Promises in Death, by J. D. Robb

10 Mar

Promises in Death, by J.D. Robb

With twenty nine full length novels and five novellas, J.D. Robb’s “… In Death” series is a testament to the author’s successful blend of characterization and suspense. Obviously, not every title hits the same high note, but as has been said before, “Nora Roberts in a bad day is better than many other authors at their best.”

For those new to the series, it follows the adventures of Lt Eve Dallas, of the New York Police and Security Department, and it is set in New York in 2060. The futuristic aspects of the story are partly extrapolations grounded in current technology, and partly a bit of fantasy-with space colonies, virtual reality and interstellar travel being common place.

As a long time fan of the series myself, I am very happy with Promises in Death; the whodunit aspect of the story is quite good, but it is the characterization that makes the book for me.

Cover jacket blurb with a warning: I positively hate the blurbs for this series. Hate. Them.

On the one hand, they give way too much plot detail; on the other, they are misleading but not in an intelligent way.

Amaryllis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, for Eve the victim isn’t just “one of us”.

Dallas’ friend Chief Medical Examiner Morris had started a serious relationship with Coltraine, and from all accounts the two were headed for a happy future together. But someone has put an end to all that. After breaking the news to Morris, Eve starts questioning everyone, including Coltraine’s squad, informants, and neighbors, while Eve’s husband, Roarke, digs into computer data on the dead woman’s life back in Atlanta. To their shock, they discover a connection between this case and their own painful, shadowy pasts.

The truth will need to be uncovered one layer at a time, starting with the box that arrives at Cop Central addressed to Eve, containing Coltraine’s guns, badge, and a note from her killer: “You can have them back. Maybe someday soon I’ll be sending yours to somebody else.” But Eve Dallas doesn’t take too kindly to personal threats, and she is going to break this case, whatever it takes. And that’s a promise.

One of the main reasons I so love this series are the characters and their relationships, from the romance between the two main characters to those of the secondary characters, to their friendships. The whole tapestry creates a world in which the reader finds the pull of community.

Of course there is Eve’s and Roarke’s marriage-and for long time readers, each book is a further exploration of their individual growth as well as to the very real effort that it takes to make any long term relationship work. And yet, their love for each other comes through in every conversation, in every interaction.

I know some readers prefer it when there is conflict between Roarke and Eve, but for me that is just one of the many ways in which their relationship grows and strengthens. In Promises in Death we see how far Eve has come in the last two plus years (within the series timeline, of course-the first title, Naked in Death, was originally published in 1995). Far enough to be completely honest with Roarke, to essentially expose her innermost face to him and trust he won’t damage her (such as when she begs him not to abandon her to her fate at the bridal shower). The best part, though, is that she has also become more comfortable with her feelings for Roarke and much more aware of his needs.

It is great to see Eve’s world expand, little by little. Without losing the focus and intensity that make her such a great cop, without sacrificing her dedication as a homicide detective, Eve has learned to see the people around her not just as cops/not cops/victims/murderers. Between her friendship with Mavis, her partnership with Peabody and her armed truce with the inimitable Summerset, now her life is full of people with whom she has different degrees of friendship and trust. And she has also learned to compromise the needs of the job with normality-well, to a degree.

And of course, Eve Dallas brand of normality is an absolute riot-from buying a gift for the bride to hosting the bridal shower, and finishing with hosting a police briefing session with six women, only one of which is a cop, the dialogue and shenanigans are just great.

Morris has always been a favorite character of mine, even though up to the last three or four books he has relatively little screen time. When he has, though, he has always projected a complexity and compassion that can’t but attract readers. Through the events of this novel, J.D. Robb shows Morris’ depth and strength.

The reader doesn’t actually meet the victim, Det. Amaryllis Coltraine, as the novel starts with her murder. However, through the statements of friends, acquaintances, co-workers, Morris himself, and through Eve’s eyes, the portrait that gels is that of a lovely woman. A woman strong enough, and one who respected herself enough, to put end to an important emotional relationship rather than compromise her principles. Loving enough, generous enough, to make an impact on practically every person she interacted with in her short time in New York.

I enjoyed the many cameos that the bridal shower (and bachelor party) afforded, because for the most part they made sense within the plot, instead of the latter being simply a vehicle for the former. And I have to say that I am delighted with the introduction of Alex Ricker and hoping that we’ll see much more of him in future novels-a sort of “there but for the grace of…” kind of mirror.

I found the investigation of Det. Coltraine’s murder to be fairly engrossing, until the last couple of chapters (mostly because by then it was more a police procedural than a mystery, for me at least).

Promise in Death is a really great addition to my “… in Death” collection. 9.25 out of 10

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