, Abandoned in Death. I already can’t wait!

Review: Faithless in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Faithless in Death by J.D. RobbFaithless in Death (In Death, #52) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #52
Pages: 400
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 9, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

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.

My Review:

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!

Review: Shadows in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Shadows in Death by J.D. RobbShadows in Death (In Death, #51) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #51
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 8, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lt. Eve Dallas is about to walk into the shadows of her husband's dangerous past.
As it often did since he'd married a cop, murder interrupted more pleasant activities. Then again, Roarke supposed, the woman lying in a pool of her own blood a few steps inside the arch in Washington Square Park had a heftier complaint.
When a night out at the theatre is interrupted by the murder of a young woman in Washington Square Park, it seems like an ordinary case for Detective Eve Dallas and her team. But when Roarke spots a shadow from his past in the crowd, Eve realises that this case is far from business as usual.
Eve has two complex cases on her hands - the shocking murder of this wealthy young mother and tracking down the shadow before he can strike again, this time much closer to home. Eve is well used to being the hunter, but how will she cope when the tables are turned? As Eve and the team follow leads to Roarke's hometown in Ireland, the race is on to stop the shadow making his next move . . .

My Review:

This 51st entry in the In Death series may be a comfort read for long-time readers of the series – like moi – because this one is all about the fam. But that’s also what makes it a trip to the angst factory for the entire cast, as shadows from the past reach out to threaten one of their own.

That a bunch of NYPSD cops consider the former street thief turned mega-business tycoon Roarke one of their own is a surprising balm to a man who grew up on the mean streets of Dublin after the Urban Wars learning to pick pockets, run con games and run as fast as he could from the brutal fists of his late and entirely unlamented sperm donor, Patrick Roarke.

Well, neither Roarke nor his wife, NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas have anything good to say about Patrick Roarke. But, and this big butt is at the heart of this entire story, there is someone who does. Someone who has lurked in the shadows of Roarke’s past since his long ago and entirely too brief childhood.

Lorcan Cobbe served as an enforcer for the gang that Patrick Roarke ruled with an iron fist. A gang that included his son, pickpocket and budding expert thief Roarke. But Roarke, in spite of his father’s tendency to let his fists fly at any – or no – provocation, was the elder’s acknowledged son, where that acknowledgement was something that Cobbe not only envied but believed that he was owed.

The elder Roarke is gone, and good riddance, but Lorcan Cobbe believes that he is still owed, and that he’s going to get his long-delayed payback by killing Roarke. After first stripping from him everything he has earned and everything he holds dear, including his position, his fortune, his friends and definitely his wife.

But the years that Lorcan has spent in the shadows as one of the world’s best – and most expensive – contract killers are the same years that Roarke spent building a legitimate fortune, a circle of friends, a found family, and finding not only the birth family that his so-called father denied him but also making a life with the surprising love of his life, Eve Dallas.

They met over a dead body, as is fitting when one falls for a homicide cop. In the years since they’ve gathered a family, partly of blood and mostly of choice, of people who will walk through fire for either of them.

Cobbe has targeted both, and that family will take him down. Wherever that chase may lead them.

Escape Rating A-: I swallowed this book whole in a couple of lovely hours. I read this series not for the mystery aspect, but for the family-of-choice story. Twice a year I get to visit with these very good friends and see how they’re doing, and it’s marvelous every single time whether the mystery is compelling or merely a day’s work for Eve and company. This one was so compelling that I had to thumb to the end to make sure that the dark places it went too weren’t too utterly black. No one likes to see their friends, even their book-bound friends, suffer.

This one began with all the hallmarks of one of the series’ semi-regular trips to the angst factory. Both Eve and Roarke had abusive fathers – who dammitall knew each other – and both raised themselves with a bit of help from someone or something who gave them purpose. In Roarke’s case that someone was Summerset, now his majordomo, and in Eve’s case it was the NYPSD.

They should have remained on entirely different paths, but their meeting over a dead body in Naked in Death cemented both their fates and glued their futures together – and onto a single, surprisingly straight-and-kinda-narrow path for ex-thief Roarke.

This story in the series read as a big “payoff” for fans of the series. It’s an A- rating because as much as I absolutely adored it, this would be an impossible place to get into the series. This story works because it’s an all hands on deck story, where everyone who has ever gotten close to Eve and Roarke bands together to help them take out the threat. Readers who know where they came from, who have seen this disparate group bind themselves together over the course of the series, will love every minute of this story, while anyone who is not already steeped in the brew will not be nearly as moved.

