Sunday, September 27, 2015

Naked In Death by J.D. Robb (In Death # 1)

Recently I've been in the mood for stories with a little more action, danger and some mystery to keep the plot going.  I think this is because I love me some Investigation Discovery and crime procedural TV.

Since I'm reading romance for this blog it seemed appropriate to look into some romantic suspense. I started with The Ideal Man which was. . . just far from ideal for me. One of the reasons being because of how blah the heroine was portrayed.

I knew I wanted a heroine who wasn't just helplessly swooning over a dude with a badge who is going to save her. I wanted the heroine to have some agency and a stake in the "crime" part, so I figured  finding a  book with a female enforcement figure would be a good bet.  I did some Google-fu and Eve Dallas from J.D Robb's In Death series showed up over and over again.

Naked In Death felt like send up of hard-boiled detective and film noir stories. Robb uses a lot of that 40's style slang that you might not be able to place, but somehow know it when you hear it. Eve is this lone wolf  determined detective with a dark past. Her job is her life and she is a cynic due to an abusive childhood, she can barley remember. Eve is a lot rougher around the edges than a lot of female characters I've read, which made her unpredictable.

When a serial killer starts going after prostitutes, Eve's investigation leads her to the famous Irish self made billionaire (with a B) Rorake (one name like Prince or Madonna). There is something about Rorake that Eve just can't seem to shake, she just has to hope he's not the killer.

Overall I found the mystery got way to Law and Order SVU-ish towards the end. This is a darker book than I wanted and I really could have done without the extend scene about the prostitute who specialized in pedophilia fantasies. Just no

Robb actually does something clever with her Eve's name that I instantly caught on to. Eve's name was given to her when she was found (get it Adam and Eve) as a child in Texas (I'm guess . . . Dallas).  All Eve is, all she thinks she can ever be is a good cop.  Her job is her identity because she doesn't have much else.

Let me back up here. The In Death series takes places in the future "In a time and place where technology rules the world". One of the gets of this book is that it takes place in the future. A future with advanced communication, smart computers and gadgets galore.  This book was published in 1995 so as you can imagine it doesn't exactly age well.

Not that it doesn't age well but it ages oddly. Eve uses computers and terminals to gather data, she has a communicator and video conferencing and messages. (. . .and something called a 'link, that now that I think about it I'm not sure how it's different from something called a communicator ).

As a  modern reader you kind of glaze over this because we use technology like this everyday. You sometimes forget this book is supposed to be "in the future". To readers in 95' this probably added to the world building to a modern reader not so much. I mean if you replace every made up gadget in this book with "iPhone" or iPad" we'd be good to go.

Speaking of future world building, I liked the way Robb lays out the politics in this world. It's a great example of show don't tell.  We slowly learn that in this future we've used up all our natural resources and certain foods are luxuries, guns are completely outlawed but murder still prevails,  prostitution has been legalized and is heavily regulated but women still aren't safe.

Susan Ericksen (who has done the audiobooks for the past 20 years) has a deep sarcastic voice and she gives Eve this sly pulpy narration. Ericksen adds to the atmosphere of the book  by giving the side characters thick New York accents.

On her website it explains that  J.D Robb's secret (She's Nora Roberts, did I mention that) wasn't officially revealed until 2001. So, did people think J.D was was a man when this was first published ? There was just something about how the book handled legalized prostitution and female characters that I could tell this was written by a woman.

I'm really curious to see how this series has changed in 20 years and the mystery behind Eve's past keeps me coming back for me. I just wonder how long it will take me to read all 49 books/novellas.

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