| After showing a few alarming signs of falling into a rut in the past two installments, J.D. Robb’s futuristic suspense series featuring NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is back on track with Origin in Death, a gripping and frequently creepy effort that leans more heavily on sci-fi elements than previous novels. This one will leave you staring uneasily at the strangers sitting next to you on the beach, wondering about their secrets.
World famous cosmetic surgeon Dr. Wilfred Icove is found murdered in his office, the victim of a single deadly stab wound to the heart. Security tapes show a tall, beautiful woman entering and leaving the scene of the crime, but efforts to identify and locate her prove futile. When Eve Dallas and her stalwart partner Delia Peabody investigate the murder, they hear nothing but raves and accolades from clients and colleagues about Dr. Icove’s brilliance, vision and generosity. Even the disgruntled, dissatisfied client angle doesn’t yield any suspects, as Icove had an amazingly few number of complaints lodged against him.
Despite the almost godlike perfection, Dallas delves more deeply into the murder victim’s life, refusing to believe that he had nothing to hide. She meets a great deal of resentment from those who knew and loved Icove, including his son, who followed in his father’s footsteps, and Dr. Mira, the police psychiatrist who resents Eve’s suggestion that the man she idolized professionally was anything less than a selfless pioneer. But the truth behind the crime has such shocking ramifications that Eve can barely believe what the evidence is telling her.
The 3-page prologue that launches the novel is eerily haunting and memorable, setting the stage for a mind-blowing read. Although it provides the reader with a strong clue about the case, it does little to lessen the impact as Eve and her team slowly understand the magnitude of what they’ve uncovered. This is the first time in the long-running series that I’ve felt I was reading a science fiction novel complete with technological advances that couldn’t possibly happen in our lifetime…or could they?
As usual, much of the joy of reading a J.D. Robb novel derives from seeing our old friends back after a too-long six-month absence. Although there are no shocking or significant character developments in Origin, Eve’s fearless billionaire husband Roarke has to cope with an unusual amount of anxiety as he impulsively invites his newly discovered Irish family to New York for Thanksgiving. The seemingly flawless Roarke displays a touch of vulnerability and it’s poignantly amusing to watch Eve slowly realize that he needs her support. It’s also a novel experience to see how Eve handles conflict with Mira, who has always supported Eve wholeheartedly and provided a maternal figure for the woman who never knew her mother. The other interactions between the characters we know so well are predictable but entertaining; Robb remains one of the few authors who can elicit an out-loud chuckle from me, even during the breathless climactic showdown.
I’ve always been impressed by the police procedural aspects of the J.D. Robb novels, and once again Eve and her team display good solid cop work by carefully reviewing the crime scene, looking for links between victim and suspects, and running various scenarios to see which ones play out. The addition of an attractive, ambitious assistant district attorney bodes well for the series’ future; as any fan of Law & Order can attest, once the criminals are arrested, the story is only half over.
With twenty-one full-length J.D. Robb books in print, plus several stories in anthologies and the Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb “collaboration” Remember When, there are bound to be some installments that are stronger than others. Fortunately Origin in Death is one of the highlights of this ground-breaking series, leaving me fully satisfied and eagerly anticipating next Spring’s release.