Reunion in Death

J.D. Robb
2002, Futuristic Romantic Suspense
Berkley, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425183971
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

Just so you know, I was a reader of the Robb books from the moment Naked in Death hit the shelves. I was a fan before most people even knew she was Nora Roberts. Like all the other fans, I eagerly wait for each installment, buy it the moment I see it, and generally read it in one sitting. I've been waiting for my chance to review an In Death book, so you can imagine my excitement when it was finally my turn. That good fortune turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. This fourteenth story in the Eve Dallas/Roarke series will meet fans' expectations, but as enjoyable as the book is, it does nothing to exceed them.

Eve and Roarke have just returned from a well-deserved vacation when a black-widow-type killer hits New York. Julianna Dunne is a woman out to prove something to Eve. Nine years earlier Eve made sure she was arrested and convicted for the death of one of her husbands. Julianna had killed three but Eve couldn't make the others stick. Now Julianna's out on good behavior and is determined to match wits with Lieutenant Dallas once again. The first man murdered has no apparent connection to Julianna, but she makes sure Eve knows she's responsible. This killer wants nothing more then to win this game of cat and mouse, even if she has to go after Roarke to do so.

Deja vu is alive and well in Eve and Roarke's universe. Roarke is a possible target so he and Eve go a few rounds over whether he should accept protection (he doesn't). Roarke goes behind Eve's back and over her head to get involved in her case. She comes home battered and bruised and he "encourages" her to be treated. All of these scenes will be familiar to readers of this series. Whether you find comfort in the repetition or wish for something a little different is between you and the pages.

Several new characters appear on the stage, including the parents of Eve's aide, Delia Peabody. Phoebe and Sam somehow manage to talk Eve into letting them bunk at Casa Roarke. It's an unusual and unnerving prospect for Eve, who doesn't really consider herself good hostess material. But Peabody's parents become her guests before she even knows what hit her. The second introduction is briefer but hopefully signals further appearances. Curiosity up? Drum rolls please...Dr. Mira's husband Dennis is introduced. Dennis is absentminded but intelligent - an affectionate match for our favorite doctor.

Watching Eve develop from book to book has been the true strength in the series. She's a tough, competent, emotionally damaged person who has been able to grow. Too bad the same can't be said for Roarke. Much as he's an enjoyable fantasy of a man, he hasn't been as fully developed as Eve. Yes he loves Eve and has made a life with her, but he had his share of demons in his past. Those demons have virtually disappeared. As the books have progressed he's devolved as a character. Seeing him struggle with his own work, getting irritated with Summerset, getting a cold, snapping at Eve after a hard day at the office, any of these would work to make him a little less the perfect romance hero and a better match for the ever-evolving Eve.

As I wrote this review my grade went up slightly. There's still so much I love about these people and these books. Yes some of it has become a little over familiar and predictable, but there are those moments when Eve advances or Peabody sparkles because she's been given her own case. Couple those with a fresher mystery and a little more complexity in Roarke and these books could still achieve at a whole new level.

-- Jane Jorgenson

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