Ceremony in Death by J. D. Robb
Berkley, $5.99, R, ISBN 0-425-15762-8
*****
Ceremony in Death is the fifth novel in a romantic, futuristic suspense series set in New York City in 2058. It is fair for readers to know I am not a science fiction or fantasy fan, so it is unusual for me to enjoy the touches added by the futuristic theme.

Lt. Eve Dallas, a NYPD Homicide Detective is married to the self-made billionaire Roarke. Fashioned by the slums of Dublin, Ireland, he brings to their marriage (among many other things) a respect for Irish myths. Eve was found without a memory, wandering the streets of Dallas at age eight. At the time, physical evidence revealed an early life of rape and abuse. Self-made, Eve is bright, gritty, tough, troubled, but especially vulnerable to the terrors of her missing early years.

This story opens at a funeral home viewing of Frank, a middle-aged cop who allegedly died of natural causes. While there, Eve is passed a mysterious note to meet Alice, the granddaughter of the deceased at an unsavory nightclub the following night. Forewarned that Alice is into the occult, Eve is furthered haunted by her Commander's revelation that Frank's toxicology report showed traces of illegal drugs.

Compounding this is the fact that an undercover vice officer had reported Frank purchasing something from a known drug dealer, Selina, who is also into witchcraft. Eve is ordered to investigate, in the hope that it can be resolved before a fully mounted Internal Audit Investigation occurs. I shall not diminish the tensions of the search by revealing any more.

Ceremony in Death showcases J. D. Robb's (Nora Roberts) consummate skills by demonstrating:

-- Her ability to write a series of novels using the same characters, who keep evolving in maturity, book by book. Although each novel can stand alone, it is far more enjoyable to start with Naked in Death, (Book #1) and watch the author add depth and texture to her characters one layer at a time;

-- Her flair in adding secondary characters in each book. By creative foreshadowing and by slowly revealing their personae as they interact in each succeeding book, she has them augment rather than detract from the principal characters;

-- Her acumen in the selection of topical subjects to base the weaving of complex, but credible plots.

The dialogue is crisp, and conveys the characters down a fast moving, sinuous path. As the story unfolds, the author is careful in the treatment of witchcraft to distinguish the black from the white side, or the Church of Satan from Wicca.

And, yes, she does take the romantic marriage of Eve and Roark to yet a higher level.

--Thea Davis


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