Friday, April 5, 2013

Calculated In Death by J.D. Robb

Publisher - Piatkus
Format - Hardcover
ISBN - 9780749959340

This particular volume is number 36 in what has to be one of the most successful sequences ever.  JD Robb is the pseudonym of worldwide publishing phenomenon Nora Roberts, who is surely one of the most prolific authors there ever was or will be.  The 'In Death' sequence has been going since 1995, and has averaged about 2 books a year since then, with numerous short stories in between, an astonishing feat when you consider that there are also one or two books she brings out as Nora Roberts each year as well.

Each story is a Police Procedural/Romance novel centred around Eve Dallas, a New York Homicide cop and her gazillionaire husband Roarke.  I started reading them around 10 years ago, and you'd think that the format, characters etc... would get stale, but they aren't.  Alongside the murder investigation plot Eve and Roarke have faced numerous demons from their past.  The murders in each story are gruesome, imaginative and often keep you guessing for a long time, and it's also nice to break with the norm of a romance novel, by following the same characters and seeing the relationships grow and deepen.
In this story an Auditor is murdered during an apparent (badly disguised) mugging.  In my day job I'm a software consultant, so I was all over this plot...  There is a subplot too about the premiere of a movie that was based on one of Eve's earlier cases which plays alongside, and gives us the personal relationships between Eve, Roarke and their friends and colleagues.  It looks like Eve is finally dealing with her past, and I'm looking forward to book 37, due later this year.

What I liked most:  The running around trying to figure out whodunnit, piecing together of the evidence (what there is of it).

What I liked least:  A few things if I'm honest...
  1. In the earlier books a lot of investigative work would be done to gather evidence and leave no stone unturned. Every effort would be made to be certain that there was no way the murderer could wriggle out of their punishment.  In this story we know too much too early on, and Eve seems to be working on instinct, not purely on the evidence.  Under those circumstances a conviction could be at risk, which would nicely set the cat amongst the pigeons.
  2. In general the ending is always the same.  Apparently all baddies in the mid 21st century allow themselves to be tricked into confessing.  It's entertaining, but really?
  3. There's a big build up for the movie premiere and after party, and then Robb cuts the ending short so you don't get to celebrate with them.
  4. The personal stuff didn't ring quite true, and some seemed a little out of character. 
  5. If Eve is finally overcoming her past, I'm left wondering where's the next challenge coming from for her and Roarke?  The risk is they become the old marrieds of the books, far too solid and happy.  Everyone knows the best drama comes when things get shaken up, and I really think that something needs to happen to change the dynamic of their relationship before things get stale.
Oops, I think I made it sound like I didn't enjoy it, and I did.  For escapist fun with characters you've known for years there's not much to beat it.

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