Celebrity in Death

If Eve Dallas were of a more philosophical bent, she would have meditated on the “life imitates art imitates life” nature of her latest case in Celebrity in Death. But the character that J.D. Robb created over 30 books ago is all hard-nosed murder cop, and that’s why we love her adventures. That’s also why her multi-billionaire ex-criminal husband Roarke loves her too.

But Celebrity in Death is a story-within-a-story. And possibly several iterations beyond that.

For Eve, it’s only been a couple of years since she cracked the Icove case. Dr. Wilfred Icove tried to beat death by cloning human beings, and died for his sins, and his secrets (Origin in Death). The case was so high-profile, and so scandalous, that Eve’s friend and go-to reporter, Natalie Furst, was able to make a best-seller out of her book on the inside story. That book, The Icove Agenda, is being filmed in New York, and the producers want to get all the real-life principals to interact with their actor-counterparts.

The resemblances are eerie, at least the physical ones. Especially when the makeup is in place and the camera is running. But off-camera, the differences are glaring. One difference in particular–Detective Delia Peabody is a genuinely nice woman, but the actress portraying her, K.T. Harris, is an absolute bitch.

Eve Dallas always stands for the dead, whether they are likeable or not. So when K.T. is murdered in the middle of a dinner party Eve is attending for all the movie people and all the original participants in the drama, Eve dives into the hunt for her killer. But not until after she shakes off that cold shiver at seeing a dead ringer for her partner dead in a pool.

At first there are too many suspects, and too few. Everyone detested the dead woman, but no one remembers who left the party and when, because the entire group was watching the movie “gag reel” at the time of death.

As events unfold, Eve discovers that K.T. Harris was both victim and victimized in her life. And although Eve sees the similarities to herself, she doesn’t sympathize much. K.T. made her choices, and they were all the wrong ones.

The case takes a surprising twist, and there are more dead for Eve to stand up for than she expected. But that’s what Eve Dallas does, every time.

Escape Rating B+: While I enjoyed this one, it wasn’t as riveting as New York to Dallas (see review), or my personal favorite, Fantasy in Death.

The dynamics of the cop shop are as much fun as ever. The scene where Dallas and Feeney have to watch a recording of a suspect couple’s private moments to determine whether or not it was tampered with is priceless. Their mutual embarrassment is just so perfect for their relationship.

This story didn’t ratchet up the tension the way that the stories normally do. There isn’t a lot of death, and there just doesn’t seem to be a lot at stake for most of the participants. While a lot of people involved are being bribed, few seem to be getting blackmailed. Something is missing.

Only in mystery fiction do we go looking for more death. But for my taste this story needed a couple more fresh corpses to give it body.


When I think about love stories…

Today is Valentine’s Day and everyone is thinking about love stories.

Not necessarily romance novels, mind you, but love stories. The stories that last. The ones that endure.

We all have them, names that instantly spring to mind when someone mentions the word love.

The names “Romeo and Juliet” always invoke the image of star-crossed lovers. Shakespeare’s story lives for the ages. It’s ironic that one of the best known images of romance is about a love story that ends tragically.

I’d prefer to look at three of my favorite fictional couples whose pages I return to because they either end happily, or they show no sign of ending at all.

I’ve never made any secret of following the adventures of Eve Dallas and Roarke. One of the things I enjoy most about the series is that the stories show a strong relationship between a married couple that continues to throw off hot sexual sparks well after they tie the knot. The author has managed to make married life interesting. If this were a TV series, the wedding would have ended the show. But with Eve and Roarke, the continued influx of homicide investigations into her squad room just means more interesting cases for Eve to solve–and more peeks into Eve and Roarke’s evolving relationship. Readers still don’t know the man’s first name, but we continue to be fascinated, 33 books and counting. Celebrity in Death, book 34 is coming on February 21. I’m already planning to stay up and read it.

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was not initially marketed as a romance. It was sold as historical fiction, and considering the amount of research that goes into each volume of the series, that’s probably the right place for it. Yet the core of the stories (7 doorstop sized books and counting) is the century-spanning love story of Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall. Claire is the daughter of the 20th century, and Jamie the son of Scotland in the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Yet magic, or fate, brings them together.

While I enjoy the story of Jamie and Claire’s first romance, it’s not what draws me back. My copy of Voyager opens automatically to Part Six, Chapter 24. I’ve read over and over the part where Claire takes her courage, and her life, in both hands and risks the standing stones to go back to Jamie, back two centuries in time, knowing that he survived the disaster at Culloden, but having no idea what changes the intervening 20 years have wrought in his life. All she knows is that she must tell him that he has a daughter. But  she really wants to be his wife again, and has no clue whether he still loves her as she has never stopped loving him.

