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Survivor in Death is the twenty-first episode in the crime fighting life of Eve Dallas. Eve is a lieutenant in the homicide squad of the New York Police Department in the year 2059. The series now totals approximately 30 books so far and this is not counting the novellas which Robb often writes for inclusion in crime anthologies.
Nora Roberts is a writer of unashamedly romantic fiction but her alter-ego, J D Robb, writes crime novels and fairly gory ones at that. Although there is a romantic thread running through the series, the main emphasis of these books is definitely on the crime. This book could be read as a stand-alone novel but there is a huge amount of back story concerning the lives of Eve and her husband Roarke, not to mention all their friends and colleagues, that it really is best to start at book one, Naked in Death. If you enjoy crime fiction this won't be any hardship and Robb's crime writing improves with each successive book.
Eve Dallas's latest investigation centres on the brutal killing of the Swisher family but the killers made a mistake. They left one member alive...nine-year old Nixie, who sneaked down to the kitchen for a drink. As a survivor and possible witness, as far as the murderers are concerned, she can't be allowed to live to tell tales.
This story, as with all the others in the series, takes place some fifty years in the future which although it gives J D Robb licence to second guess events and invent quite a few gadgets, I suspect most won't be in everyday use in such a relatively short time span. I definitely don't think space travel is likely to advance enough for people to be holidaying in resorts "off planet" or the general public be driving flying cars. If she had set the timeline a hundred years hence, the existence of some of these ideas is more probable. That being said, the speed with which the IT industry advances points towards quite a few major changes in the next few decades and some of you reading this review will even be around to see them!
The date, however, is fairly irrelevant most of the time. Murder is murder whatever the date may be and the human condition isn't likely to change radically either. Police processes will still be cumbersome and bound by red tape too so it highly likely that detective work will still involve an active brain and a certain amount of leg work and Eve, together with Peabody, Feeney and co., certainly does that.
The book begins with a prologue detailing the crime. This is the systematic slaughter of the entire Swisher household. Nixie Swisher, who survives because she's sneaked down to the kitchen for an Orange Fizzy, witnesses much of the events and the killers are unaware until later that the dead girl is Nixie's friend who was there for a sleep over. As the story is told in the third person the reader sees what nine-year-old Nixie sees and feels allowing us to empathise with the trauma she is experiencing.
Because Nixie is in such danger, it's decided she should stay with Dallas and Roarke. Roarke owns half the known world and beyond and is so fabulously wealthy he has every security device available so this will be the safest place for the child. This allows J D Robb to further explore Dallas's own childhood traumas. As a very young child she killed her abusive father and spent her formative years in various children's homes before joining the police. She has blocked out much of what happened but with the help of her friend and therapist Dr Mira, she is gradually coming to terms with events. Roarke, too, had a less than happy childhood so he is able to face his demons also.
The characters J D Robb has created are what make these books so addictive because not only does she detail the crime and the detection of the perpetrators, but all the secondary characters surrounding Eve Dallas have their own developing stories. They are all well-rounded and believable characters and help these books to read somewhat like a good police TV series.
The relationship between Dallas and her husband Roarke is believable on some levels and wildly fantastic on others. The fact that Roarke has squillions of dollars means he also has access to practically anything he wants, which is a great plot device. Before he met and married Dallas, he was also not averse to the odd criminal act himself. He has an unregistered state of the art computer which Dallas frequently makes use of because it's far more effective than anything the police own and this computer invariably throws up evidence which moves the story forward.
The introduction of Nixie into their household gives us an opportunity to see a softer side to Eve. It's fair to say that Eve Dallas is more than just feisty, she's downright aggressive most of the time but this does fit the character because I would imagine that a female detective rising through the mainly male ranks would need to be able to stand her ground.
This book was a real page turner and very enjoyable. Although I get the sense that J D Robb doesn't get too involved in meticulous research in the way that many crime writers do, the motives for the crimes and the methods used to solve it are written in a realistic way with evidence being presented and gradually building until it all points to the guilty parties and the ending is suitably exciting.
I would recommend this book not only to anyone who enjoys crime fiction but also because it has plenty of additional content it would probably appeal to a much wider audience.
'Murder was always an insult, and had been since the first human hand had smashed a stone into the first human skull. But the murder, bloody and brutal, of an entire family in their own home, in there own beds, was a different form of evil.' On the surface Keelie and Grant Swisher seem unlikely targets for an assassin; an average couple living in a nice neighbourhood and working hard to raise their two kids. But when Eve Dallas is called to a multiple homicide at the Swisher family home, she discovers a blood-bath. There are five dead - including two children - in what seems to be a professional hit. The killers breached an elaborate security system, slashed the throat of each victim while they slept; and were in and out of the house in less than ten minutes. In fact they made only one mistake. They left a survivor...Nine-year-old Nixie Swisher's sudden urge for a midnight snack may just have saved her life. While her parents, brother and best-friend lay in their beds, oblivious to the threat, Nixie was downstairs in the kitchen getting a soda and saw far too much. But as Nixie is the only survivor of a seemingly motiveless attack, Eve knows that her priority is to keep her safe. Offering her a temporary refuge is easy, but dealing with the emotional needs of a nine-year-old girl who has lost everything isn't. Eve can at least promise Nixie justice, but she's chasing professionals who don't like leaving loose ends. And leaving Nixie Swisher alive is one loose end too many.