This feels like a kind of closing off of the past. Roarke sees Cobbe and finds himself remembering parts of his own childhood that he buried long ago because they were too painful. Cobbe’s re-advent into his life gives him the opportunity to bring those parts into the light – and to see just how far he’s come and just how well he’s done for himself. Not in the financial sense because that was always his goal and he never lost sight of it, but in his heart and soul. His past was dark, and he needs to see it for what it was to appreciate just how much light he’s surrounded himself with and how truly wonderful it is.

The story contrasts Cobbe, whose professional persona falls apart when he goes after Roarke, with Roarke who realizes just how together he is, and just how many people are together with him. The ending is wonderfully cathartic, and I needed that even more than the characters in the story did.

This could have been the end of the series. The way the entire group comes together would have made a perfect stand up and cheer end for the whole thing and would have provided a terrific amount of closure all around. But I’m oh-so-glad that it isn’t. Eve and Roarke will be back this winter in Faithless in Death. And I already can’t wait to see the gang again!

Review: Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Vendetta in Death by J.D. RobbVendetta in Death (In Death, #49) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #49
Pages: 368
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 3, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The predator becomes the prey in the newest thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas.

She calls herself Lady Justice. And once she has chosen a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or a curvaceous redhead, makes herself as alluring and seductive as possible to them. Once they are in her grasp, they are powerless.

The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company’s human resources department has already paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims—but they don’t know that his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice knows. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price.

Now Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are combing through the evidence of McEnroy’s secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the true identity of Lady Justice remains elusive. It’s a challenging case, made even more difficult by McEnroy’s widow, who reacts to the investigation with fury, denial, and threats. Meanwhile, Lady Justice’s criminal crusade is escalating rapidly, and if Eve can’t stop this vigilante, there’s no telling how much blood may be spilled…

My Review:

It’s strange to say that a series that always begins with a dead body is a comfort read, but the In Death series has always been one for me. The series is now 49 books in, and at this point I’m reading it more to catch up with my “friends”, the characters in this long-running series, than I am to see whodunnit – or how or why for that matter.

This one begins with more than a bit of schadenfreude. While the killer seems somewhat righteous albeit more than a bit off the rails, the victim, well, the victim was no innocent. His death seems like a case of evil getting its just desserts. The more we find out about the scumbag, the less we sympathize with him.

But this series, is not, and never has been, about vigilantism. There’s a motto on the door of Eve Dallas’ Homicide squad room that reads:

NO MATTER YOUR RACE, CREED, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, OR POLITICAL AFFILIATION, WE PROTECT AND SERVE*, BECAUSE YOU COULD GET DEAD.
*EVEN IF YOU WERE AN ASSHOLE.

All of the victims in this entry in the series were definitely assholes. The serial killer taking them out got their names – and the nature of their crimes – from their victims, the members of a support group for women who have been harassed, abused, raped or otherwise victimized by men.

Eve Dallas knows how those women feel firsthand. It’s part of her own history that her father raped and beat her until she killed him when she was 8, completely, totally, utterly and absolutely in self-defense. At the age of eight she had already been on both sides of this case, as the victim of the abuser and as the killer of same.

But as much as she empathizes, she’s a firm believer in the rule of law. For her, vigilantism is never the way.

So she hunts down a killer who expects to find in Eve a kindred spirit. And is instead uncovered by a righteous cop.

Escape Rating B: This was the book I wanted to read this week. The book I’m listening to has its sad and serious aspects, so I was looking for something that would sweep me away to something not-so-heartbreaking for a little while. The irony is that this series, steeped in tragedy and death, does that for me.

The appeal of this series is in the characters. Part of the appeal of police procedurals in general is the ambiance of the cop shop that lies at its center. In the case of the In Death series, I just plain like these people. It’s not that they are all nice – because some of them certainly are not. It’s that they are interesting, they do their jobs well, they care about each other, and they all have a terrific line in snarkitude. Even Galahad, Dallas’ and Roarke’s cat, has snarkitude to spare. Although his is probably more cattitude. But he’s definitely a scene-stealer – and he humanizes people who might otherwise be either too perfect, too broken, or too perfectly broken to otherwise work.

So I read this series just to catch up on the gang. That being said, there isn’t anything particularly special about this entry in the series. Which doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed spending time with them.

There’s always a case. This time around the case feels more a part of our early-21st century than Dallas’ mid-21st century – or attitudes don’t change much in the intervening 40 years. And probably the latter, damn it.

The spree killing that Dallas has to stop feels like a direct response to the #MeToo movement, and the idea that it has to have failed, again, to change much is a bit depressing. On the other hand, so far we haven’t had the Urban Wars that her world went through, so there’s that.

But we don’t feel for the victims in this one. They are all scum. It’s easy to see what sets the killer over the edge. All victims had first victimized the women in their lives – and they all got away with it. And for all the reasons that women who report being raped or abused don’t get justice in the real world. The men have more power and society is predisposed not to believe us because we’re women.

