RogerBW's Blog

Forgotten in Death, J. D. Robb 03 October 2021

2021 SF/mystery; 53rd novel of J. D. Robb's In Death series (SF police procedurals). A woman is found dumped on a demolition site; while Eve Dallas is investigating that, another body turns up nearby, but it's been walled up for forty years.

In previous books we've generally seen Dallas able to drop everything to concentrate on the murder of the week, so it's pleasing to have a bit of pressure here: she'd like to work on both cases at once, but the more recent one is clearly more urgent in terms of evidence and potential witnesses, and the best approach seems to be to nail that shut first… while not completely forgetting the other. And after all, they may be related…

And if both cases seem perhaps a little thin – once one has met some of the people involved it becomes entirely obvious which of them have the will to commit major villainy, so the only question is why they did it – they're both reasonably satisfying, and effectively ride the dividing line between "murder must be solved and society restored" and "but the victim is still dead, and missed". Perhaps one particular witness doesn't connect the dots as quickly as one might expect, but they're someone who's tried to put some traumatic times behind them and doesn't realise that this incident actually was an unexplained disappearance rather than just a loss of contact.

A side note deals with a retired, or at least "retired", Russian gangster, and I'm afraid this does rather descend into cliché: the loving grandfather who did Bad Stuff back in the day but is now happy to tend his garden. Not that the series is free of cliché in other respects; and there is at least an ongoing recognition that he did do Bad Stuff, and still has bloody hands, even if he's currently appearing to be helpful.

Of course a big part of the fun in a long series like this – all right, this is pretty much only the long series like this that I've read – is revisiting the recurring characters and seeing how they develop: an antagonism that always seemed a bit baseless is starting to dissolve, but mostly people are knocking along, with one or two small new events rather than great being changes in their lives. It's comfortable to the returning reader (and why would you start a series at book 53?), but it's also in service of the immediate plot, rather than feeling like padding or self-indulgence.

In short, another solid series entry.

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

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 12:01pm on 03 October 2021

    Felt a little thin. Felt a little obvious.

    Still reading them but mostly because she makes them the kind of literary 'amuse bouche' (if that's the phrase) you can gobble down in a day.

    There remains for my taste a nasty feeling of gloating in the power fantasies of Lt Dallas and Peabody breaking the Evil Doers at the end, a lack of decency in the way the law works in the story. A bit 'Those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear'.

    I'm a soppy old European liberal still.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:38pm on 04 October 2021

    I'll agree that things were a bit straightforward – two cases in a single book probably pushes things towards simplicity – but there have been similar cases in earlier books where the murderer made themselves obvious at very first meeting.

    And yes, one has to put on one's white American "the police are good and criminals are bad so the police should be unrestrained in catching them" head – after all in this fantasy world the police never arrest the wrong person.

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