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
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
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.

Review: Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Echoes in Death by J.D. RobbEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #44
Pages: 384
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

This chilling new suspense novel from #1
New York Times
bestselling author J.D. Robb is the perfect entry point into the compelling In Death police procedural series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas.
As NY Lt. Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke are driving home, a young woman—dazed, naked, and bloody—suddenly stumbles out in front of their car. Roarke slams on the brakes and Eve springs into action.
Daphne Strazza is rushed to the ER, but it’s too late for her husband Dr. Anthony Strazza. A brilliant orthopedic surgeon, he now lies dead amid the wreckage of his obsessively organized town house, his three safes opened and emptied. Daphne would be a valuable witness, but in her terror and shock the only description of the perp she can offer is repeatedly calling him “the devil”...
While it emerges that Dr. Strazza was cold, controlling, and widely disliked, this is one case where the evidence doesn’t point to the spouse. So Eve and her team must get started on the legwork, interviewing everyone from dinner-party guests to professional colleagues to caterers, in a desperate race to answer some crucial questions:
What does the devil look like? And where will he show up next?

My Review:

Although the In Death series is as far from a cozy mystery series as it is possible for mystery to get, I still read them for the same reason that I keep up with some of the cozies. I love the cast and crew, and want to check in and see how everyone is doing. Especially Galahad, the big grey cat.

Sometimes the mystery is enthralling or chilling or captivating or all of the above. And sometimes I just get the chance to hang out with the gang for a while. This particular installment of the series turned out to be one of the “hang out with the gang” types.

And that’s not a bad thing.

The case in this story starts out fairly spectacularly. Dallas and Roarke, on their way home from a late dinner party, almost run over a young naked woman in the middle of a blizzard. She’s bloody, bruised, incoherent and hypothermic, but that’s not all. She’s also the victim of a home invasion, where she was raped and her husband was murdered. Which makes her case Eve’s case, and brings a whole bunch of skeletons out of a whole bunch of closets. Not just for poor Daphne Strazza, but also for Eve.

This is one of those cases that tests the motto of Eve’s homicide department. They stand for everyone who is murdered, even the assholes. And Dr. Anthony Strazza was definitely an asshole. He may have been a brilliant surgeon, but he seems to have had the worst “life-side manner” on record. No one had a nice word to say about him. Not his colleagues, not his patients.

And his widow is obviously still scared to death of the bastard, and was so obviously abused by him. If she weren’t such a wreck, she’s be the obvious suspect. And if this wasn’t at least the third in a string of similar, equally heinous, crimes.

This is just the first time that the perpetrator has escalated to murder. But it won’t be the last, and everyone knows it.

But Eve’s objectivity has a few cracks in this one. She sees too much of her abused child self in Daphne, and too much of her cruel and abusive father in Anthony Strazza. And she’s right on all counts. Which never stands in her way. Nothing ever does.

Escape Rating B: I enjoyed spending time with the gang again. And I always like watching Dallas and company do their cop thing, running through the evidence and making the case against the killer.

secrets in death by jd robbBut this was one of their outings where I figured out who done it much, much too early. And once I knew who it had to be, a lot of the work of catching the sick bastard became anticlimactic. I did enjoy watching Eve bait him into a cage and kick the door shut behind him. Watching her wrap a suspect up in his own knots is always fun.

And Galahad’s antics always make me laugh. Eve and Roarke’s byplay about and with the cat will be familiar to anyone owned by a feline.

I already have an ARC of the next book in the series, Secrets in Death. I’m looking forward to another trip to Eve’s New York in few short months.