My other favorite is from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. Again, this is historical fiction of the intensely researched and amazingly complicated school. The Lymond Chronicles are about a young man named Francis Crawford of Lymond, the second son of the Earl of Midculter and his wife Lady Sybilla. Francis Crawford is many things over the course of the six books of this saga, an outlaw and a spy and a mercenary and a drug addict and a diplomat and a fool. But always he is a Scottish patriot at a time when Scotland was a small and independent country playing her chief rivals, France and England, off against each other in the hopes of retaining that independence. In the mid-1500’s, that time was running out.

Crawford commits crimes and treasons, both great and small, in the service of his country. He lives his life believing that the ends always justify the means and he never counts the cost to his own soul. Until near the end of his story, when he finally discovers that there is a woman who has grown to be his equal. Philippa Somerville set herself the task of cleaning up Crawford’s messes and tending to his victims almost ten years previously, and has been following him around Europe ever since he wrongly accused her father of betraying him.

But when they started, Philippa was a precocious 12-year-old, and Crawford was only 19. Both of them much too young for Crawford to declare at 29 that it was too late for him to love anyone. That he had seen too much and done too much for him to be worthy of love, or of being loved. Three scenes I come back to, over and over. The one in The Ringed Castle where Crawford realizes that Philippa is not the child he remembers, but a woman who has played music for kings and comforted queens, and is fully his equal, and that he loves her. Then he returns to his home and locks all his feelings away because he feels unworthy.  The night of the rooftop chase in Checkmate, when Philippa realizes that she loves Lymond, and feels rejected because she offered to share friendship, and he turns from her when she shows that she feels more. And last but not least, the conclusion at the end of Checkmate, when the prophecy from the opening of The Game of Kings is fulfilled.

Lymond was prophesied that he want two things, one he would have, and one he would not, nor was it right that he should. The answers are love, and his birthright. The story is everything.

What are your favorite love stories for Valentine’s Day?


12 for 2012: My most anticipated books in 2012

It’s very difficult to figure out what books I’m looking forward to most in 2012. I mean when I started to look at lists, I realized that most of what I was anticipating were the next books in series, or new books from authors I already knew. But when I looked at the list of my best reads from this past year, most of them turned out to be authors who were new to me. It’s a puzzle, isn’t it?

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the series books that I read. I certainly did. But it’s the discoveries that turned out to be the most memorable. Maybe that’s because they were such surprises.

Just the same, these are the books I am planning to stalk NetGalley for review copies. And if I can’t get a review copy? Well, then I’ll just have to buy a copy and review it anyway. There’s even a reading challenge about reading one book a month just for fun!

But the books I’m looking for in 2012 are…drumroll, please!

When Maidens Mourn by C.S. Harris will be the next book in her Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series. What Angels Fear is the first book, and St. Cyr is a detective of the amateur and aristocratic variety. He should be the hero of a Regency romance, and in other circumstances, he might have been. But his service in Wellington’s army has left him much too tormented for that. His personal life makes him a tragic hero; the demons that drive him make him an ideal detective, if only to keep him from becoming a criminal. March can’t come soon enough on this.

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb. This is Eve Dallas’ 34th outing. I’ve read all of them. Usually in one sitting. I still can’t figure out how she does it, but Robb/Roberts does it really, really well. This book means there will be one warm night in February.

Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow. I think I will always have a fondness for Alaska stories. Heck, I still tell Alaska stories, and it’s been 6 years now since I left Anchorage. But living in Alaska is something that changed my perspective, probably forever. The situations Dana writes about in her novels are always a tiny bit familiar, even the ones set in the Bush. Because Alaska is possibly the world’s biggest small town, and there weren’t six degrees of separation, there were three at most. Even for cheechakos like us. Dana writes damn good mysteries, but I always read them for a taste of the place we almost called home.

Master and God by Lindsey Davis. I love Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco series. The whole idea of a hard-boiled detective operating in Imperial Rome has always been utterly delicious. And Falco’s wife Helena Justina is made of awesome. Master and God is not a Falco book. It’s historical fiction set in the same time period. Davis wrote one other work of historical fiction set during the Falco period, The Course of Honor. I read it years ago and it was fantastic. If Master and God is half as good, it will be well worth reading. Come to think of it, I hope people re-discover The Course of Honor. It was incredibly good and I don’t think it got half the attention it deserved.

