RogerBW's Blog

Vendetta in Death, J. D. Robb 23 March 2020

2019 SF/mystery; sixtieth (roughly, or 49th novel) of J. D. Robb's In Death series (SF police procedurals). Someone's torturing and killing abusive men.

Which, well, yeah. Robb tries to sell the virtues of the police over vigilantism, a theme that's come up before in this series, by making sure that as the female victims of the deceased rapist are discovered they get appropriate help; but one can't help noticing that until Dallas turned up nobody else was doing that for them. And she can't be everywhere.

This story falls into the usual In Death pattern of using science-fictional details basically for window-dressing; in spirit it's much more like a sci-fi police TV show than like an SF police novel. (And in case of any doubt, I'm talking Space Precinct more than Star Cops.)

One problem is that we get a thing I particularly dislike in mysteries, the killer's-eye view. (At least this time it isn't women who are being abducted and tortured, nor does the narrative go into leering detail.) There are various potential false trails, but about half-way through the book it is confirmed that gur xvyyre vf rknpgyl gur crefba gung gur aneengvir unf orra uvagvat ng and from that point it's a matter of waiting for Dallas first to catch up and then to get her legal ducks in a row to get a warrant (on a frankly desperately flimsy excuse).

Yeah, all right, reading Rules of Prey has sensitised me even more than I was before, and this is a common problem with a lot of police stories: it's all very well to say that it's fine to break the rules a bit so that good cops can heroically rescue people in the nick of time, but in the real world not all cops are good. I can see myself as a falsely-accused victim of dodgy policing much more easily than I can see myself as a heroic copper or as a rescued victim of crime. But at least here the rule-breaking is fairly minor.

There are also inconsistencies that just don't quite fit together, such as the often-repeated assertion that someone killing for emotional reasons will save the victim with the most importance to them for last. This killer doesn't do that, and nobody ever looks into why that might be, so why say it? And there was also a significant stumbling-block in an early chapter: if you suspect you're dealing with a rape victim who's taken bloody revenge on her attacker, "Hell hath no fury" is really not the right quote. Yeah, I know it's an established thing in this series that Dallas gets common slang phrases wrong, but it's also an established thing that people call her on it, and nobody does; I think Robb just didn't think of the meaning of the quote, and that threw me entirely out of immersion.

Someone clearly reminded Robb that, since Dallas is something of a celebrity with films being made about her, people should have heard of her. So the first two lots of people she goes to interrogate say "oh, come on, you're obviously my friend having a laugh by pretending to be the Big Name Cop"… and then it never happens again.

While I like the series I didn't enjoy this book as much as I have most of the other recent entries.

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See also:
Rules of Prey, John Sandford

Previous in series: Connections in Death | Series: In Death | Next in series: Golden in Death

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