Book Review, Mystery

Book Review: Calculated In Death

Calculated In Death by J.D. Robb (actually, romance writer Nora Roberts) marks the 36th installment in the wildly popular romantic-sci fi – mystery novel series by best-selling author Nora Roberts, writing under the pseudonym J.D. Robb.  While the series has lost its luster for me, I still reach for the next “In Death” novel when I see it on the library’s new books shelves.

The series follows Eve Dallas, a childhood incest survivor turned New York City homicide detective, in the near-future of New York City circa 2060.  Married to multibillionarie Roarke (no first or last name, just “Roarke”), Eve and a cast of characters navigate the streets of New York, tracking down criminals and solving cases.  For the full series backstory, see this note: J.D. Robb

In this novel, Eve is called in to investigate what at first glance appears to be the tragic death of a nice 40-something accountant, murdered in a mugging gone horribly wrong. But several things don’t add up: the criminals took her expensive coat, but not her boots, which were worth more money than the coat, and blood is found inside the apartment under renovation, not near her body on the street outside.  Further investigation reveals carpet fibers on the victim’s clothing — automobile carpet fibers.  Eve has a homicide on her hands. As more accountants and others associated with the accounting firm are murdered, it becomes clear that the case has something to do with an audit underway at the firm, but which client?

This is where Robb/Roberts excels as a writer.  All of the suspects have motives, means and opportunity, while none of them are particularly likable. There were so many suspects in this novel that I would have been happy to have it been any of them!

As usual, Eve brings Roarke in as a ‘civilian consultant’.   The Eve-Roarke romance is one area that I think Robb has let go stale in the novels. It’s so predictable that Eve will bring Roarke in/bad guys hurts Eve/Roarke swears vengeance that I want to scream. Equally as predictable? Eve will have to go to a fancy party/premier/something and fight against wearing fancy clothes/high heeled shoes/makeup/jewelry.  Sigh.

It makes me want to shake Robb and say, “Hey! Your loyal fans KNOW Eve hates to wear anything except comfy pants, scruggy boots and a coat that protects her against an assortment of weapons. We get it. How about helping Eve develop more as a person?”  I want to see Eve develop beyond the bitchy, malapropism prone detective.

Another area I think Robb misses in this book is her descriptions of futuristic New York. As I’m bored with the predictable situations she injects into every book, so too I’m bored with the usual description of hoverboards, Pepsi in a tube, soy dogs sold from street carts (which, by the way, NO true New Yorker would eat – let alone tolerate – futuristic meat shortages be damned. It’s dirty water dogs or nothin, says this born and bred New Yorker.)  Aside from Eve’s work station, I can never picture Roarke’s exotic mansion.  Cop Central comes across clearly, but the only other place described vividly is the winter-white apartment of Candida, a nasty rich woman who is a suspect.  I want to see this futuristic world more clearly, and lately Robb’s books tend to feel like the details are afterthoughts.

Still and all, Calculated In Death has enough plot twists and turns and suspects with strong motivates that I was left guessing until the end who the murderer was.  It kept me up until late, a page turner with plenty of intrigue and good characters.  I’ll definitely read Robb’s next “In Death” book.

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I’m taking a break from mystery novels and indulging in my passion for biographies next.  Just started a bio on Benjamin Franklin, so get ready for the next installment of “The Writer reads!” – Jeanne

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