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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 89/100: Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb

Holiday in Death (In Death, #7)Holiday in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes when I'm in the midst of one of these books, I wonder if it's true that I don't really like murder mysteries.

It's not the murder mystery that drew me to this series initially though -- I was initially drawn to it because I read a few Nora Roberts books in college and liked them, so then I checked out a book by her alter ego when I was working a data entry job that allowed me to listen to audiobooks (that's when my affection for audiobooks really began.) I was delighted with the book's "near-future" setting -- Robb doesn't go out of her way trying to impress people with her version of the future, and it's similar enough to our own world that it doesn't take much getting used to, while being different enough to give it all an extra boost in interest. (Now that nearly 20 years have passed since the series began, some of her ideas about the future are becoming sadly dated, but it's still a fun alternate world to hang out in.) But of course, what really keeps me coming back is Eve. I just love the character of Eve Dallas, and I have probably mentioned that in every review of this series I've ever done.

This installment had a few elements that were of interest to me, especially the fact that the killer was tracing his victims through a dating/match service. Now that online dating is so ubiquitous, it's interesting to see Robb's 1998 version of what she thought it might be, which is far more personal and more in line with the earliest "match" algorithms that still involved consultants as "middle-men." In this case, the consultants/owners of the service are prime suspects, as they are seemingly the only ones with unbridled access to data for all the targeted victims. To add an extra layer of creepiness, these are sexual homicides -- the victims are raped before murdered, and after death the murderer "dresses them up" in high quality makeup and Christmas decorations, adorning each with an icon from the song the "12 Days of Christmas." Oh yeah -- and he dresses up like Santa Claus when he commits his murders. Not your typical holiday romance!

This book really shone in all of the moments when Eve was "on the job" -- I love her competence and expertise, as well as the characterization of all the people she encounters in her line of work, from her efficient aide to the lab techs to the murder suspects she interviews. Robb manages to give even her bit characters so much personality. I sort of inwardly groaned every time Eve went home, though -- one aspect of this series that grates on me more and more the older I get is the "wish-fulfillment" aspect of Eve's relationship with Rourke, her hunky, somewhat dangerous, perpetually horny, disgustingly rich hubby. This is where I wish Robb's alternate I.D. as a romance writer didn't show so much "creep" into this world -- I really do NOT need to know the details of every single sexual encounter before Eve and Rourke. They're married, they have a great sex life, good for them, let's get back to the story. Also, I dislike the patronizing way Rourke "takes care of" her, despite her resistance, or "convinces" her to have sex even when she initially expresses disinterest. I mean, I know the relationship dynamics are totally different, but because Rourke knows Eve is a survivor of rape, he really should just take no as no, and leave me alone as leave me alone. Instead, there's this sort of "Hubby knows best" tone to it all that makes me want to puke -- in this installment he even drugged her at one point because she so badly needed "rest." I would just enjoy this series so much more if there wasn't this "every-woman's-fantasy" element lurking around the corner of the otherwise gritty storytelling.

Also, McNabb should totally be fired for sexual harassment. His comments about Peabody's "tits" were not harmless or funny, they were out of line. And Eve should have told him as much.

One more thing that bothers me now that didn't bother me when I first started this series 12-ish years ago is Robb's head-hopping. It feels so amateur from a writer who is anything but.

Still, this was overall an "enjoyable" experience, a mostly light read that wasn't afraid to probe into a few dark corners. I didn't guess the murderer until just around the time that Eve did, which I liked -- it's kind of ruined when I can pin the killer too early in the story. The writing is competent and efficient, much like Eve herself is, and leaves me knowing I'll eventually return for more.

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