There's always that moment of ambivalence after you finish a J.D. Robb novel - you're happy and satisfied, but sad at the same time because now you have to wait for the next one. It's sort of a post-orgasmic let-down. I guess if I'm equating Judgment in Death with having sex, I must be describing a 5-heart romance.
By now, most readers will be familiar with NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke, and the not-so-distant future world that J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts provides as a backdrop for Eve's homicide investigations. The eleventh In Death novel is distinguished by admirable detective work and some intriguing tension between Eve and Roarke.
When Eve is called to the scene of a homicide at an upscale strip club named Purgatory, she finds two unpleasant surprises: the victim is a fellow policeman, and Purgatory is owned by none other than Roarke. As Eve struggles to discern a motive, the only possible lead is the fact that the dead cop once worked on a case to bring down a notorious mobster, Max Ricker. Unfortunately, Ricker managed to elude punishment,
thanks to some evidence that mysteriously disappeared. But if the motive was revenge, why target a policeman who was only a small cog in the wheel, instead of the detectives who made the arrest? As Eve puzzles about that, she starts to run into a web of disturbing connections. The most troubling one ties her husband to Ricker - a past relationship, but possibly still a deadly one.
This relationship provides the impetus for a major conflict between the loving husband and wife. Eve wants to protect Roarke from the dangerous and possibly deranged Ricker, while Roarke wants to protect his wife from a man he knows is lethal. Love, pride and fear mix together to ignite the most explosive conflict in the couple's short marriage. After ten books in the series, I was starting to worry that the relationship between Roarke and Eve was getting a tad bit routine. Also, Roarke was in danger of becoming too safe. Judgment In Death shows that there's still plenty of fire in the relationship, and
reminds us just how dangerous Roarke can be. In a neat bit of plotting, Eve and Roarke eventually use the same tension that threatened their marriage to trap a criminal. Kudos to Nora for showing that even in the best marriages, there's a constant need to re-negotiate boundaries, roles and expectations. Of course, most of us readers aren't warrior cops married to billionaire street-fighting businessmen, but the issues are sometimes similar.
The tension between the couple forces Eve to reach out to some of the women in her life for guidance. Only a writer of Nora's skill could move me to laughter and tears in the same scene as Eve relates her problems to Dr. Mira and realizes, at the same time, how much she values the maternal concern that the police psychiatrist provides.
As I read Judgment, I was struck by Eve's extraordinary detective skills. She puts ostensibly unrelated pieces of information together as she virtually enters the killer's mind, and gradually zeroes in on a suspect. Who needs psychic heroines when you have one who is as sharp as Eve? And unlike so-called mysteries in which the alleged sleuth bumbles around, questions suspects, and then accidentally meets the killer in a dark alley, Eve really does her homework, and it shows.
Two minor details that bothered me - and one is no fault of Nora's. The back cover of the book contains a very misleading synopsis that makes the novel sound much more raunchy than it is ("Your ultimate fate depends on your most intimate sins"). Judgment in Death is closer to a Joseph Wambaugh novel than one by Anne Rice, but you wouldn't know that by reading the description.
The only bone I want to pick with Nora is that there wasn't enough focus on the fledgling relationship between Eve's steadfast aide, Delia Peabody, and the hotshot electronics detective McNabb. The past two novels built up a funny, fiery love affair, but in Judgment this couple is definitely in the background.
I read that Nora Roberts has no intentions of stopping this successful series, which is good news for readers. Now it's time for that long, lonely wait until next spring for the next visit with Eve and Roarke. Sigh. Oh well, there's always sex.