The killer is easy to spot, and relatively easy for Dallas to catch. The only thing that allows the spree to stretch to four victims is that the killer strikes every single night. This story is fast, taking place over four short but jam-packed days and nights.

Good does triumph and evil does get its just desserts. But this is fiction, so there will be a part of many readers, including this one, wondering if the killer should have been allowed to go on just a bit longer. And that’s a scary thought in a way. It turns out that the lesson is that vengeance is easy, but that justice is very, very hard.

Review: Connections in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Connections in Death by J.D. RobbConnections in Death (In Death, #48) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #48
Pages: 384
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 5, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In this gritty and gripping new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Eve Dallas fights to save the innocent—and serve justice to the guilty—on the streets of New York.

Homicide cop Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are building a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads—and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering—whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.

Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison—and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.

Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…

My Review:

There’s a certain interpretation of this story that says that the whole thing is a bad lawyer joke. Not that the joke is bad, although many lawyer jokes are, but that this is just the kind of story that leads to people telling jokes about lawyers, sharks and professional courtesy. Another way of putting it would be that this is a story that illustrates exactly why Shakespeare wrote, “the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Unlike so many of the books in this series, Connections in Death doesn’t actually start with a dead body – not that one isn’t found soon enough. Also, unlike many books in the series, while the victim is connected to Roarke and Dallas, the connection is at a couple of degrees removed – and does not result in a trip to the angst factory – at least not for them.

Not that there isn’t plenty to disturb their lives and their hearts. The victim, Lyle Pickering, was a young man who had managed to turn a whole lot of corners in his relatively short life. He had been a gang member, and he had been hooked on drugs. Then he went to prison, and did what we always hope happens but doesn’t nearly often enough.

He grabbed the hands that reached out to help him find himself again. And he made it out. All the way out, with the help of counselors and sponsors and a family that believed in him and one hell of a lot of intestinal fortitude.

Only to be struck down when his ex-girlfriend conned him into believing that she had come to him for help – and not just to let in the three gang members who killed him and tried to stage his death as an overdose.

Dallas doesn’t believe the setup for a New York minute – not just because Lyle’s sister has been offered the job as head therapist at Roarke’s latest project. Although that weighs in. What tips the scale from OD to murder really, really fast is just how sloppy the murderers were in their staging.

They weren’t just sloppy – they were downright stupid. And that’s what does them in. Not just the ones who did the job, but the one who ordered the hit – and eventually reaches out to the dirty lawyer at the bottom of the cesspool.

It’s too bad, too sad, that a good man had to die to clean up so much corruption. It’s not exactly worth it – but Eve Dallas, as always, cleans up the dirt.

Escape Rating B: At this point – 48 books and counting – I’m reading this series because I love all the characters. It doesn’t really matter what the case turns out to be – I just want to see how all my friends are doing.

And every entry in this series is guaranteed to pull me right into the action and whisk me away from whatever I’m doing for a few hours – no matter what. In this particular case the what was a very long plane trip that flew by figuratively as well as literally – although I’m sure my seatmates occasionally wondered what I was laughing about.

This isn’t a funny story by any means, but there is plenty of humor in the constant, ongoing bickering and bantering in Dallas’ cop shop – and I enjoy every line of it.

As a case, this particular book is on the lighter side – or perhaps that should be “slighter” side. Lyle’s murder is certainly a terrible thing for his family. But the case is slighter in the sense that while it troubles Dallas, it doesn’t give her nightmares about her despicable father’s treatment of her, and doesn’t drag some loser/user out of either Dallas’ or Roarke’s past.

It is, however, a case that feels like it could happen today with minor changes in technology. This is a story about a world that doesn’t feel like it’s any different from today – at least not as portrayed in the headlines. The gang members do terrible things to each other and their neighborhood, sleazy lawyer is very sleazy, everybody justifies their own behavior, and people are idiots. LOTS of people are idiots.

One does get the feeling that this is a cesspit that everyone knows about and that no one has bothered to do the work of cleaning up until a murder puts it into Dallas’ path.

This is one of those cases that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but is still very satisfying to see wrap up. A lot of very bad people go down very hard – and it’s as cathartic as ever to watch evil – even petty, small time evil – get its just desserts served up with style.

Review: Leverage in Death by J D Robb

Review: Leverage in Death by J D RobbLeverage in Death (In Death, #47) by J.D. Robb
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #47
Pages: 385
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 4, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lieutenant Eve Dallas puzzles over a bizarre suicide bombing in a Wall St. office building in the latest in the #1 New York Times bestselling series…

For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter―but what was the motive of the masked men?

Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.

