Betrayal in Death
Ceremony in Death
Conspiracy in Death
Divided in Death
Holiday in Death
Imitation in Death
Immortal In Death
Judgment in Death
Loyalty in Death
Memory in Death
Origin in Death
Out of This World
Portrait in Death
Purity in Death
Rapture in Death
Reunion in Death
Seduction in Death
Silent Night
Survivor in Death
Vengeance in Death
Visions in Death

Innocent in Death
by J.D Robb
(Putnam, $25.95, PG) ISBN 0-399-15401-9
It’s difficult to know what to say about the In Death series any more. All the books are not equally spellbinding but Robb does a consistently good job of keeping Dallas and Roarke – and their relationship – growing in an interesting way. This one is no exception.

The latest installment begins with the death of a teacher. What caused the death isn’t puzzling; the hot chocolate that Craig Foster’s wife prepared specially for him every day was poisoned with ricin. But why would anyone want to kill the popular young educator? The crime is further complicated when another teacher at the same private school is drowned. This time, however, the victim is a lecher known for his affairs with other teachers and even the married mothers of his students, so it’s going to be less difficult to find someone with a motive for wanting him dead. But how on earth are they connected?

Set in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, Dallas and Roarke’s relationship is complicated by the appearance of Magdelana, a beautiful con-woman with whom Roarke once had a lengthy liaison, both professional and personal. The relationship only ended when she betrayed him and ran off with their intended mark, but apparently Magdelana regrets her actions. Now she’s back, apparently hoping to pick up where they left off, and not terribly threatened by Roarke’s gangly, unfashionable cop.

It isn’t surprising that Magdelana’s reappearance plays on some of Eve’s insecurities, especially when even Summerset admits to being concerned about the influence Roarke’s former lover might still have over him.

This book flows with the author’s signature effortless writing style and flawless insight into her characters. She knows these people intimately and, as a result, their actions are always totally believable. They may not always behave the way the reader expects them to, but they are always absolutely true to their personalities and backgrounds.

While I enjoyed the reunion with Dallas and Roarke, I’ll admit I wasn’t completely satisfied with this book. I’ve read most of the 24 books in the series, though, so it wasn’t hard to know why.

Okay, quick aside. Yes, by my count, Innocent brings the number of books in this series to 24 – and the first one was written over ten years ago. No matter how any of us feel about any individual book, that is an amazing accomplishment, even for a writer as prolific as Robb/Roberts. And not because she’s written that many books, but because she’s managed to keep us sufficiently interested in and intrigued by these characters that we keep coming back for more. Thank you, Ms. Roberts.

Uh, so, where was I? Oh yeah, my quibbles with this one. Don’t get me wrong – while I wasn’t compelled to read the book in one sitting, neither did I put it down and forget about it. But there were a couple of things that weren’t as strong as I’d have liked.

Usually the murder has some personal implication for Roarke or Dallas that adds extra urgency to the task of solving it. There is a connection in this book, but the nature of the connection means that it can’t be revealed without giving away the identity of the murderer. As a result, we don’t find out what the connection is until quite late in the story, which means that for quite a long time, this feels like just another case. They’re all important to Dallas, of course – but the reader wants to know why she should care.

I was completely riveted by the prospect of someone trying to steal Roarke away from Eve – someone it was realistic for her to feel threatened by, even if the reader knew deep in her heart of hearts that he would never actually stray. Sadly, I thought this fascinating conflict was underplayed – Magdelana disappears for a considerable length of time, and then the problem is easily resolved. The issue felt like the core of the book, but if it was, it didn’t get enough page time to be completely satisfying.

But if this book never had me by the throat, it did wrap me up in a world that I am always happy to revisit, and was highly pleasurable escapist reading.

-- Judi McKee

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