Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense, suspense, thriller
Series: In Death #57
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 5, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
A retired colleague's suspicious death puts Lt. Eve Dallas on the case in Payback in Death, the electrifying new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author J.D. Robb.
Lt. Eve Dallas is just home from a long overdue vacation when she responds to a call of an unattended death. The victim is Martin Greenleaf, retired Internal Affairs Captain. At first glance, the scene appears to be suicide, but the closer Eve examines the body, the more suspicious she becomes.
An unlocked open window, a loving wife and family, a too-perfect suicide note—Eve's gut says it's a homicide. After all, Greenleaf put a lot of dirty cops away during his forty-seven years in Internal Affairs. It could very well be payback—and she will not rest until the case is closed.
The case in Payback in Death is a fascinating one that could just as easily work in a contemporary police procedural as it does in their near-future world, because cases about ‘who watches the watchers’ are always relevant, and raise interesting questions about just how much of that watching is necessary and who watches the watchers who watch.
There’s a rabbit hole there that this story doesn’t have to go down, because retired NYPSD Internal Affairs captain Martin Greenleaf honored his badge and his service during a career spent on that often thankless watch.
Now he’s dead, and it’s Dallas’ job to stand for him. Because whoever killed him did a really poor job of faking his suicide. The man was murdered in his own home, and left for his wife to find. But fate intervened in the person of a detective that Greenleaf mentored. A detective who may have struck out once and badly with Dallas, but who knows she’ll bring her best to the case of the man who stood in for his father.
Which, in the end, is what this case turns out to be about. Father-figures, and the devastation they leave in their wake when they go down. Whether that happens in the line of duty – as it did for Martin Greenleaf in spite of his retirement – or whether it happens because someone like Greenleaf discovers that a man who should have at least been a hero to his family, was someone that those watchers not only watched, but ultimately discovered had feet of clay up to the knees.
Escape Rating B: At this point, I’m here to see how all my ‘book friends’ are doing after whatever happened in the previous book in the series (which in this case was Encore in Death). I just plain enjoy spending time with Dallas and Roarke’s ever-growing ‘family’ and am always happy to catch up with the gang. It doesn’t matter whether the particular case is all that interesting, and it doesn’t matter what kind of case it is. I just like these folks a lot and want to be sure they’re all still okay.
That being said, at 57 books and counting, the In Death series breaks down into three kinds of stories. First are the cases that are just cases – like the case in Payback in Death. It’s appropriately puzzling, the motives are twisted and the clues are deeply buried at first and convoluted to the end, and it’s an important case that requires that Dallas and company bring their “A” game to get it solved, but in the end it’s still just a case that gives the NYPSD a chance to prove they are the best at what they do – which they are.
The second kind of story are the ones where someone is threatening one or more members of Dallas and Roarke’s extended family. Those get messy. Always interesting, often revelatory about their pasts as well as their present, but those cases stick much closer to home and get more emotional, no matter how many of NYPSD’s finest get involved by the end.
And then there’s the third kind of story, which can dig itself into either of the above. The stories that are trips to the angst factory because they bring back the specters of either Roarke’s or Dallas’ horrifyingly terrible, thoroughly abusive childhoods. Those stories are always hard because I’ve come to care about all the characters a great deal and I hate seeing them suffer again in their present over the crap in their pasts.
This was a case that turned out to be just a case – no matter how much the perpetrator tried to make it more than that. And failed.
But it was still riveting and held my interest from the first page to the last because the story was every bit as relevant today as it is in Dallas’ time. Cops are human – and all of Dallas’ crew are certainly that, from Peabody’s pink coats to Reinecke’s eye-watering ties to Dallas’ own inability to make sense out of cliches and figures of speech – because they mostly don’t if you dissect the words.
Someone does need to watch the watchers, to police the police, to make sure that flawed human beings, because we are all flawed human beings including the police, don’t take the ability to use force and even deadly force to the point where it becomes perceived as the right to do so – because it isn’t.
Part of what made this work for me was the way that it went into the amount of painstaking work that was required to dig through everything that Greenleaf had been part of in a long career to see where the motives might be, no matter how deeply buried they were.
And that the investigation displayed yet again the reasons that Dallas and her squad are the best at what they do.
The part that cast a bit of a pall over the riveting case was that the ‘B’ plot of the story, the sidebar case of the now (former) detective who went off the rails and took a swing at Dallas, didn’t feel like it got either explained or resolved – or at least not to this reader’s satisfaction.
Which did not stop me from reading Payback in Death in a single sitting, as I often do with each, always much anticipated, entry in this series. Obviously, I’ll be back in Dallas’ early 2060s New York City for book 58(!), Random in Death, coming in January, 2024. I’m already full of anticipation!