RogerBW's Blog

Brotherhood in Death, J. D. Robb 02 August 2016

2016 SF/mystery; fifty-third (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Dennis Mira went to confront his cousin Edward over plans to sell the family house, but found him tied up in a chair; then someone knocked Dennis on the head. Now Edward's missing. Fortunately Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, police profiler and friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

Like Concealed in Death, this volume drops most of the science fiction of the setting to tell a conventional story of old deeds coming home to roost, and does it well. There's nothing in the core plot here which couldn't have been done in a contemporary setting, but this frees Robb to tell an effective story of police investigation with some SFnal trappings, and she seems much happier here than when she's working directly with high-tech ideas.

It's fairly rapidly clear roughly what's going on, once the corpses start to pile up, but the prime mover needs to be found and the story still needs to be documented to suitable standards of evidence. Rather than being just another nutcase, the villain has good (if arguably not sufficient) motivation and some actual personality: Dallas knows perfectly well that she has to catch this murderer for the benefit of everyone, but that needs to be reconciled with a strong sense that the victims "needed killing". Society or personal satisfaction? Well, if you've met Dallas before that won't be in doubt, but the process of getting there is still well-observed. Even this far into the series, there are still new things to say about Dallas.

The massive cast of series regulars is not particularly visible here: we get a bit more time with the Miras, and several of the usual secondary characters get their turn on stage, but there's no great effort being made to squeeze everyone in for a name-check. That's probably the sensible way to do it.

Yes, this series is somewhat formulaic, but that formula doesn't control the shape of the story; any long-running narrative about the same characters will inevitably repeat itself in parts just as the characters would.

There's little reason to start this series anywhere but the beginning, but I suppose you could begin here; it's not hard to work out what's going on, but you'll miss the history.

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