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 The clothes, decades out of date.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 chicken 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!

Review: Heart Sight by Robin D Owens

Review: Heart Sight by Robin D OwensHeart Sight Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Celta's Heartmates #15
Pages: 416
Published by Berkley Books on December 5th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Journey back to the planet Celta with award-winning author Robin D. Owens in this novel about shadowed enemies and unimaginable psi power.

Muin "Vinni" T'Vine has been the prophet of Celta since he was six years old. A unique and lonely child, his strong psi power made most people wary of him. But now that he's older, he's ready to marry and protect the girl he's known was his HeartMate for years.

Avellana isn't as fragile as Vinni believes...nor as compliant. She fights to be considered Vinni's equal and a strong member of her Family and community. Both of them have kept Avellana's main power secret for over a decade.

But rumors of her strange psi talent are spreading, and Vinni is experiencing premonitions of danger to Avellana--even from the highest people of the land. When the whispers become threats, Vinni and Avellana must discover and defeat their secret enemies before they can finally claim happiness together.

My Review:

Heart Mate by Robin D. Owens new cover

After a rocky start (I didn’t like the first book, Heart Mate, the first time I tried to read it), Celta’s Heartmates has become one of my all-time favorite series. I look forward to the new book every year, and read it as soon as I get my hands on it.

As I did this year. In spite of the towering TBR pile, and reading commitments now stretching into February, I devoted one glorious day returning to Celta.

Celta is one of those places, like Pern (Anne McCaffrey), Darkover (Marion Zimmer Bradley) and Harmony (Jayne Castle) that sits right on the dividing line between fantasy and science fiction.

All of these series read like fantasy, where the residents have some kind of special powers – and of course Pern has dragons. But all of these worlds, including Celta, are lost Earth colonies, and their human residents arrived by spaceship sometime in the dim past of their planet. A dim past that they rediscover during the course of the series – or one that rediscovers them.

Celta and Pern are standouts in one particular aspect – they both feel liveable. These worlds are internally self-consistent, and, for lack of a better word, they both feel “real”. And they both feel like places where it would be not just possible, but actually reasonable, to live.

If only we could.

The Celta’s Heartmates series also features the best use of the fated mate trope I think I’ve ever seen. Some, but far from all, of the people of Celta have heartmates. And if they have them, they do discover who that person is during their rites of passage where they come into their “flair” (read as psychic or ESP) powers.

But the road is never easy.

Just because you know who your soulmate is, does not mean that the course of love will run smooth. There have been stories in the series where someone’s heartmate has died young, or where the protagonists just don’t have heartmates and have to make do with good, old-fashioned love.

The story in Heart Sight, however, is about two heartmates who are on a road that is filled with rocks, ruts and roadblocks, many of which have been put in place by Vinni T’Vine, the Oracle of Celta, all by himself. Unfortunately for him, the relationship that he’s messed up is his own, and his heartmate has finally called him on his manipulations and general oracular bullshit.

Because the one future that Vinni can’t see is his own. And the person most closely tied to that future is his heartmate Avellana. He can’t see her future, because he can’t see his. But he can sense when her future holds danger. Just not how much.

The story in Heart Sight is, in some ways, more Avellana’s than it is Vinni’s. Because Vinni has been an adult for some time, and has been the Oracle since he was six years old. He’s used to manipulating people for their “own good”.

But Avellana is supposed to be his partner in life and love. The one person that he should be able to confide in and lean on. And that can’t happen if he’s constantly sending her away “for her safety”. Or if he keeps thinking of her as weak and fragile. Because she is neither.

The only way to confront the danger is to face it, head on, together. And that’s the only way that they will have any future together worth having. Or any future at all.

Escape Rating A: I carried this around for a day, because I absolutely could not put it down. Even just five or ten minutes progress on “MORE STORY” was worth ignoring the rest of the world for.

One of the things I enjoy about Celta is that the place feels alive. Time passes, life moves on, things change. Readers first met Vinni when he had just inherited his title from his late grandmother, at the ripe old age of six. We’ve watched him grow up over the course of the series, always as a side character, sometimes significant, sometimes just a walk-on moment in someone else’s story, but always interesting.

Some of the other characters, Like T’Ash and Danith from Heart Mate, have matured into their powerful prime, while others, like many in the Holly Family, have gone from middle age to respected seniority.

The other part of the series that I love is that there is an overarching story of the changes and developments of Celtan society. The people are changing and their planet is changing them. There are forces that embrace those changes, and forces that are determined to fight those changes – with violence if necessary.

The danger that Avellana has faced all of her life is very real – and is part of that conflict. The arch-conservatives see her as an aberration that must be eliminated at all costs. And they don’t care how much collateral damage they do to get to Avellana. But, while the danger to Avellana was real and tied into the long-running conflict, the motives of the current avatar of those arch-conservatives strayed from being merely a dangerous enemy into downright nuckin’ futz. He was more dangerous – and more comprehensible – when he was thinking relatively clearly – even if that clear thinking was down a terrible path.

All in all, I am thrilled with my recent visit to Celta, and as always, I can’t wait to go back. The sooner, the better!

Review: Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Secrets in Death by J.D. RobbSecrets in Death (In Death, #45) by J.D. Robb
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Series: In Death #45
Pages: 370
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 5th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series: Lt. Eve Dallas must separate rumors from reality when a woman who traffics in other people’s secrets is silenced.

