Pros: Good rationale for personal involvement this time; backs off of the dark personal stuff a bit; enjoyable murder mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5
A movie is finally being made based on one of Eve’s prior cases, and she’s the guest of honor at a dinner party attended by the stars, director, and producers. While her partner, Peabody, is delighted to experience Hollywood glamor, Eve almost hopes for a murder to get her out of it. Be careful what you wish for, Eve—the evening isn’t yet over when K.T. Harris, the actress playing Peabody, is found drowned on the roof. No one particularly misses her; she was beyond rude, she stalked those she supposedly cared about, and she used blackmail and violence to get her way. In fact, the problem isn’t finding a suspect—the problem is sorting out which one of many might have done it. And this isn’t easy when all of the suspects are such good actors, and quite accustomed to circling the wagons to keep outsiders at bay. Things become more urgent, however, when another person turns up dead, and Eve begins to suspect a larger pattern at work…
J.D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts’s) Celebrity In Death riffs off of the classic dinner party murder mystery format, except that it keeps going after the night of the dinner is over. After the heavy dose of dark background drama for Eve and Roarke lately, it’s nice to step back to a more case-based format again. While the case is connected to the main characters, and there’s a certain grimness to finding someone who looks so much like Peabody dead, Eve gets to take a more traditional (for her) role in the investigation.
It’s fun to see Peabody’s giddiness contrasted with Eve’s annoyance and Roarke’s amusement when it comes to movie magic. As usual, Robb neatly provides glamor and romance for those who want it as well as Eve’s contrary, curmudgeonly nature to counter it (for those of us who don’t gush over shoes). I’ve long thought that the knack of providing both in one package is one of the keys to her success—it provides material for a much wider audience of readers.
The Hollywood characters are fun; there are stereotypes and subverted stereotypes aplenty to amuse the reader. If you’re a long-time mystery reader of course you’ll find yourself trying to guess whodunit as you go along. There’s always the obvious suspect or suspects, and Robb has long since established that she’s good at diverting attention to keep people guessing past that round. Next there’s usually what I think of as “the inobvious obvious suspect”—the person that supposedly couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it, that a mystery reader will look at in terms such as, “clearly I’m not supposed to suspect that person, so they probably did it.” Once in a while in Robb’s books that character turns out to be the killer, but usually only when the meat of the book isn’t going to be about the murder mystery itself, but rather about how to prove whodunit, how to catch the killer, how to figure out who now killed the killer, or something similar. I thought I’d caught on to the inobvious obvious suspect early on, so I was hoping that either I was wrong or the book would take that kind of left turn into something different. I was pleased to find that things were not nearly as simple as it seemed they might be at first, and I enjoyed the unfolding of the actual story.
There are still plenty of references to past drama in Eve and Roarke’s lives, and the case is strongly intertwined with past events, so I don’t recommend this as a place to jump in if you’re looking to check out the series. I think it’s a nice, strong read for series fans, however.