Sunday 11 May 2014

#CBR6 Book 48: "Innocent in Death" by J.D. Robb

Page count: 385 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is book 24 in the In Death series. I wouldn't recommend starting with this one, although if you're interested in plot summaries of earlier ones, I've reviewed most of the previous ones on the blog.

Craig Foster is planning a history quiz for his pupils at a New York private school while having lunch, and dies horribly from ricin poisoning at his desk. The two schoolgirls who find his dead body are deeply traumatised. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her partner Delia Peabody have to figure out who could possibly have wanted the young and seemingly universally popular dead. As they start investigating the staff and various parents, they discover a number of juicy secrets that Foster may have been privy to, but none of them seem to be bad enough that someone would murder a man. Then a second body is found in the school, and the hunt for the killer has to be intensified.

It doesn't help that Dallas' attention is divided. Blonde bombshell Magdalena Purcell, one of Roarke's former lovers, is certainly no innocent. Recently divorced, she's back in town, allegedly seeking investment advice from her old friend, and Eve, who is normally never suffers from jealousy or doubts, is shaken to discover that this woman gets under her skin like no other. Roarke seems completely blind to the woman's manipulation, and keeps getting more and more furious that Eve's trust in him is waning. Yet Eve can't rest easy, and as the sultry Magdalena keeps popping up, the tensions in her marriage keep rising.

My records show that I only read a single In Death book last year. I find them deeply comforting, like an episode of a procedural I've followed for years, but I can only read a few at a time, before they get too samey. I know what I can expect from the books and they tend to be quick and entertaining reads, following the same formula. Eve will work hard and doggedly to track down murderers, getting cranky and baffled by strong emotions or perfectly normal social conventions. Peabody and McNab will flirt and make her uncomfortable because of their PDAs. Peabody will be overly focused on food and her figure, but also provide an important stabilising influence on Eve. McNab will wear outrageous clothes. Roarke will be devastatingly gorgeous as always, insist on dressing and one or several of his business interests will be involved in the case in some way as he knows most of the known world. Summerset and Eve will quibble. Mavis will be bubbly, outrageous and colourful. Dr. Mira will be calm and give Eve wise professional and motherly personal advice. The mysterious candy thief will probably have stolen one of Eve's candy bars. I'll keep getting annoyed that Pepsi apparently has a soft drink monopoly in the future.

What was different in this book was the tension introduced in Eve and Roarke's marriage. Normally Eve has no cause for jealousy, despite knowing that Roarke had lovers before he met her. Yet Magdalena is clearly a manipulative piece of work, and masterfully plays the spouses against each other. It doesn't help Eve's worries that Summerset, normally her nemesis, steps forward to warn her, claiming that Roarke never had the ability to see the way the scheming con artist played him, and the fact that she possibly broke his heart will make him all the more vulnerable to his whiles now. Because the characters in the book feel like old friends, I obviously didn't like that they were unhappy, but while the books should follow a familiar pattern, they need to shake it up a bit occasionally, or the series would become unbearable. Janet Evanovich, I'm looking at you.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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