My Review:

At first, this one seemed like it was all about the money. A lot of crimes are all about the money, which is how the mystery solving cliches “follow the money” and the Latin “Cui bono?” (translated as “Who benefits”) came into being. But the way that money motivates in this story felt more like the version from the movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money”. Because while it is definitely about the money, it also ends up feeling like the money is as much about keeping score as it is about dollars and cents.

Not that there aren’t plenty of dollars and cents involved.

It all begins with a murder, as so many books in this series do. But not just a simple little murder. This is a big, well, more middle-sized kind of murder. It’s a bomb. It’s a crazy guy in a suicide vest blowing up a big meeting (literally) and taking out a bunch of corporate bigwigs.

Sounds like terrorism, doesn’t it? But if it were that simple, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wouldn’t need to spend an entire book solving it. Terrorism isn’t her beat – homicide is. Once her cops discover that the poor bomber was as much of a victim as all the others who were killed or injured in the explosion, the case becomes a whole lot more local, and a whole lot more complicated.

If you read the forex brokers reviews – business24-7, you know, it’s all about the money. Specifically, as the title says, it’s about leverage. The bomb goes off in the middle of a big meeting to sign a merger between rival airlines. The bomb goes off, and both of their stock prices go way, way down. But both companies are solid, both have succession plans in place, and the merger is back on in less than a day. The stocks go back up, way, way up. Past the point they were before that bomb went off.

Anyone who knew in advance what was going to happen had the opportunity to buy very, very low and sell very, very high. And make a killing – pun very definitely intended. Which makes for a hell of a cold-blooded motive for murder.

But for the killers, the whole thing is so much of a rush that they do it again, this time manipulating the art market instead of the stock market.

It’s up to Dallas, with the help of her expert civilian consultant as well as the rest of her team, to discover whodunit and why, before they move on to play their games yet again – or before they disappear for good.

That it’s also a great excuse for Dallas to avoid the Oscar red carpet, where her friend Nadine Furst is up for multiple awards for her movie based on one of Eve’s more famous cases, is just icing on the Dallas and Roarke cake.

Escape Rating B: This series is comfort read for me. That may sound strange, as the books always begin with a murder. But good triumphs, evil always gets its just desserts,  and all the mysteries are wrapped up at the end in a neat bow. But this series is also a case (no pun intended this time) where it’s the cast and crew that I always love to see. The stories always make me laugh, not because the series is intentionally humorous, but because it’s just the kind of humor that I like, where it arises out of the situations and the characters and isn’t an attempt to BE funny, it just IS funny.

I’m particularly fond of Eve and Roarke’s cat Galahad, who is large and in charge and pretty much all cat, all the time. Galahad, bless his furry heart, does not solve crimes. He is, however, very good at the things that cats are very good at, particularly in knowing when his people need some purry affection, and knowing when the best time to interrupt in the hope of getting treats or attention will be. And the entire bed is his, which is completely normal. Possession is 9/10ths of the cat – even the fictional cat. Perhaps especially the fictional cat.

This is also not one of their regular trips to the angst factory – which is good because that wasn’t what I was in the mood for. Eve and Roarke both had hellacious childhoods, and they both have plenty of trauma that they are still dealing with well into adulthood. But there are occasions when someone either tied into one of their pasts or bearing too strong a resemblance to one of their bastard fathers shows up and drags in a whole baggage train of past crap. One of those every once in a while is more than enough. And that isn’t one of those – the occasional nightmare notwithstanding. Anyone who survived either of their childhoods would have the occasional, or more likely the regular, nightmare.

There are two threads to this particular story. One is the case itself, and the other is more personal for Dallas’ team, but also hearkens back to one of her earlier cases, which has proven to be a gift that keeps on giving – as the ending of this story proves.

The case is chilling enough – although it does seem to be operating at multiple removes. The killers aren’t doing their own dirty work. They create the setup, then send a pawn out to do the actual deed while making sure that they can get away scot free if it falls apart. The psychology of this one is all about fathers and children and sacrifice and turns out to have plenty of disgusting, oozing layers to work through.

The personal stuff works its way around and through this multiple murder case. I say personal, but it all goes back to the Icove case from Origin in Death , way back in the 22nd novel in this series. Eve’s friend, reporter Nadine Furst, wrote up the case in a best-selling true crime thriller, which was turned into a movie, which is now up for multiple Oscars – and which has left behind a trail of bodies at pretty much every step of the way. Eve would rather be dead than walk the red carpet, but it’s a dream come true for her partner Detective Delia Peabody. A dream that Eve and Roarke, in spite of the murders, manage to make happen.

It makes for a lovely ending for an enjoyable book in this long running series. Dallas and Roarke will be back in February in Connections in Death – and I’m looking forward to it. After all, I have to see just what Galadhad is up to next!