Review: Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Apprentice in Death by J.D. RobbApprentice in Death (In Death, #43) by J.D. Robb
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, large print, papaerback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, thriller
Series: In Death #43
Pages: 375
Published by Berkley on September 6th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Lieutenant Eve Dallas returns in a fast-paced new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author J. D. Robb. 
Nature versus nurture...
  The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.
Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.
Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

My Review:

This was not the book I planned to review today, but I caught a cold and found myself looking for a book that would suck me in and keep me glued to the page from first to last. I needed something that would take me effortlessly out of myself for a few hours. So I listened to the siren song in my stuffed up head and bought a copy of the new In Death book. I’m always happy to catch up with my favorite futuristic cop shop, whether the mystery is a winner or merely a sideshow. I like these people and am always happy to see how they are all doing. Especially Galahad.

The case in this one has a tiny bit of a ripped from the headlines feel, even though the book takes place in a fictionalized 2062. The NYPSD finds itself hunting for an LDSK who is attempting to cover their agenda with collateral damage – a tactic that only leads to more bodies and more clues for Eve and company to investigate.

The acronym LDSK is in use today, in our early 21st century world. And it’s a shame and a sadness that it needs to exist at all. An LDSK is a Long Distance Serial Killer – someone who sets up in a sniper’s nest and picks off their targets from long-range. This is never an opportunistic crime, because it takes weeks and months of planning to scout out and secure potential nests. In order to shoot accurately at such extreme ranges calls for the coldest of cold blood.

The police work in this case involves sorting the tiny grains of wheat from mountains of chaff.

There are very few people who are capable of the hit at the Central Park Ice Rink that opens this story. Three shots, three victims, from high above and more than a mile away. The shooter has to have used a long-range tactical rifle. The skills to use one and the ability to obtain one narrow the possible field. The shooter was either current or former military, police or professional assassin.

Or trained by one of the above.

In a city of urban high-rises and urban density like New York (the city hasn’t changed much in the intervening decades), isolating the sniper’s nest comes down to finding one perfect needle among hundreds of haystacks. Even with the assistance of Roarke’s fancy IT skills, there is still a lot of pavement pounding and door-knocking involved.

A lucky break gets them a suspect. Two suspects. And the race is on to catch the killer before they kill again. And again. But not again.

Escape Rating A-: I’m probably a bit prejudiced about this one. I needed something like this to take me away from my snotty nose and constant cough, and it blissfully did the job for five hours or so. Consider me grateful.

While Roarke’s IT skills help shorten the door knocking and pavement pounding, in the end it is good police work that solves this case, and it feels like the kind of police work that could feature in an early 21st century police procedural just as well as a mid-21st century one.

Search for links among the multiple victims. Figure out what, and who, they had in common. Find the nest. Dig for witnesses, and pray it doesn’t involve any actual digging. Search for a motive, even a twisted one. Keep an open mind so that the clues lead to the killer rather than an assumption about the killer leading to the clues.

And all the while, keep the team together as the chase goes on, the pressure mounts and the body count goes up.

naked in death by J.D. RobbWhat I love about this series, whether the individual case is thrilling or good or just ho hum, is the team and family-of-choice that has gathered around Eve and Roarke, both because of who they are and sometimes in spite of what Eve in particular says she wants. For a woman who began her story in Naked in Death with very little except the job, she has created a surprisingly large circle of people who she loves and who love her in return. Her constant surprise, occasional consternation and unexpected joy that this is so always warms the heart.

This is one of those cases where Eve sees herself in the killer. There but for the grace of God might have gone Eve, and it is something that haunts her frequently.

This is also a case about mentorship and fatherhood, whether surrogate or biological. What makes one man choose to warp his child beyond humanity? What makes one man pick one someone out of the pack to be child, student and legacy? So as Eve chases the killer, she finds herself looking at the relationships in her own life. What made Feeney pick her out of the sea of cops, all those years ago, and help shape her into the officer she is? What made Summerset pick Roarke, and let them save each other? And what made her choose Peabody?

And how the hell did she escape from what her father tried to make her? And why didn’t this killer?

echoes in death by jd robb These are the kind of questions that keep this reader coming back for more. I can’t wait for Echoes in Death, coming in February. A hot book to warm a chilly winter’s night.