The chic Manhattan nightspot Du Vin is not the kind of place Eve Dallas would usually patronize, and it’s not the kind of bar where a lot of blood gets spilled. But that’s exactly what happens one cold February evening.

The mortally wounded woman is Larinda Mars, a self-described “social information reporter,” or as most people would call it, a professional gossip. As it turns out, she was keeping the most shocking stories quiet, for profitable use in her side business as a blackmailer. Setting her sights on rich, prominent marks, she’d find out what they most wanted to keep hidden and then bleed them dry. Now someone’s done the same to her, literally—with a knife to the brachial artery.

Eve didn’t like Larinda Mars. But she likes murder even less. To find justice for this victim, she’ll have to plunge into the dirty little secrets of all the people Larinda Mars victimized herself. But along the way, she may be exposed to some information she really didn’t want to know…

My Review:

Watching the trees whip back and forth in the wind, waiting out Tropical Storm Irma, I scrapped everything I was planning to read and went looking for comfort, for books that I knew would sweep me into their worlds from page one – because I’d been there many times before.

Lucky for me, I had a copy of Secrets in Death in the towering TBR pile, and I can always get caught up in Eve Dallas’ near future New York, whether any particular entry in the series is stellar, or as they sometimes are, just a visit with some very dear old friends.

Secrets in Death, while not quite at the top of the series, was a terrific way to kill a hurricane day by losing myself somewhere else.

As the story begins, Eve is having drinks with forensic anthropologist Garnet DeWinter at an upscale wine bar that Dallas normally wouldn’t be caught dead in, when a dead body literally drops into her lap – or at least dies in her arms. The DB (dead body) is instantly recognizable, not just to Eve and Garnet but to nearly everyone in New York City. Larinda Mars was a screen (read that as TV) gossip reporter with an ear for finding the worst dirt on the best people – or perhaps the other way around.

Even as little as Eve plugs into popular culture, she’s aware that there are plenty of people who will be happy to learn that the scum-sucker is dead – and that’s before Eve learns that Mars didn’t put all her best stories on the air. It turns out that the victim had a sideline, an extremely lucrative sideline, in blackmail.

Larinda Mars had plenty of victims. It’s all too easy for Eve to guess that one of those victims finally turned Mars into theirs. But which one? The line forms around the block, not just the block where Mars ostensibly lived, but also around the block where she hoarded her ill-gotten gains. She liked digging the dirt, she loved having people under her pwoer and she relished making enemies.

But she was incredibly good at judging her marks. Not just who would, and could, pay. But who would be willing to pay (and pay and pay) in order to protect not themselves, but to protect someone else that they loved. Because Larinda didn’t just go for current scandal. That was too easy. She specialized in combing through people’s pasts for secrets buried by decades. And if there wasn’t any current vulnerability, she was more than happy to manufacture evidence to link those scandals to the present.

Larinda Mars was scum. But now she’s Eve’s scum. And it’s up to Eve to find justice for the dead – even as the living cry out for their own.

Escape Rating B+: This was an absolutely delicious story. And more than a bit perverse in that deliciousness. Because, like Eve, the more we find out about Larinda Mars, the less sorry we are that she’s dead.

In order to discover the motive for Mars’ death, Eve has to wade through the deep shit (and there is no other word for it, crap does not even come close!) that made up her life. Mars had an absolute genius for discovering people who had something to hide. But hers was a peculiarly insidious type of genius, because she looked for especially vulnerable people whose secrets protected someone else.

She dies in the middle of one of her shakedowns. And we end up feeling much sorrier for her escaped victim than we do for her. And he’s just the tip of her very slimy iceberg.

A big part of the pleasure in this particular book is watching this disgusting woman’s empire of sleaze unravel. There’s a guilty pleasure in the whole investigation – at least until there’s a second victim. It’s only then that the reader, or possibly anyone investigating the cases, feels any regret. Mars was such a scum-sucker that it’s almost impossible not to see her death as some kind of divine retribution – or merely karma being an absolute bitch.

The second death is nothing like the first, but it does expose the murderer. And it’s a good thing that the story wraps up quickly at that point, because after all the glee of tearing down Mars, the takedown of the actual murderer is more than a bit anticlimactic – as is the individual.

Two final comments about Secrets in Death. This was the second book in a month where death was caused by severing the victim’s brachial artery. The first was in Thief’s Mark. For two books that have to have been in separate pipelines for several months if not years to use the same relatively uncommon (at least for fiction) cause of death was coincidental. But it bothered me until I remembered what the other book was.

Gossip columnists, and the damage they do, have been around a long time. That they would continue to be popular and hated in Eve Dallas’ near-future is not really a surprise. But there was something about this story that tickled an old memory, not related to the cause of death. If you’ve ever heard the song Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley, you’ll recognize all the things about gossip columnists that we love to hate. Some things look like they are never going to change. If you’ve never heard the song, I’ve included a parody video here that really plays up all the aspects of this kind of “news” that people love to hate. And while the video is a parody, the song in the background is the real song. Even though “Dirty Laundry” is now 35 years old, it still rings true. And probably will in Eve Dallas’ time.