Imitation In Death

J.D. Robb
2003, Futuristic Romantic Suspense
Berkley, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425191583
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Warm

I've read any number of series that start out good, but get stale along the way. Not so with J.D. Robb's In Death series. Not only are Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her mega-billionaire husband Roarke still one of the best couples in romance, but there are also enough good secondary characters in the books to keep me looking forward to each and every new one. In the latest book in the series, Imitation In Death, Eve is faced with a murderer who uses the methods of famous serial killers of the past. Also, there are big changes in store for Peabody, Mavis gets to play diva, Eve has some disturbing dreams, and Roarke tries his hand at barbecueing.

Someone has obviously been studying famous serial killers. The first murder victim is a licensed companion, down on her luck and working the streets. She is killed and mutilated in a manner that suggests Jack the Ripper. The murderer leaves a taunting, boasting letter just like Jack did, and the letter is addressed directly to Eve Dallas.

The one clue in this case is the paper that the letter was written on. It is expensive, unrecycled paper that Eve and Feeney trace to England. Pretty soon they have a list of suspects including an English diplomat, an author of true crime stories, a singer of sappy romantic ballads, and the kept man of a famous actress. Then the killer strikes again. This time the victim is a respectable widow murdered in the manner of Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler. When the killer does a Ted Bundy on a waitress, matters come to a head.

The actual detective story in Imitation In Death is very similar to the one in Seduction in Death. As in that book, the killer is a woman-hater, and the last victim survives to give Eve the one piece of the puzzle that she needs. I figured out who the killer was very early on, which made the suspense part of the book not as effective as some of the earlier books in this series, but I still enjoyed it because of the all the events happening in the course of the investigation.

Peabody is preparing to take her exam for detective and she's signing a lease for an apartment with McNabb. Needless to say, she is a bundle of nerves. The scene where she's taking some of the simulations McNab has prepared for her shows us how anxious she is to succeed, since if she fails she'll feel she let Dallas down. Wait till you see how McNab rewards her success.

At one point, Eve is stonewalled while trying to question the editor of Outre fashion magazine. The magazine has been after Eve's friend Mavis to do a shoot for them and Mavis knows exactly what to do. She simply tells security that Eve and Peabody are her entourage and whisks them through. Wait till you see Mavis's maternity outfit.

Dr. Mira and her family ask Eve and Roarke to a family barbecue. Eve is still not a social creature, but she ends up having a good time with the Mira family as well as LC Charles Monroe, whose relationship with Dr. Louise DiMotto is still going strong. Dennis Mira has a state-of- the-art barbecue grill. Shortly afterward, Roarke gets a better one. Wait till you see the results of his attempts to grill a steak. (It's kind of nice to see that Roarke isn't totally omnipotent.)

Eve and Roarke's relationship continues to deepen and grow, and their relationship in this book is marked by comfort with each other and lots of laughs. Since Sommerset is off on vacation, Eve and Roarke don't confine their lovemaking to their private rooms, and there is one especially hot and memorable session in the kitchen. Robb introduces the theme of motherhood in this book for several of the characters. Roarke is still coming to terms with his new-found knowledge of his own mother, Mavis is happily pregnant, Peabody is looking down the road to a family, and Eve has disturbing dream/memories of her own mother.

The secret to a good continuing series is a strong main character who is surrounded by an equally strong supporting cast. The In Death series has some of the best supporting characters in books right now, and Robb keeps adding new ones. In this book, the cynical and bawdy Detective Baxter and his partner, shiny clean Officer Trueheart, play a nice juicy role. We get to see Feeney, Whitney, Morris, Nadine, and more of the gang (but where was Trina?), and Robb ends the book with Eve and Peabody facing a change in their relationship.

I'll close by saying that this has to be The Best Series Ever, and as long as J.D. Robb keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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