Review: “Festive in Death,” J.D. Robb

Pros: Plenty of nice twists & turns; fun character stuff built around Christmas
Cons: Not as much tension as I’d like
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book provided by Penguin Group
Expected release date: September 9, 2014.

 

Festive in Death is book 39(!) in the “in death” series starring homicide detective Eve Dallas in a near-future New York City. The series is written by J.D. Robb, which is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. It includes a sprawling cast of characters, mystery and suspense, plenty of snark, romance, sentiment, and some occasionally very dark material. All in all, a great fun series.

In Festive in Death it’s nearly Christmastime in the Eve & Roarke household, and poor Eve is trying to navigate her way through the minefield of finding just the right presents for her friends. In the short lead-up to the holidays she catches a case: a buffed, narcissistic personal trainer who was bludgeoned to death in his apartment and then left with a mocking note stabbed into his chest. The initial investigations don’t turn up much–or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they turned up too much. It seems everyone had a reason to hate the victim, particularly once the police realize he’s been drugging women and raping them. Trying to figure out who really did the deed will take all of Eve and Peabody’s resources.

 

The Christmas theme is played for lovely sentiment, with plenty of gift-giving, reminiscing, and partying. It’s used as an excuse to parade many of Eve’s friends through the pages for a moment or two, reminding us of her acquaintances and loved ones. It works and suits the milieu of the book.

There are plenty of suspects to truly dislike, which can be fun in its own way in this sort of book. Consider the presence of characters we can hate without guilt to be a Christmas present from Robb to her readership. Don’t worry, however; she doesn’t give short shrift to the more ambiguous characters–the people we like and feel sorry for, enjoy the presence of, dislike without hating, or can’t entirely pin down with ease. This aids in throwing some curve balls into the plot, nicely keeping villain options open until late in the game. Speaking of which, there are some great hints that don’t telegraph too much. I like the way the view of what happened wibbled and wobbled up until the very end.

My only negative with the book was that there was something of a lack of tension and suspense. There wasn’t much in the way of physical action, and while that almost works with the slower Christmas feel to the book, I would have liked a little more kick and immediate danger to the plot.

All in all, Festive in Death is an enjoyable winter holiday edition of the Eve Dallas “In Death” series!

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