has also reviewed:

Ceremony in Death
Immortal In Death
Rapture in Death
Vengeance in Death

Holiday in Death by J. D. Robb
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-16371-7
To be honest, it feels like the essence of the old cliché "carrying coals to Newcastle" to be reviewing Nora Roberts' latest Eve Dallas mystery. Either you know and love this innovative series, or it's not your cup of tea, or you've been living on Pluto for the past two years. So if you're just returning to Earth, welcome back and get to work. You've got a lot of reading to catch up on and the "in Death" novels should be first on your list!

Lieutenant Eve Dallas, barely recovered from injuries sustained during her last case, takes on a new series of sexual homicides that remind her too closely of the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her father. The murderer appears to be choosing victims from clients of Personally Yours, an elite New York dating service. He gains entrance to their homes by dressing as a Santa Claus delivery service. Other than that, Eve has few leads about the perpetrator or his next victim. But she knows she has to act quickly – the killer is leaving behind symbols from "The Twelve Days of Christmas" on the dead bodies and may be trying to commit a dozen murders in the few remaining days of the 2058 holiday season.

Of course Roarke, Eve's sexy billionaire husband, is on hand to help out where he can and try to convince Eve to take a break once in a while. One of the many pleasures of this series has been watching the relationship between Eve and Roarke deepen and mature. In Holiday in Death, Eve is more open with Roarke than she's ever been before, finally able to admit her fears and vulnerabilities to this wonderful hunk of a guy after almost a year together.

Despite a few spirited spats, Eve and Roarke experience little turbulence in this installment. In an interesting twist, the relationship that is subject to the most tension this time is the one between Eve and her loyal, sturdy aide, Delia Peabody. Roberts beautifully portrays the way tough Eve tentatively and inexpertly navigates, and sometimes screws up, this developing friendship. And it looks as if one of my prayers has been answered – Peabody appears to be headed for a romance, possibly even a romantic triangle.

If you can get past the incongruity of reading a novel set in the holiday season during the summer, you will appreciate the hysterically funny and tender premise of Eve's first Christmas shopping experience. The former loner now has a husband and true friends, but she doesn't have a clue about how normal people act at this time of year. Her exposure to the 21st century version of Bloomingdales, in particular, is priceless, and her search for the perfect gift for her husband is poignant.

By now, I and other Romance Reader reviewers have paid homage to this brilliant series, with its clever depiction of the near future, stunning romance, sparkling dialogue and well-developed secondary characters. One thing I have never written about, but have always admired, is Nora Roberts' ability to write a powerful love scene. More than any author I can think of, she is a master at creating a sensual mood that carries the reader along, without being the least bit clinical. She alludes, hints and suggests, rather than describing in detail every pouty nipple and engorged male member. More authors should follow her example.

Holiday in Death is another keeper and a worthy entry in this inventive series. Unfortunately, we will see only a brief glimpse of these characters in Silent Night, a Jove Christmas 1998 anthology featuring a J.D. Robb novella. The next full-length novel will not be released until April 1999. I can only hope that Nora will continue to write about Eve and Roarke until the real 2058.

--Susan Scribner

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