Desert Isle Keeper Review

Survivor in Death

J.D. Robb
2005, Futuristic Romantic Suspense (2050s New York)
Putnam, $23.95, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0399152083
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Hot

It’s almost ridiculous how many DIK reviews we’ve given Nora Roberts (and her alter-ego, J.D. Robb). Believe it or not, some readers have actually found that suspicious: does Nora have AAR in one of her stylish pockets? The answer is no. It’s just that she’s really good. We can’t help it.

Someone murders the quiet, upper-middle-class Swisher family: mother, father, son, servant, and – someone else’s daughter. Nine-year-old Nixie Swisher was sneaking a midnight snack at the time, so she escaped the slaughter, while her friend, who was sleeping over, was killed in her place. The murders were planned and executed with military precision. But why would anyone go to such trouble to erase this inoffensive family?

The In Death series has fallen into a certain well-established pattern, and this one is no different. Lieutenant Eve Dallas catches the brutal murder case and her focus, for the remainder of the book, is primarily on catching the killer. But the case raises uncomfortable emotions in her otherwise idyllic married life, and she and her husband, mega-millionaire Roarke, must deal with the tension. In this case, the tension springs from one source: Nixie.

Nixie witnessed the murder of her family and survived, blood-spattered and traumatized. She is found by Eve and refuses to leave Eve’s side. Eve goes over the heads of Child Protection and places Nixie in her home, rationalizing that she’s doing it for the girl’s safety – Nixie is, after all, a witness. But Nixie’s presence in Eve and Roarke’s home is a constant reminder to them both of their painful pasts. Her anger, grief, and fear resonate a little too sharply with Roarke and Eve (and, for that matter, with Summerset, who takes on the lion’s share of Nixie's care).

Eve is not one of those heroines who goes all mushy and gentle-eyed in the presence of a needy child, and for me, that is what pushes my grade for this book from B+ to A. Most authors would have given in to the temptation to show a little maternal sentimentality, would have had their heroines reading the child stories or rocking her to sleep. That would just not have been the Eve I’ve come to know and love. The presence of “the kid” in her home makes her anxious and snarly, and she avoids Nixie as much as she can. And, inevitably, the question of who will adopt poor Nixie just has to come up. Do Eve and Roarke share a fond glance and declare, “Of course we’ll take her!” What do you think?

Robb's staccato prose style lends the book a compelling urgency and had me eagerly turning pages. The mystery is interesting and convincing. It all hangs together and makes sense, and as always I admire the police procedural aspects of the book, showing how Eve follows leads and inspirations to build a case against the killer. Even more, I enjoyed the way Eve and Roarke cope, in their different ways, with the challenge of Nixie in their lives. And while I’m on the subject, Nixie is convincing, too, realistic and sympathetic and all too prone to getting into trouble.

The fact is, there’s only one thing I really didn’t like about this book, and that’s the image of Eve on the cover (wearing a short skirt and hose on the job – yeah, right!). One final note: this may not be a perfect place to start the series, but I haven’t read the books in order (and I’ve missed quite a few in the middle), and I did just fine.

-- Jennifer Keirans

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