Other J. D. Robb reviews can be found in the Archives.

Fantasy in Death
by J.D. Robb
(Putnam, $26.95, V) ISBN 0-399-15624-3
U-Play, a developer of computer gaming, is located in New York City. It had been founded by four close friends and employed some seventy people who are working on their newest product Fantastical. This game was designed to take role playing games to a new technological level and the time for its release is growing near. Founders are Bart, Cill, Var and Benny who work together in a seamless fashion, each providing their own expertise to make a cohesive unit.

The year is 2060 and the height of summer is approaching as the president of U-Play, Bart Minnock, settles down after work to play Fantastical for an hour or so before his date. Bart embraces competitive gaming as he does everything else…with dedication and total immersion. Although unnecessary, he had armed his gaming room with security that required a thumbprint, voice print and retinal scan to enter.

Bart stands up his date and is discovered the next morning dead, his head severed with no signs of hacking or sawing.  Even the most casual of readers of the “In Death” series by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb will know that if it is New York in 2060, it is Lt. Eve Dallas, her support group of Peabody, Feeney, McNab,  et al. who will respond and ultimately solve the crime.

This mystery is a bit different from contemporary writing as it returns to the past using the classic locked room mystery, a theme believed first used by Edgar Allan Poe in Murders in the Rue Morgue and made famous during the Golden Age of Mysteries in the early 20th century. Now as then, the locked room had not been entered after Bart arrived, but now, proof of that fact is easily established by the computer records of the door’s security. No weapon is found, but medical evidence reveals that the wound is consistent with a broadsword type of blade.

Eve obtains a copy of the game and discovers that those types of weapons are indeed in use in this interactive holo game in quests involving dragon slaying, treasure finding and other challenges.  The fantasy game play had garnered a huge market and representative weapons from all games had become collector items. Eve discovers that a convention of these collectors is going on in Washington and she sends Peabody and McNabb off to investigate broadsword types of weapons, while she remains in New York to do her solo investigation.

Fans of this series will be familiar with the rhythm of Eve Dallas’s investigations and the involvement of her husband Roark and the friends she has amassed throughout the series. The character development is minimal, inasmuch as each of these characters has been developing throughout the 29 prior novels.  The dialog patterns have been established consistent with these characters, and the suspense builds within the exceptional pacing to a conclusion that is not totally unexpected, but the getting there is the wonder. After 30 “In Death” books, Nora Roberts continues to always entertain her readers.

--Thea Davis

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