Divided in Death

J.D. Robb
2004, Futuristic Romantic Suspense
Berkley, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425197956
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

Counting all the books and novellas, Divided in Death is the 21st entry in the long-running series about Eve Dallas, her husband Roarke and her friends in the NYPSD. That's a long time to be following one group of characters, and while many readers will disagree, I think the series is starting to show its age. Imitation in Death was all too aptly named, while the dual nature of Remember When prevented the author from providing any real meat to Eve's side of the story told in that book. Divided in Death, the first stand-alone hardcover release in the In Death series, is an improvement on both of those books. The mystery is more interesting, and there's a new development in the constantly evolving relationship between Eve and Roarke that injects some drama into their story. But while it's a good addition to the series, it still feels as though something's missing overall.

The book gets off to a promising start by involving Roarke in the case right from the beginning, something that's always a positive. In this case, Reva Ewing, a security specialist for Roarke Enterprises and the daughter of his personal assistant, is the prime suspect in the murders of her husband and a close friend. She had just discovered they were having an affair and went to confront them, only to find they were already dead. In shock, she calls her mother, who then calls Roarke. He, in turn, convinces Eve to hear Reva out.

Reva is the obvious suspect - a little too obvious as far as Eve is concerned. Some aspects of the crime scene don't add up. The more she uncovers about Blair Bissel, Reva's artist husband, the more suspicious she becomes. At the same time the murders were being committed, someone broke into Bissel's studio and wiped out his computer records. Roarke suspects the deaths may be connected to the top secret project Reva is working on for his company, an attempt to fight a group of techno-terrorists who pose a major threat to global security.

Their search for answers leads Eve and Roarke to a high-powered, ultra-covert government agency that may be involved. But while Eve battles the organization's attempts to impede her investigation, Roarke learns something that connects the group to his past, and to Eve's as well.

The characters' response to what he uncovers is easily the best part of the book. It introduces a conflict into Eve and Roarke's relationship that they're forced to deal with over the course of the story. It's always nice to see them faced with something like this, to see the strength of their relationship tested after so many books. Each reacts differently, and the book's most powerful moments all come from this part of the story. It also deals with some interesting ethical questions that give the story a little more weight. It's compelling stuff, and something regular fans won't want to miss. There's good banter between Eve and Roarke, and of course between Eve and Peabody, and some sharp lines.

But overall, the book feels uneven. I suspect there are two kinds of fans of this series, those who are more interested in the characters' ongoing saga and those, like me, who care more about the suspense plot. At first it seems as though the book has a stronger-than-usual combination of both. In addition to the rich character material for Eve and Roarke, the mystery gets off to a tantalizing start. The usual glimpses into the killer's mind make things a little more suspenseful this time, raising questions about what's really going on. But Eve figures it out way too early and the rest of the book unfolds in an unsurprising manner. The resolution to the puzzle is much less interesting than the setup, and the villain ultimately isn't frightening at all, which pretty much kills any suspense in the climax. The case really isn't very suspenseful, and if it weren't for Eve's showdowns with a government agent, there wouldn't be much tension at all.

Things ultimately fall short on the character end too. The conflict between Eve and Roarke gets a little lost at times with everything else that's happening. The appearances by the group of regulars also feel more perfunctory than usual. There's a seemingly endless sequence with Mavis, including yet another beauty treatment with Trina, that will satisfy fans of the characters but is otherwise pointless and brings the story to a standstill right in the middle of the book. I would have much rather had more of Eve and Roarke than listen to Mavis whine about her pregnancy. The rest of the characters make their usual appearances, but somehow make less of an impression than usual. To make matters worse, Summerset makes an all-too brief cameo, then isn't heard from again. Not enough Summerset is never a good thing.

I usually zip immediately through these books, but this one took longer. Diehard fans will want to check it out to see what new developments crop up in the lives of Eve and Roarke, but Divided in Death isn't one of the best books in the series.

-- Leigh Thomas

Order this book from Amazon Books
To comment about any of these reviews on our reviews forum
  Author Links
Nora Roberts at AAR
Use Freefind to locate other material at the site
 
Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved