Desperation in Death by J. D. Robb

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

According to the Media Release, Nora Roberts published her first novel using the pseudonym J. D. Robb in 1995. Since then, the In Death series of books has sold over sixty-six million copies. Each new novel in this series usually reaches the number one best seller charts the world over.

I find J. D. Robb’s approach to crime fiction to be one that follows a fine set plan that has worked in the past and continues to work every time she produces a new crime story. Like the Agatha Christie detective, Poirot, Roberts has detective Eve Dallas use her brain with the expertise of others and technology to work out what scenarios fit the particular crime. Once this is done, then the action on the ground really begins.

This involves much communication between the characters and often leads to repetition of similar ideas as I have detected in this story. The storyline progresses through these conversations. In the process, the personalities of this diverse group of players are revealed. Although this is a series with the same people in each new book, every story can be read as a one-off. For those who follow the series, they can see a progression in the lives of their friends. This author has consistency down pat.

As well as crime stories, these books follow the life of the key New York police lieutenant, Eve Dallas, as she develops into a more trusting and social person after her tough start in life. This part of her life is revealed through her nightmares and the very vigilant eye of her husband Roarke. Her response to his, ‘You’re already exhausted, and now bruised and bloody with it,’ is ‘I’m handling it. If I can’t handle any case I catch, I’ve got no business on the job” (78). She has a strong determination to be in control of her own life and has high expectations of herself and those who work closely with her.

Sections of lightness are provided with Eve’s lack of understanding of common sayings and social niceties – ‘Who the hell put a needle in a haystack?’ (145). The dress sense of her fellow workers, which she does not understand, also adds to this lightness. ‘When Eve walked into homicide, Jenkinson’s tie assaulted her eyes…with a single, huge, atomic pink, googly-eyed cat staring out from a neon-purple background’ (55). The characters in the book are not superheroes but real people with all their idiosyncrasies.

In Desperation in Death a thirteen-year-old girl’s body is discovered with the blood of another young girl on her clothing. Eve knows what she is supposed to suspect from these clues. Identification of the body reveals that she is a missing child from a good neighbourhood, but her clothing does not fit someone who has spent time on the streets. The second girl needs to be found. Thoughts turn towards missing children and soon a pattern emerges suggesting that many of these children appear to have been taken not just run away.

When clues suggested that children were being used as ‘products to move on the market’ (157) for various purposes, all the law enforcement agencies went on red alert. ‘You’ve got a syndicate with a lot of arms. Scouts to find the kids… Then you’ve got the keepers… You need medical people’ (121) etc. This was not a simple case of the death of a missing child, and this dredged up dormant emotions in our lead detective.

The investigation from here on spreads wider and wider with more and more personnel affected by the enormity and inhumanity of what this crime suggests. The thought processes and actions of the police on the case are provided in detail right up to the execution of the safe extrication of the victims and the arrest of the many involved in the trafficking operation.

In the Epilogue, the attention again turns to Eve. ‘There were times she drove through the gates towards home that she felt euphoric. Times she felt exhausted. Tonight, she felt a tangle of both at once’ (353). Through her actions on arriving home, we see a greater understanding for the feelings of others around her, as her attitude towards the butler Summerset, with whom she has always had a prickly relationship, softens.

Set in the mid twenty-first century, this story gives the reader a glimpse into what the future may be like. Unfortunately, the crime rate has not diminished, and the daring and scale of the operations have magnified.

This is the fifty-fifth book in the In Death series and it has been suggested that there might only be a couple more books to come before the series finishes. For those who have not encountered these books before, I suggest they should rectify that before the series finishes. They are interesting logical stories which have a very personal component as the reader gets to hear more about their favourite characters. I find it pleasing to watch the growth in police lieutenant Eve Dallas as she starts to leave behind her traumatic early life experiences and uses her knowledge to incarcerate those who would destroy the lives of others.

Desperation in Death


By J D Robb

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 978-0-349-43028-7

$32.99; 346pp

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