How does she do it? This is undoubtedly a question in the minds of many readers (and some authors, too.) How does Nora Roberts, aka J.D. Robb, manage to produce so many books of such high quality every year? Obviously, she is a natural-born storyteller and a writer of immense talent. Her latest futuristic suspense novel - featuring everybody’s
favorite hero and heroine, the enigmatic Roarke and the intense Eve Dallas - is just one more demonstration that nobody does it better.
As usual in this - and all other suspense novels - the plot centers on murder, in this case two particularly nasty murders, the first of a chambermaid in Roarke’s posh New York hotel, the second of an editor who works for Roarke’s publishing company. Interestingly, the murderer makes no effort to hide his identity. He is a contract killer, known as
Sylvester Yost, who clearly enjoys his work. His signature method is to abuse his victims sexually and then to strangle them with a silver wire. He has killed at least twenty people in this fashion over the years. He is wanted by Interpol, the FBI, and now, by Eve Dallas, the best homicide detective on the NYPD.
As is always the case with the “In Death” books, much of the fascination lies in watching Eve and her colleagues undertake the painstaking task of uncovering clues as to the motive and location of the villain. Since Robb has set her novels in the future, the methods are both familiar and different as the information technology that is now in its infancy becomes a powerful crime-fighting tool. But despite all the gadgets and
gizmos, what ultimately matters is Eve’s intelligence, determination and passion to find the killer.
It soon becomes clear that Roarke is the target, that the killer intends to get at the billionaire, to distract him, to hurt him. But for what purpose? In fact, the final uncovering of the real motives is the key to the case.
Robb’s creation of a future world which is both similar yet different never fails to impress. But what really carries the “In Death” series is the relationship between Roarke and Eve. It is just over a year since the two met, nearly a year since they married. The
multi-billionaire and the homicide detective might seem like an odd couple, but they share equally dreadful pasts, equal intelligence and equal passion.
I can only imagine the fun Robb is having charting their developing relationship. Usually, romance writers say good-bye to their characters when the wedding bells chime. A brief epilogue is all they are allowed to describe their characters’ future. But Robb has shed the constraints of the formula and can show us how these two fascinating characters adjust to married life. And their relationship does take a new turn in Betrayal in Death. In previous books, Roarke has been doing most of the “relationship work,” helping Eve to overcome the traumas of her past. In the new book, Eve becomes the comforter, the supporter, the one who helps her husband deal with his emotional conflicts.
Robb does her usual fine job with the secondary characters. The relationship between Eve’s assistant Peabody and the computer geek, McNab, takes another interesting turn. Eve’s and the majordomo Summerset’s love-hate relationship continues to provide both humor and poignancy. The other characters who play a role in the story, including
the movie diva Magda Lane and Roarke’s friend from childhood, Mick, are as ever fully developed characters. And Robb’s portrayal of the villain is absolutely chilling.
The five-heart rating is restricted to those books that are keepers, ones that the reviewers don’t want to part with, ones they expect to read again. Since I have never yet parted with a Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb book, it might be said that my giving Betrayal in Death keeper status is not all that meaningful. Perhaps more significant is the fact
that I have already reread parts of the book and have not yet relegated Betrayal in Death to my under-the-bed box which contains the entire Roberts oeuvre. This one I am keeping easily available. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Nobody does it better.”