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Friday, December 08, 2006

****½ Portrait in Death by J. D. Robb. Futuristic romantic suspense. Re-read.

I nearly didn't re-read this one. I'd started it a couple of weeks ago, then stopped when I realized I hadn't re-read Purity in Death yet. I wasn't looking forward to picking this one up again because all I remembered of it was that I didn't think the killer's plan made sense.

But I picked it up and resumed reading anyway.

I'd forgotten all the good stuff in this book. I didn't forget that it happened--I just forgot that it was in this book. The big thing is, of course, that Roarke finds out that his mother wasn't the cruel, heartless Meg Roarke who abandoned him, but rather a sweet and loving young woman who was killed by his father when she tried to leave. Roarke does not handle the information well, and locks himself in his home office (violating his edict of no locked doors from Judgment in Death), refusing to talk to either Eve or Summerset.

Before that, however, Summerset was supposed to be going on vacation, but he falls down the stairs, tripped by the cat, and breaks his leg. It's almost as rough on Roarke as it is on Summerset, because Summerset is his surrogate father. So when Roarke's emotions get in the way, it's up to Eve to smooth things over with the nurse Roarke hired so Summerset can recuperate at home. Roarke and Summerset's feelings for each other are the clearest we've seen them, even more so than in Vengeance. It's especially clear in the private conversations between Eve and Summerset.

The mystery plot starts with a young woman's body being discovered in a dumpster, and a statement sent to reporter Nadine Furst saying that he's captured her "light," with accompanying photographs. The whole gang gets called in on this one, even including Baxter and his new trainee, Trueheart. Some of the clues lead Eve to temperamental photographer Hastings, who's the source of much of the comic relief. I hope we see him again eventually.

The mystery itself was better than I'd remembered, but my attention was mostly on Roarke's revelation and its effect on him and on his relationships. His reactions were very realistic, and fit well with the character we've gotten to know over the past 18 books. This is something he can't fix, he can't buy or steal, and he can't go back in time and change anything. It made him much more human than previous books did.

The personal crisis not only changes Roarke's understanding of his past, it also prompts growth in their marriage. The realistic portrayal of marriage as a work in progress rather than as a static state or an end result is one of my favorite things about this series, and this book excels at it.

The conclusion of the mystery was tense and emotional. My only complaint was that **** spoiler**** it was never explained why the killer had decided on a specific number of "lights" he needed to collect. **** Seems like a little thing, but it left me with an unsatisfied feeling that was the only thing I'd remembered specifically from this book, so it's worth mentioning.


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how amazing are holidays!!! yay.
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