RogerBW's Blog

Shadows in Death, J. D. Robb 16 February 2021

2020 SF/mystery; sixty-second story of 51st novel of J. D. Robb's In Death series (SF police procedurals). The latest murder victim whom Lt Eve Dallas is investigating was killed by a professional assassin… who's a figure from her husband Roarke's criminal past, and who may be out to get him too.

That's the core of the plot, and there aren't many surprises; as in the previous book Robb is playing the police-procedural relatively straight, and the investigative net gradually closes in on the villain. (Without villain's eye views, I'm glad to say.) The romantic element is mostly restricted to Dallas and Roarke worrying about each other, which is fair enough. Things twist a little at the end for an action-film conclusion, and I suspect the emotional payoff there wouldn't work as well if the reader hadn't already met the people involved.

There's the usual balance between mentioning recurring characters and giving the ones who are mentioned enough time to do something interesting rather than just be name-checked, which is something Robb's generally got better at in recent books. She does the same with ongoing plotlines.

One point I particularly appreciated was that arvgure Qnyynf abe Ebnexr jnf pncgherq ol gur ivyynva gb or hfrq gb gbegher gur bgure; it seemed like an obvious cliché, and Robb isn't afraid of cliché, but the book's better for the lack of it. On the other hand, a police-sanctioned beating at the end seems at best tone-deaf these days, for all it's been a standard part of cop stories for many years.

As in the previous book the villain's psychology didn't quite ring true for me, though it wasn't quite as implausible as some I've met. But overall I think this worked, as well as showing that Robb's not just cranking the handle on the Dallas-o-matic but still trying to make each book something distinctive in itself.

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

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