Thursday, March 01, 2007

Innocent in Death

It is hard to believe this series has been in print since 1995. I remember stumbling across the first, Naked in Death, while on a store set up in Charleston, West Virginia. Desperate for a new book to read I was excited to find a new paperback by a favorite author (recent editions of the series have been published in hardback first). It did not take me long to become enthralled with the idea of a series; being able to follow these characters into subsequent books is a rare treat. Something, it seems, that Ms. Robb was aware of her readers wanting:

"One of the things I wanted to do was develop those characters over many books rather than tying it all up in one,” she says. “I wanted to explore these people and peel the layers off book by book. Eve and Roarke have given me the opportunity to explore a marriage, as well. Each book resolved the particular crime or mystery that drives it, but the character development, the growth and the changes, the tone of the relationships go more slowly. I'm enjoying that tremendously." (Nora Roberts, Meet J.D. Robb)

Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, latest installment of her futuristic in-death series is Innocent in Death. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her partner Detective Delia Peabody are called to a prestigious private school, Sarah Child, when a teacher is found dead in his classroom. The victim is a new teacher, recently married, and a favorite with faculty and students alike. His death is ruled a homicide, ricin poisoning in his hot chocolate, and Dallas and Peabody investigate. As the case progresses a second teacher, their prime suspect, is murdered in the school natatorium. Eve's murder board presents a suspect, but it is one so distasteful no one wants to believe. Her objectivity is questioned and the probable killer's identity causes disbelief among her superiors.

From Mavis and Summerset to Dr. Mira and Commander Whtiney, fans of the series will recognize the well developed cast of characters. But it is Eve's husband Roarke, and the undercurrents of marital discord, that bring a certain richness to this particular installment. An old girlfriend, in itself nothing new, arrives on scene. Roarke is blinded to the nature of his former paramour and the basic foundations of their marriage are tested. Vital and complex characters intersperced with a solid police mystery make Innocent in Death a strong entry to the continuing In Death series not to be missed.

Throughtout the series I found myself liking some books more than others; and while I very much enjoy the growing relationships between returning cast of characters it has seemed to me Eve and Roarke's marital issues often are portrayed as Eve's "fault." Marriage is a partnership and these characters, who are a complicated, enjoyable, mess, needed to be more rounded in that regard. Having Roarke be the one with blinders and Summerset becoming an unlikey source of comfort to Eve, went a long way to enriching the story. The policy mystery element of each story has been solid, but I faithfully follow the characters.

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