Reviewed by Ian Lipke
My library holds a total of fifty-four books written by J.D. Robb, a pseudonym of Nora Roberts, and seventy-six under her real name. I know that I do not hold her complete oeuvre. Her books appear at an average rate of one each six months. Writing for this author approaches disease proportions, without the nasty connotations that condition suggests. For much of her writing career Roberts/Robb’s output has been of good quality, so much so that her reading audience is vast and well satisfied. It is also sometimes blinkered.
The latest novel Abandoned in Death opens with vintage Robb. The writing is direct, incident-packed, with believable characters and environments described in a most appropriate writing style. “The decision to kill herself brought her peace. Everything would be quiet and warm and soft. She could sleep, just sleep forever” (1). The vocabulary has been chosen for its smoothness of sound, perfectly matching the sense of the passage. Later, when we learn that a young woman has been abducted and imprisoned, the language is abrupt in keeping with the situation:
While she wept, screamed, demanded to know what he wanted, begged him to let her go, he just kept smiling with those sparkling eyes.
I made you soup and tea, all by myself. You’ll feel better when you eat. I looked and looked for you. Now here you are, and we can be together again. You can be a good mommy (8).
Never is the word ‘menace’ used yet the perpetrator’s response to the growing dynamic his captive displays conveys just how chilling the situation is.
However, the writing deteriorates to become ordinary. There is no freshness about Peabody. There is interminable discourse about a new home – in fact, the book contains talk that goes on for so long as to have the reader at screaming point. Maybe it’s a female thing but I could not care one jot about perfumes, hair tints or nail cuticles. No doubt Robb has researched her facts and has a scientific basis for the information she uses to advance her arguments, but, in bringing out her evidence, she has bored her reader for so long that s/he is too apathetic to complain. It’s a poor show when a highlight [I think there was another one] is Eve’s berating of the scientist Berenski.
I have yet to see a valid reason for Dr Mira in this series. Her contributions over many books rarely exceed some regurgitation of an undergraduate psychology journal. In this book, Nadine Furst is given a task that takes her outside the confines of the story. As usual, Eve Dallas feeds her scoffing horde of detectives via the premise that, if they can be fed on doughnuts, they will work untold hours for her. Even Roarke is treated as ancillary to the female players. As usual in Robb’s books, female characters hold positions of authority.
The J.D. Robb books always have a department of highly skilled detectives whose success in solving crimes is phenomenal. Yet they are all dumbfounded when the identity of the killer is revealed. This is understandable since the killer has been very poorly chosen.
I have long loved the J.D. Robb books. I am considering seriously removing this author from my reading list. The characters are stale and often unrealistic, the telling of the story is boring rather than exciting, but most upsetting of all, the reader has been brushed aside as of no account, in the expectation that s/he will happily purchase and read sub-standard literature.
By J.D. Robb
$32.99; 368 pp