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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Innocent in Death

****½ Innocent in Death by J. D. Robb. Futuristic romantic suspense.

The 24th book in the series? That can't be right, can it? Wow.

If you're unfamiliar with this series, you could start here, but I wouldn't recommend it. In brief, Eve Dallas is a New York homicide lieutenant in the year 2060. She's married to the ultra-rich Roarke.

As in most of the In Death books, Innocent in Death has a mystery plot and a... hmmm... for lack of a better word, a personal plot. The mystery plot here starts with the poisoning death of an apparently popular, happily married teacher at an exclusive private school. So not only does Eve have to deal with the usual difficulties of a murder case, but she's also hampered by a school administration that's more concerned with image than murder, and wealthy and influential parents who are trying to protect their children.

Making things even more difficult, Eve can't rely on Roarke's help as much as she usually does, because he's distracted by the reappearance of an ex-lover in his life. Which, in turn, weighs on Eve's mind and distracts her as well.

The problem is that Magdelana isn't just another beautiful bimbo that Roarke slept with. She's The One That Got Away, the one who dumped him for another man. She'd been his partner in crime, in bed, and in his life, until she left him for a mark. And now she wants him back.

On the surface, it's not all that much different from Reeanna Ott from Rapture in Death (#19), but Eve and even Summerset realize she's much more dangerous. Roarke, of course, is a typical oblivious male. He thinks he's got Magdelana under control, and that Eve is just overreacting out of jealousy.

Both plots were very well done, I thought, and though I figured out whodunit before Eve did, it didn't seem too obvious or contrived.

And even though I wanted to thump Roarke on the head a few times, I thought his actions were very true to character--fitting how he's behaved in the past whenever an ex lover (of his, not of Eve's--apparently the double standard is alive and well in 2060, at least in Roarke's mind) has resurfaced. Perversely, I really liked that about this book--sometimes, Roarke can get pretty darn too-perfect-to-be-true, particularly in the relationship arena, and I was glad that, for once, Eve wasn't the one screwing up.

Even better, you can see Eve's growth through the series. She actually turns to her growing circle of friends for advice, something she wouldn't even have considered at the beginning of the series.

Which leads me to the number one reason why this series is on my must-buy list in hardcover. The slow but definite and realistic character growth. In those 24 books, only about 2 years have elapsed, and we've seen distinctly gradual changes in the characters, most notably in Eve, but also in Roarke and their marriage, and in the secondary characters. Because of this, I'd really recommend reading them in order. You can still enjoy them in a random order, but you'd miss out on my favorite part.

My only complaint, and it's not really a complaint, so much as it's an explanation of why this gets 4.5 instead of 5 stars, is that the (let me know if I've mistaken the meanings of these terms) internal and external plots don't really mesh. One of the Amazon reviewers came up with a convoluted reason to connect them, but I didn't agree.


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