Concealed in Death

J.D. Robb
February 2014, Futuristic Romantic Suspense (2060s New York)
Putnam, $20.68, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 039916443X
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

Concealed in Death is a nice addition to the long-running In Death series - and a considerable improvement over the last book, which featured an immature, annoying serial killer villain. This one features a crime that took place in the past, and gives some insight into some favorite characters’ pasts as well.

Roarke Industries has just purchased an old building, and as he is swinging the ceremonial sledgehammer so they can demolish the interior and rebuild/remodel the property, he discovers a gruesome sight: two bodies, wrapped in plastic and concealed behind a poorly built wall. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. After a complete search, they discover twelve bodies, all killed approximately fifteen years ago and concealed on three different floors of the building.

Since the crime happened so long ago, a new character makes an appearance. Dr. Garnet DeWinter is a forensic anthropologist (a la Bones) who along with a skilled facial reconstruction artist, assists Eve in identifying the remains. All seem to be young teenage girls between twelve and sixteen, and many seem to have been disadvantaged. Eve soon discovers that the building used to serve as a home for disadvantaged youth, and that several victims have ties to the home. The brother/sister team (Philadelphia and Nashville Jones) that ran the home now have a wealthy patron, and run a nicer (if slightly creepy) version. They seem very goody two-shoes, but clearly something about the whole thing is a little off.

The crimes seem to have occurred very soon after the Jones siblings vacated the premises. Some of their charges clearly fell through the cracks and fell victim to foul play. But since there are no more recent crimes, is the killer dead too? Or did someone find out what he was up to and stop him?

Solving a crime that happened over a decade ago is something a little new and different for Eve and the series. It also means that this particular book is a little less tech-y and more about traditional police work. In other words, this isn’t as much of a “McNabb, Feeney, and Roarke to the rescue!” as some of the others. I found that this freshened up the series and added something a little different.

On the personal front, Eve has thoughts and demons of her own involving homes for disadvantaged, poor, troubled, and orphaned youth. She can’t help seeing some of herself in the dead girls. More surprising, though, is the back story we get on Mavis. Longtime readers will probably remember that Eve met Mavis when she caught Mavis stealing. So we know her past was somewhat shady before her mega-stardom and her connubial bliss with Leonardo. But Concealed provides real details on that, details that emerge when we discover that Mavis actually knows a couple of the girls. Mavis still knows some people who are part of that life, and some of the compromises Eve makes to gain information from them are a little uncomfortable for everyone. It also recalls Roarke’s shady past.

All the In Death books have their mystery and their more personal parts. I thought both these aspects were well done here, so I’d recommend Concealed in Death. Grading is always tough, though, because the books are so intertwined that you can’t help but compare them to each other. I’d say this comes in at a solid B on the strength of the mystery and the Mavis backstory. It’s not among the most brilliant of the series, but it is a far sight better than the last offering.

-- Blythe Barnhill

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