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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

‘Thankless in Death’ by J D Robb

Published by Piatkus,
17 September 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-7499-5936-4

I’ve never made a secret of my enjoyment of J D Robb’s ’futurecrime’ In Death series. But when each new volume appears, there’s always a trace of trepidation. The author’s work rate is tremendous: add this series to her phenomenal output as the renowned bestseller Nora Roberts and she has produced well over 300 titles in a 32-year career. So how is she going to keep up the momentum, and more to the point, ring the changes?

That said, one of the pleasures of following a series as longstanding as this one is that comforting sense of sliding into a pair of old slippers; to some extent you know what to expect, and almost feel cheated if it’s not there.

Thankless in Death is the thirty-seventh in the ongoing saga of super-detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her dishy billionaire husband Roarke – and whadya know, J D Robb has pulled another one out of the bag.
The conventions the fans have come to expect are all there. Technology, society, fashion, even slang jump a step or two ahead of what we’re familiar with, it being 2060. The characters are drawn in sufficient detail to satisfy new readers, with enough hints about their murky pasts to whet the appetite. Dallas and Roarke enjoy a session of mindbending sex and an explosive domestic which leads to more of it. There’s plenty for engaging supporting players to do; the usual suspects like Summerset, Peabody and McNab, Feeney and Mira, Morris and Baxter all get a piece of the action, and other familiar faces make fleeting appearances.

So what’s left to make this one different? The secret lies in the villain. Jerry Reinhold is the ultimate psychopathic serial killer: once he finds that inflicting pain and killing gives him a sexual buzz, there’s no stopping him. Until Dallas catches up with him, of course, and she’s never more than a few paces behind, even when she’s forced to take an hour or so out to receive a medal for an earlier triumph. But Jerry’s a slippery one, and as he cuts a swathe through everyone he has a grudge against, the body count seems set to rise.
But this is popular crime fiction, and good has to triumph – which of course it does, in the final edge-of-the-seat chapter which builds up to a party in the last few pages, with the usual will-she-won’t-she get there on Dallas’s part. 

If I’m honest, maybe I wouldn’t place this one among my top five favourites from the In Death series, but it says a lot about J D Robb’s pacy style and sure hand with a plot that I still didn’t want to put it down. In any case the difference between the pick of the bunch and the also-rans is narrow, and for aficionados like me there’s plenty to enjoy. For newcomers to the series, it’s a sound enough introduction to make them come back for more.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
J D Robb. With a phenomenal career full of bestsellers, Nora Roberts was ready for a new writing challenge. A pseudonym offered her the opportunity to reach a new and different group of readers. The first futuristic suspense J. D. Robb book, Naked in Death, was published in paperback in 1995, and readers were immediately drawn to Eve Dallas, a tough cop with a dark past, and her even more mysterious love interest, Roarke. The In Death books are perpetual bestsellers, and frequently share the bestseller list with other Nora Roberts novels. J. D. Robb publishes two hardcover In Death books per year, with the occasional stand-alone original In Death story featured in an anthology. Thirty books and fifteen years later, there is no end in sight for the ever-popular In Death series.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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