The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green. This one has been teasing me every time I look at Amazon. The recommender can figure out I want to read this, so it sorta/kinda looks like it’s available, but it’s not. January 3, 2012. Come on already. For those fans of the Nightside, John Taylor is finally going to marry his long-suffering (in more ways than one) girlfriend, Suzie Shooter. He just has one last job to finish up before he meets her at the altar. But no job in the Nightside is ever easy, especially not for John Taylor.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. This sounds like it’s going to be really cool. And really, really funny. And yes, the redshirts in the title are those redshirts. Like in Star Trek. The ones that always get killed at the beginning of the mission. What happens if a bunch of them figure it out? And decide that they are not going to let it happen to them? This sounds like something only Scalzi could possibly do justice to. In June, we’ll all find out.

An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson is the next installment in her series, Theirs Not to Reason Why. I loved the first book, A Soldier’s Duty (reviewed here), and I can’t wait to see where Johnson next leads her time-travelling heroine, Io, in her quest to save the human race from utter extinction. July 31 is way too far away for this one.

Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz. I knew that someday the Krentz was going to link the Victorian era Arcane Society of her Amanda Quick novels to her contemporary Jones & Jones psychic investigations to her futuristic romances under her Jayne Castle pseudonym. I read them all, but the links make for an added twist that I love. In January Copper Beach starts a new subseries, Dark Legacy.

Crystal Gardens is the start of a second subseries, Ladies of Lantern Street, that Krentz is starting in April under her Amanda Quick name. That means it’s a Victorian era story, at least for the first book. All of the Arcane Society books, both contemporary and Victorian, have been excellent romantic suspense.

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh is the 11th book in her Psy-Changelings series, and the first to be published in hardcover. Although her Archangel series hasn’t wowed me, the psy-changeling books have never failed to please. I only wish that the release date was earlier than May. And I wish the US version had a better cover. The UK cover is awesome. (UK on left, US on right.)

Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I want to go back to Liaden. I want to catch up on the books in between (there are several) that I haven’t read, and I want to finally find out how things are going. Liaden is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, space opera science fiction romance universes of all time. Dragon Ship is due Labor Day. I think I have enough time to get caught up. It will be so worth it.

This last book is an absolute flyer. It sounds really cool, but who knows.

The Yard by Alex Grecian. What if, after Scotland Yard failed to capture Jack the Ripper, they started a Murder Squad? 12 detectives specifically charged with investigating the thousands of murders in foggy, grimy, crime-filled London. How much luck would they have? When one of their own is murdered, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist is put on the track of the killer. I love historic mysteries, and this sounds very, very cool. In May, I’ll find out.


These are the books I’m looking forward to this year. I wonder how many will end up on my “best books of 2012” list.

What are your most anticipated books for 2012?

Chasing Silver

Chasing Silver by Jamie Craig is a time travel romance of the very hot and steamy variety. I really liked the gutsy heroine who, as she says, “doesn’t do damsel”, and the hero who hasn’t let himself feel anything in way too long. The device that started the whole time-travelling jaunt in the first place, well, let’s hope there’s more explanation for that in book two (or three) of the Silver Maiden trilogy.

The year is 2085. Remy Capra is running for her life from Kirsten Henryk, Senator Henryk’s daughter and paranoid enforcer. Kirsten does have something to enforce in Remy’s case. Remy is a gang member and small-time thief, and Remy has just stolen something important from the Senator’s house in DC: one of the coins known as a Silver Maiden. In what Remy was sure were the last seconds of her life, Remy clutched the coin as wished for safety.

The year is 2010. Nathan Pierce, ex-cop and bounty hunter, is in a warehouse in Culver City, chasing down a bounty jumper known as Tian. He almost has him, when a severely injured woman falls out of the sky, raining blood, glass and small explosions. His bounty escapes, and Nate is left with Remy Capra bleeding all over him, trying to pretend she isn’t so wounded she can barely stand.

Neither of them wants to go to the cops. Nate’s lost his bounty. Again. Remy has no ID in 2010. She won’t even be born for 50 more years. And she doesn’t know yet whether Kirsten is still after her or whether she has a chance to make a fresh start. Neither of them starts out willing to trust the other, even a little bit. Nate was set up and betrayed by the last woman he trusted. Remy is a child of the gangs in the DC she comes from. And would anyone believe her story? But their attraction to each other proves stronger than their doubts and fears.

