Devoted in Death by JD Robb (2015)

Devoted in Death is the forty-first book in the Eve Dallas “…in Death” series by prolific writer JD Robb (nom de plume for Nora Roberts, who has written an additional 200 books under her real name). I have read all of the books in the series, many of them more than once, and always find they are well worth the read. The books are science-fiction murder mysteries set in the 2060’s, following the life and work of NYPD detective Eve Dallas. Despite the futuristic settings and high-tech gadgetry, the books are largely told in the traditional police-procedural style. The stories portray, in graphic detail, the murders committed (often in very dramatic ways) and the minutiae of police work required to solve them.

A moment of commentary here seems in order. I know that serialized books in general are dismissed as overly simplistic and often formulaic. These are books, some readers would say, that are just like television; these contemporary murder-mystery serials are seen as sensationalizing crime and gore and sentimentalizing the work of police. Novels such as the In Death series may not be “literature,” but the author never sets out to write a Pulitzer, she sets out to entertain readers. I suggest that there can easily be room in any reader’s book list for novels such as these. It can be tiresome and confining to only read books at the high-end of the literature spectrum. While there is much value in books that demand a lot of their readers, there is also value in books that ask just a little. Books such as the In Death series demand only two things: that we come willing to be entertained (even if we have to suspend disbelief at times) and that, especially when we read serials, we are looking to form deeper connections to story’s main characters.

In Death, we meet Dallas in Book One as she is both becoming a NYPD detective and forming relationships with a slew of characters who will appear in most of the following books including: her billionaire lover-turned-husband, her hippy police partner, a savvy news reporter, an orphan turned rock-star, the police department shrink, and many more. My continued love of the series is largely tied up in these relationships, more so than the detective stories (although those are compelling as well). An abused former foster child, Dallas must open her life to welcome in more and more friends and loved ones, something that does not come easy. She must also deal with her unexpected celebrity resulting from both her sensational police work and her marriage. These caring relationships, and the at-times steamy love life she shares with her husband, Roarke, are a nice counterpoint to the otherwise dark material of the books. (Another comment: the fact that her books include romance — and not just sex — is often cited as evidence of their inferiority to similar books written by men.)

Devoted in Death opens with two serial killers, intent on making sex and torture their lives’ work, just setting out on a killing spree that will stretch from Oklahoma to New York City before it ends. It is their murders in Dallas’s NYC jurisdiction that bring them to her attention, but she soon delves into the lives of all their victims to better understand and catch the killers. Along with her trusty team of friends and co-workers, she tracks the couple across the city, using the high-tech crime-solving techniques the series has made famous.

The series is highly readable and the sheer volume of novels in it make it a great one to become addicted to. (Re-reads of In Death are a mainstay in my beach reading every summer.) I highly recommend scouring your local thrift shop for copies, but I must argue that they are best enjoyed in order.

A note to readers: the crimes can be described in graphic detail, and the books often contain very detailed and sometimes violent sex scenes.

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