Pros: New characters; plenty of character development; somewhat different plot this time
Cons: Even more melodramatic than usual
Rating: 4 out of 5
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Conspiracy in Death is the eighth book in Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb’s ‘in death’ series, starring hardass detective Eve Dallas in a futuristic (2050s and 2060s) New York. The series revels in an over-the-top, larger-than-life approach to mystery and detective work. At the same time, it’s every bit as much about its larger-than-life characters, such as Eve, her billionaire mogul former-crook husband Roarke, her wild best friend musician/performer Mavis, her aide Peabody, and a steadily growing cast of fascinating characters.
As the title implies, this time Eve isn’t dealing with a serial killer: she’s dealing with a conspiracy. This is clear from the moment the first witness tells her of not one, but two dark figures. It becomes even more clear when a senator pushes to have the case put to bed, and Eve is suspended from her job. Suddenly her entire life is falling apart and she has no idea how to stop it.
It all begins with a harmless vagrant found one morning with his heart cut out—surgically, with great precision and skill. As usual Eve is her blunt, straightforward self when questioning the city’s elite surgeons, and she immediately makes enemies. When she finds out the vagrant not only isn’t the first victim, but is one of many, she picks up the pace and soon finds herself the target of a handful of attacks. A troubled policewoman with a grudge wants Eve’s badge and will stop at no accusation, however vile, to have it. A powerful senator wants the case closed. A deadly military droid threatens Eve and her family. And when Eve loses her badge, her carefully held-together toughness threatens to crumble as she’s dropped into the fragmented, brutal memories of her childhood.
The bad guys are smart, but there are a few things they didn’t count on, however. Eve won’t give up, badge or no badge, and Roarke’s resources give her a lot to draw on. And her replacement, Feeney, is every bit as dogged an opponent as she is, particularly with Peabody and McNab racing to help him.
If you aren’t as much into Eve’s personal story as you are the detective side of things, this won’t be your favorite book of the series. If you want to see more bits and pieces of her childhood brought out, however, this is definitely the right book for that. As usual it stretches belief to have Roarke always tied up in the financials and to have some part of the case or cases be personal to Eve (in this case the uniform with a long-time grudge), but hey, the formula works, so it’s hard to complain. The idea of a bad guy with a god complex and a fatal flaw of arrogance is a little overused, but again, it suits Roberts’s formula well and is used appropriately.
We meet a couple of characters in this novel that, if I recall correctly, become recurring characters in the series (Officer Trueheart and a clinic doctor named Louise). Between that and the developments for Eve, this is an installment that series fans probably won’t want to miss.
As usual, I should note that these books are for adults only (explicit and highly athletic sex included).