Encore in Death by J. D. Robb

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Fitzhugh is dead, poisoned. The Hollywood socialite who, with his wife Eliza Lane, has been hosting a party in Uptown Hollywood. They were true A-listers, the most glamorous of society’s darlings. The crowd had gathered to hear Eliza sing, Brant had proposed a toast to his wife, and dropped in his tracks. Death had intervened, much too early. It was murder; it was a crime for Lieutenant Eve Dallas to solve.

But, as Eve probed, it became clear that Fitzhugh had no enemies. His wife had her share of  rivals in a very competitive industry and it was true that she had handed the glass to him. But Eve’s investigations revealed nobody holding a grudge against him or her, let alone a murderous one. It does not help the cause of law and order to have so many people gathered together to have a good time. Who is the individual whose hatred of Brant Fitzhugh is buried so deeply but is felt so rank that stooping to murder is a reasonable option?

J.D. Robb is an expert at dealing with souls so twisted that they are prepared to end another’s existence. Her methodology is consistent across all her books. She has a close look at the most likely suspects, eliminating them one by one as she goes. Because she deals with such a wide section of humanity, she is able to introduce what we might call ‘normal’ members, and definitely, those who fit into the eccentric or even weird bracket. There are the super-rich who expect to be treated differently from everybody else and the grievously poor, the characters who retain their dignity when their walls are collapsing around them and those who had no dignity at all.

There are always specimens of humanity that fit the readers’ preconceptions… the gang boss, the drug dealer, the man who fences diamonds are always on hand. Robb writes a convincing spiel that easily influences the reader’s mind. It is with a twinge of disappointment that the person you had fitted to be the killer is, in fact, innocent. Robb has that ability, loved by the fiction writer, of completely fooling her readers while being totally serious in presenting an innocent as guilty.

While Robb’s stories hang together seamlessly, I am annoyed by her continual emphasis on the leadership qualities of women. Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Peabody seem to have a built-in direction finder when it comes to solving crime, Reo is the indefatigable, always effective female prosecutor, the judge to whom she answers is usually female, and that genuine soul (Dr Mira) who wanders through the series, whose goal in life is offering unneeded advice to Eve, is also female. (I cannot find a reason for her presence in the books) The only male whose personality is developed and who grows into anything more than a type is Roark.

Readers will be pleased to know that Eve solves the crime. The motive for the murder is one of those “You’re kidding me” moments, but is perfectly acceptable to the readers of J.D.Robb.

Like all of this series, it’s a perfectly acceptable means of passing the time. I’m left wondering, as always, how Roarke can put all that effort into the sex scenes, but I guess the solution lies in the super-human abilities he demonstrates on so many occasions.

Encore in Death


by J. D. Robb

Piatkus/Hachette UK

ISBN: 978 034943 387 5

$32.99; 384 pp

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