Sunday, 3 July 2016

#CBR8 Books 65-67: "Salvation in Death", "Ritual in Death" and "Promises in Death" by J.D. Robb

Total page count: 912 pages
Salvation in Death - 3.5 stars
Ritual in Death - 3 stars
Promises in Death - 4 stars

It's that time of year again, when I decide to check in on Lt. Eve Dallas and her unbelievably wealthy and gorgeous husband Roarke. Just like a long-running TV show with characters and a setting I enjoy, these books are perfect vacation reading for me.

Salvation in Death - A Catholic priest is poisoned with sacramental wine during the funeral of one of the communities best-loved senior citizens. There are tons of witnesses and initially, it seems impossible that anyone could have anything against the popular and civic-minded father Miguel Flores. Then, across town, a hugely successful tele-evangelist is collapses on stage during one of his huge shows at Madison Square Garden. Are the murders connected, or is there a copycat at large? Can Dallas get over her discomfort with organised religion and genuine faith and discover who the murder (or murderers) are?

While the initial premise of this book was really cool, I thought the unravelling of the murder plot just took too long in this book. The motive for the killings is revealed before we're even halfway through the book and far too much time is spent just getting the guilty parties lured into confessing. I got bored waiting for the final act to really get going.

Ritual in Death - Eve Dallas and her multi-gazillionaire husband are at a swanky party with one of his society friends in one of his many New York hotels. Suddenly a naked man staggers in, clearly disorientated, covered in blood and clutching a knife. Eve traces the bloody footprints to another hotel suite, where they find a young woman clearly murdered in what appears to be intended as a Satanic ritual of some sort. The suite shows clear signs that quite the raucous party with food, drugs, wine and sex took place before the festivities were finished off with a spot of sexual assault and murder. The blood-covered man remembers absolutely nothing and has clearly been heavily drugged. As the crime scene is one of Roarke's properties and the security has been compromised, he is just as invested in having the crime solved quickly and the murderers apprehended as his wife.

There are hints of supernatural elements in this novella, as Roarke, initially going against the wishes of his wife, calls on a former flame, a woman who practises witchcraft in order to figure out who is responsible for the grisly murder. As this is a novella, the plot moves a lot more quickly than in the novels, and there is less of a presence from the supporting cast, with the notable exception of Dr. Mira, who helps Eve try to get through to the various individuals who may be able to shed light on the situation, but who have all been drugged into oblivion.

Promises in Death - Amaryllis Coltraine, a cop recently transferred to New York from Atlanta, and Chief Medical Examiner Morris' current girlfriend is found murdered in the basement of her apartment building. The murder of a cop is always something that shakes everyone involved, but for Dallas, who has to break the news personally to her good friend, it becomes imperative that she track down the person or persons responsible. As she and Peabody investigate Ammy Coltraine's murder, they discover connections between her past and that of Eve and Roarke. Coltraine's former lover, currently conveniently visiting New York, is the son of Max Ricker, a man currently serving multiple life sentences on a prison colony off world thanks to Lt. Dallas and her husband. Is the son as dangerous and corrupt as his father, or is his presence in the city just a coincidence?

While Coltraine had only been mentioned as a supporting character in a few of the preceding books, Morris has been one of the long-running secondary cast, and his burgeoning romance had been given some attention. To make the book even more sad, the prologue is from Coltaine's POV, as she leaves her flat for the last time, going to meet her murderer, and it's quite clear that she's happy and in love, making Morris' loss all the more tragic. Eve, Roarke, Peabody and the other regular character have to do their very best to try to comfort their friend in his time of need, while also investigating the murder of his girlfriend.

Because of the emotional connection to Morris and the way the murder felt personal to everyone involved, this book really affected me and although I couldn't remember Max Ricker at all (which isn't all that surprising, as I read the book he featured in nearly six years ago and never bothered to review it), it was clear that he was a pretty loathsome character and the question of whether his son was a chip of the the old block worked fine even if I couldn't recall who the father was or what exactly he had done.

Having now glommed three In Death stories in a row, I think I've satisfied my romance/sci-fi/mystery itch for this round. I'm ready for something different again now.

Judging a book by its cover: Because the In Death books invariably have pretty identical covers (the top bit in one solid cover with the author's name prominently displayed - the middle bit a solid black bar with the title of the book - X in Death - and the lower part comprising a number of random mystery/suspense elements that may or may not fit the theme of the novel), this is all you're getting. The covers are so formulaic that commenting on them isn't really much fun. I can tell you that on Salvation in Death, the top bit of the cover is purple, Ritual in Death is a novella, so it doesn't even get its own cover and Salvation in Death as you can see, is a sort of reddish coral.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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