When Kirsten does follow Remy, using another Silver Maiden coin as passage back in time, Nate, Remy and Nate’s partner Isaac must set aside all their misgivings about each other and their past, whenever that past might have been, in order to fight for a chance, any chance, at any future at all.

Escape Rating C: This story was either too long, or too short. On the one hand, we don’t get enough about why Kirsten was so gung-ho to wipe Remy out. There was definitely some old, bad blood between those too, but we don’t know enough. There was something personal on Kirsten’s part. Remy was trying to survive.

I empathized with both Remy and Nate as characters. They had both been to dark places, and they understood that about each other. They had a chance to make each other better, but neither was made out of sweetness and light. And they wouldn’t have worked together if they had been.

I’m very glad that one of the later books is Isaac’s story. He deserves a happy ending of his own. And I really want to know what his deal is.

The reason I said the books might be too short is that the legend of the Silver Maiden coins, what they do, why they do it, how they work, who knows about them, is still unclear at the end of the book. Remy and Kirsten both made them work. The coin reacts to Nate. Gabriel, another baddie, knows about them. But the readers need more details!

On the other hand, the reason the books might be too long is that there are probably too many detailed sex scenes. I had to think about why I thought this. Romance is interesting, because it’s a story. How did they meet? How long did they resist the attraction? What made them give in? Unresolved sexual tension is interesting because how and why they resist is a story. The first time a couple kisses or has sex or makes love in a romance is note-worthy. Possibly even the second time, since it should be different. In a story, the first time there are emotions involved and not just body parts is definitely note-worthy. Break-up and make-up sex, but because of the emotions, not the “tab a goes into slot b”, no matter how you dress it up, or undress it.

The only romance writer who has been able to successfully write an unlimited number of sex scenes involving the same two partners is J.D. Robb. And only because she talks more about how Dallas and Roarke feel than about what they do.

New York to Dallas

Just let me say this up front. I love Eve Dallas and Roarke. I’ve read every single book, and I think every short story.

I have 30 books I’m supposed to review between now and the end of January. I told myself I had plenty of other stuff I should be reading. And I couldn’t stop myself from buying J.D. Robb’s New York to Dallas last night. And finishing it. Last night. I’m amazed I waited two whole days to get the book.

The …In Death series are super books. Both in the sense of “you’ve got to read this book” and in the sense of “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!”.

Why? Because all the books contain three genres successfully mashed into a single story. Every book, from Naked in Death to the very latest, is a police procedural, and a pretty cozy one at that. A crime is committed, usually a murder. Eve Dallas, a homicide cop, and her team eventually solve the crime. Eve uses the policies and procedures that cops use. She investigates the crime. She follows the law. She interviews witnesses. Forensic evidence is collected and examined. This should sound familiar, it is the staple of every crime show and every mystery novel from Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie to Law and Order.

Eve has a team. Every member of her team has a role to play. Feeney is her mentor. Peabody is her plucky young assistant. Mira is the motherly figure. Mavis is the best friend. As readers, we come to care about Eve’s team, her surrogate family. We read the books because we want to know what happens to them as they grow and change.

Then there’s Roarke. The ongoing romantic relationship between Eve and Roarke is an amazing literary accomplishment. Most romantic series “jump the shark” when the primary couple resolves the romantic tension. But not Eve and Roarke. New York to Dallas is the 33rd book in the series, and their relationship is just as hot as it was in Naked in Death, the first book. They know they are lucky, and as readers, we experience it with them. They fight like tigers, sometimes to the point of drawing blood, but it’s still exciting to watch.

And, lest we forget, this series is also futuristic. The year is 2060, not 2011. The world has changed, both for the better and for the worse. Mankind has colonized the Moon and Mars and created off-planet havens. Droids serve as personal servants. But there was a cost for all of this progress–the Urban Wars that occur sometime between our now and Eve’s. The Wars are by no means a distant memory, no more than the tensions of the Vietnam Era are to us.

In New York to Dallas, Eve’s career comes full circle, and that circle intersects with the shadows of her own past. When she was a rookie, she arrested a predatory pedophile named Isaac McQueen. She was observant, and she was lucky. And Eve knew what he was because she’d been the victim of someone just like him. She saved 22 girls from a monster. The monster got life in prison. And Eve was found by Feeney, who recognized that she was meant to be a cop. He transferred her to Homicide Division, and her life began.

Escape Rating A: If you’ve read the rest of the series, read this one now. If you haven’t, and you’ve always meant to, get Naked in Death, and start now.