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Anyone who has read my reviews of Nora Roberts' recent romance offerings may know that I've become somewhat disenchanted not just of her books but the romance genre in general. Although Nora Roberts began her writing career producing cheesy Mills & Boon stories before moving into more mainstream romance novel writing, she has for some time now also been writing in the crime genre and very successfully I might add. Her crime novels are written under the pen name of J D Robb and I feel that possibly the decline in the quality of her romances can be weighed against the excellent quality of her crime series featuring Eve Dallas, which makes me think that romance is taking a backseat and she's now concentrating all her best efforts on crime.
Treachery in Death is the 32nd book in her futuristic crime series featuring Eve Dallas of the New York Police and Security Department, NYPSD for short. You'd think that after so many books, all featuring the same central character, along with her husband and various friends and colleagues, that the series might have lost some momentum over time but not a bit of it. Each story in the series has dealt with a unique crime, many of which are pretty violent and frequently feature serial killings. Once again, J D Robb has come up trumps only this time Eve's investigating one of her own as it seems there are some fellow cops who don't take the job as seriously as she does.
Following a long day at work, Delia Peabody heads for the gym but whilst there she overhears a conversation between Lieutenant Obermann and one of her colleagues from Illegals, the NYPSD name for the drug squad, and it sounds suspiciously as though they have been involved in the murder of one of their informers. Peabody takes her suspicions to Eve Dallas, her superior officer and soon after the body of a known drug addict and small time dealer turns up but all the evidence points to the death being due to a drugs overdose. Obermann and her fellow conspirators have covered their tracks well but Eve and her colleagues are bringing all their expertise to bear in trying to piece together some hard evidence to bring these bent cops to justice, knowing that they are dealing with people who will kill rather than have their crimes come to light.
Having read the blurb about this novels before I read it, I did wonder whether it would be as good as previous books in the series given that it was dealing with an internal police investigation rather than the usual murderer or serial killings but I needn't have worried. Unlike other books in the series, the identity of the guilty are known from the first chapter but this doesn't mean that there isn't tension in the story and indeed it begins to build from the first scene in the locker room of the deserted gym where Peabody has been working out. Peabody knows that, given the nature of the conversation she's overheard, if she's discovered there she'll be killed.
Once Eve Dallas has been informed, she and Peabody, together with Eve's husband Roarke and Peabody's partner, McNab set about trying to find the body of the drug addict and once located, they can kickstart their investigation, fitting all the pieces together to try to bring a watertight case against Lt Obermann who Eve is convinced is skimming off huge amounts of money through failing to report the full extent of drugs hauls and selling off the surplus. Obermann is the daughter of a much decorated and highly respected former police chief and she has not only hidden behind his name and reputation as an honest cop but also managed to climb the career ladder on the strength of it too.
This book has a completely different feel to it than previous ones in the series and there is much more attention given to the gathering of information and the methodical accumulation of evidence to bring the case against Obermann and her cronies rather than about police action. All the evidence gathering is done in a logical way and the conclusions reached are totally believable and despite the lack of action the story is exciting enough to keep the pages turning.
This time around there is also much less input from Eve's friends or her husband, although a few of them do make brief appearances. We are also re-introduced to Eve's former lover, Don Webster, who now works for the IAB, the police department which deals with internal investigations. Although many of the characters have appeared throughout the series, this book is far more self-contained than any of the others and new readers will have no difficulty picking up what little back story they need. Obviously, as with any long running series, it's better to begin at the beginning and an enjoyable journey through Eve's previous cases is guaranteed.
Nora Roberts, both as herself and as her alter-ego, J D Robb, has no difficulty in creating interesting characters that are well rounded and believable, both good and bad. In Lt Obermann, she's created a wholly convincing baddie: she isn't a mad sociopath or out-and-out evil but is greedy, unpleasant and manipulative, a woman who arranges killings without compunction, all the while keeping her own hands squeaky clean.
Although the romance novelist can change genre very successfully she occasionally can't help letting a little bit of her romantic roots creep into the story and some of the dialogue and interaction between Eve and her husband, Rourke gets a little sappy at times. She's also setting up a romance with Eve's former lover and a recently acquired friend, but these are very minor glitches in what is, to all intents and purposes, a police procedural novel.
These books are enjoyed by both fans of romance and of crime, although many of the former tend to skip over the crime elements and merely concentrate on the development of Eve's home life with her husband and friends which is a shame because J D Robb writes darn good crime fiction. With this book, those people only wanting to read about Eve's personal life will be disappointed. Career-wise, Eve has learned a valuable lesson: she does not want a desk job!
What sets this series apart from other crime series is the futuristic setting. The action takes place about 50 years in the future so we're reading here about our grandchildren's generation. One of the hardest things to do for any writer is to predict the way the world will look in the future and in previous books some of the technological features are a little too futuristic in my view. Very little future technology appears in this particular story, however, and what there is fits well although I do find the idea of holiday resorts on other planets a little hard to swallow as I can't really see that idea coming to fruition within the next 150 years let alone 50 years into the future.
This is another enjoyable and entertaining read and although possibly not as gripping as previous books and it hasn't particularly progressed any of the ongoing stories of the central characters. It has proved, however, that Nora Roberts/J D Robb is anything but a one-trick pony and she's produced a book which has injected new life into this excellent series.
Currently this book is available in hardback, audio CD or Kindle format from Amazon. The paperback is due for release in August 2011.