2003, Futuristic Romantic Suspense
Berkley, $7.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425189031 Part of a series
Portrait in Death is the 16th entry in J.D. Robb’s In Death series, featuring police officer Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke.
At the beginning of the novel, Eve is called in to investigate a particularly troublesome murder. After killing a young university student, the killer contacts the news media. Aside from that cryptic communication, however, there appears to be no motive and no links to anyone the girl knew. Eve is left in the unenviable position of gathering up as many slim leads as she can find and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
While this is going on, Eve's husband Roarke has been handed a problem of his own, one that to him is no less devastating. Roarke is a self-made man who finally thought he was at peace with his past. On a trip to visit one of the charities he funds he meets a woman who knew his mother, his real mother, and has a story to tell him. When she is done, Roarke must face two possibilities - that at least part of his past is a lie and that there remain facts about his past about which he should be aware.
The tension this puts on Eve and Roarke’s relationship is central to the book. They trust each other, but both have been damaged by the past and are learning how to be a married couple. Roark doesn't want to show Eve parts of himself that he thinks she won't be able to face. The author brilliantly portrays how this, coupled with her drive to catch the killer, puts stress on Eve and on their marriage. Watching them work through the emotional conflicts is as tension-building has watching Eve solve the case.
In addition to Eve and Roarke, the rest of the cast makes an appearance in this book and manage to provide quite a lot of humor. Summerset has a central role in all of his dignified snappishness, and along with Roarke’s past we get to learn a little bit more about the butler. Peabody and McNab are still giving Eve the twitches and Mavis is heading into pregnancy in glorious Technicolor, with her beloved Leonardo designing one outrageous maternity outfit after the other.
The above paragraph probably would have no meaning to someone who has not been following the series, and for recommending the book this is the one hesitation I would express. If you are a fan of J.D. Robb and are familiar with the series, run and grab Portrait in Death. It is a good, interesting addition to the series. However, if you have not tried the In Death books yet, this is not the book I would start with. Unlike some other books in this series, there is not enough backstory given to keep up with all of the in jokes and subplots. So while you could start here and probably enjoy the reading, many of the longer running jokes and stories are interesting enough that it is worth starting at the beginning.
One of the things I have loved about this series is J.D. Robb’s ability to add new layers to her characters in each additional novel, and in Portrait in Death this is done very well. The heat that has been maintained between Roarke and Eve over a 16-book span is just amazing. I will be waiting impatiently for the next book in the series both for the mystery and to see what is next for Roarke and Eve’s relationship.
-- Shelley Dodge
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