Review: Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Brotherhood in Death by J.D. RobbBrotherhood in Death (In Death, #42) by J.D. Robb
Format: ebook
Source: borrowed from library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: futuristic, mystery, romantic suspense
Series: In Death #42
Pages: 388
Published by Berkley on February 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy...
Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.
Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.
As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

My Review:

I thought I would be able to resist reading this until I had a break in the schedule. Who was I kidding?

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I love this series as whole, but there are some entries in it that I like more than others. Brotherhood in Death was definitely one of the better entries in the series, because of the way that the minor detour into the angst factory is handled this time around.

In this story, both Eve and Roarke’s ties to the victims, and the reason that it drags up crap from Eve’s crappy childhood, are integral to the story and don’t feel “tacked on” for either dramatic or emotional effect.

Eve gets dragged into this case because one of her favorite people in the world, Dr. Charlotte Mira’s husband Dennis Mira, is coshed over the head when he drops in to unexpectedly visit his powerful arsehole cousin. Dennis gets knocked out and abandoned in the family house that he and cousin Edward are fighting over, and cousin Edward is missing.

Cousin Edward is Edward Mira, retired Senator Edward Mira, retired Judge Edward Mira, and no one seems to have any sympathy for the bastard, including his cousin. Dennis mourns the boy Edward used to be, while having little or nothing to do with the man he’s become. Which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t call on Eve to investigate whatever happened, because his last sight of his cousin included a black eye and other evidence of beating and/or torture. And Edward was known to have accumulated plenty of enemies in his high-profile life, both as a Senator and sitting on the bench. There were lots of potential motives for offing him, including the fact that he (and his bitch of a wife) were both pieces of work in the pejorative sense.

Eve’s not surprised when Edward’s body turns up back in the house later, swinging by the neck from a handy chandelier. The only surprise is the sign attached to the body, proclaiming that, “Justice is Served”. Eve immediately starts questioning, “served by whom?” and “for what?”

From there it’s off to the races. It’s Eve’s case to solve, and she is resolved to solve it, even as she discovers that digging into Edward Mira’s life uncovers a slime pit that begins to have all too many resemblances to Eve’s own story.

Edward and his “brothers” at Yale suffered from a really, really horrific case of affluenza. And their victims have come back to make them suffer for the crimes they were never punished for – with every single bit of painful flourish that “the Brotherhood” inflicted on them.

It’s not every case where Eve is looking to arrest both the perpetrators and the victims, but in this one, she’ll relish it.

Escape Rating A-: As much as I enjoyed this book, it should probably come with trigger warnings. Delving into the motives for the killers forces Eve to relive her own horrific experiences, even as it makes her grateful for the people who have come into her life to sway her from the same path that these serial killer took.

I’ll confess that the scene where Eve barks out just how grateful she is to have Peabody in her life almost made me blubber as much as Peabody does while hearing it.

Part of the reason that I love this series so much, even through some of the less successful entries, is that I really like these people. I would be happy to have coffee or a drink with almost every single member of Eve’s team, with the exception of Chief Tech Dickie “Dickhead” Berenski. The team atmosphere in this series reminds me very much of the way that the team works in NCIS.

But this story does have a great deal of angst in it. And unlike some of the other occasions, this is a story where the angst is appropriate, and on Eve’s side is dealt with in a way that helps her continue to process her past and move on with her present and future.

This is a case where everyone, but especially Eve, has a tremendous amount of empathy for the perpetrators, and absolutely none for the victims. There are points early on where Eve is almost angry that she has to stand for victims who were frankly a bunch of arseholes even before their true crimes are uncovered. But she still does her job and does it excellently. In the end, as much as she empathizes with the killers, she is also angry with them for not even attempting to let the system work for them.

And Eve is absolutely right. “If every day started off with sex and waffles, people would maybe be less inclined to kill each other.” Which would be a pity, because without those gruesome murders, we wouldn’t have this marvelous series.