J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts’ In Death series moves into hardcover status with the 18th novel featuring NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas, her billionaire husband Roarke and the cast of secondary characters that millions of readers have come to know and love. There’s nothing that sets Divided in Death radically apart from its paperback predecessors, but it’s another satisfying entry in the still vibrant futuristic suspense series.
A young woman, upon receiving evidence that her husband has been unfaithful with her best friend, descends upon their love nest with vengeance in mind, only to discover that both have been brutally murdered and she has been framed for the crime. When that young woman is Reva Ewing, a security expert working on a top-secret project for Roarke Industries, the stakes are much higher than simple murder. Roarke knows that his employee, who is also the daughter of his unflappable administrative assistant Caro, is innocent. Fortunately Eve concurs pretty quickly after going overboard to prove her objectivity. Were the murder and entrapment related to Reva’s efforts to develop a shield against a deadly computer virus, rumored to be on the verge of implementation by a techno-terrorist group? If so, why frame Reva when the work can easily continue without her? As Eve and her team investigate, they tread on sensitive territory, as a federal government agency gets involved and demands control over the case. As we all know, Eve Dallas stands for the dead and doesn’t like it when anyone else treads on her toes.
Things get uglier when the investigation inadvertently brings to light new information about Dallas’ childhood and the father who raped and beat her repeatedly. These revelations cause a rift between Eve and Roarke as they struggle with issues of morality, retribution and justice. Will their marital discord threaten to undermine the investigation, or will Eve Dallas’ professionalism rise above her personal feelings?
As I read Divided in Death, I had to marvel once again at Nora Roberts’ considerable talents as evidenced by the variety of crimes that she has given Eve Dallas to investigate. The In Death novels have included drawing room mysteries, killers with personal vendettas, violent sexual predators and political terrorists, yet despite their differences they’ve all managed to be suspenseful, timely, and compelling. This one has echoes of the sometimes controversial steps our current government has taken to combat terrorism, and Roberts’ opinions about these actions, with Eve as her spokesperson, are unequivocal.
But of course we read this series not just for the mysteries but for the characters. It’s nice to see Peabody becoming more comfortable in her detective role (now that she’s decided what type of shoes to wear), and Roberts neatly addresses a discrepancy about Dr. Mira’s childhood that astute readers recognized several books ago. I could have lived without Eve’s friend Mavis, who appears more and more superfluous with each installment, and the inevitable beauty makeover session with the relentless Trina also seems pointless. But after 18 books I’m still tickled by Eve’s futile attempts to nab the anonymous office candy thief, and she can still make me laugh out loud; when reporter Nadine Furst bribes Eve with a box of assorted cookies, Eve disdainfully remarks, “There’s an oatmeal cookie in there. I see no reason for the existence of oatmeal, particularly in cookies” before choosing a far superior chocolate chip selection.
The conflict between Eve and Roarke proves to be the most significant test to their relationship since Eve was unable to say “I love you” in Glory in Death. The ache both of them feel when they’re estranged just about broke my heart and their reconciliation (come on, you know they have to get back together) allows Eve to fully verbalize her feelings in a very poignant way – not bad for a woman who couldn’t say those Three Little Words just a few years ago.
Unlike some readers, I don’t think the In Death series has passed its expiration date. I think there are still multiple layers of these characters for Nora Roberts to explore, as well as many more candy bars to be stolen. It may cost 175% more to read about Eve now, but the price is still worth it to me.