In this 14th novel in the In Death series, we pick up the story two weeks after the conclusion of the previous novel. Eve Dallas and Roarke have just returned from a much-needed vacation and are only about one week away from celebrating their first wedding anniversary. When Eve returns to work the next morning, she comes face to face with – nothing. Her office has been completely cleaned and repainted. Her desk is completely clear of old files and her in-box is empty.
However, within twenty-four hours, the Rule of Three will be in full force. First, with no active cases to work on, Eve pulls out a homicide cold case and assigns it to Peabody as a training exercise. Secondly, Peabody’s parents unexpectedly show up and Roarke invites them to dinner. And thirdly, before the soup course has been finished, Eve picks up a case. A wealthy man has been murdered with cyanide-laced champagne while giving a toast to his children at his own birthday party.
By the next morning, Eve has a suspect in the murder, a woman named Julianna Dunne. Ten years prior, Dunne had been charged with the black-widow murders of three husbands, but convicted of only one and with Feeney and Dallas instrumental in her incarceration. Recently released from prison and truly believing that Eve betrayed her specifically, and women in general, all those years ago, Dunne intends to destroy Eve by doing what she does best, killing rich men. And guess who’s the richest man on or off the planet?
Robb expertly weaves the three current plot lines together and adds in a major advancement of the ongoing child abuse subplot. The visit by the Peabodys impacts the abuse plot as well as the cold case plot. The cold case impacts both Peabody’s professional relationship with Eve and her personal relationship with McNab. And the major murder plot has a direct effect on the child abuse plot line.
In addition, Robb does three things with Roarke that she has not done before. First, she allows a complete stranger to manipulate him. Secondly, she backs him into a corner where, for the first time, he has no idea how to help himself deal with Eve’s psychological nightmare. And thirdly, Robb writes a situation where Roarke makes a significant mistake in the way he handles Eve in regards to a critical part of her murder investigation.
While the central characters of the In Death series remain the same from book to book, there is nothing formulaic about this series. There may be a major murder in each but methods, motives and investigative techniques change with the situation. Both major and secondary characters have varying degrees of mention and importance from book to book, but their characters and personalities are never static. Even the methods of final confrontation between Eve and the villain vary, running the gamut from cerebral to yet another death.
And Robb’s ability to stay away from well-worn concepts and tactics truly prevails in this novel. Julianna Dunne may be a murderer and a psychopath, but above all, she considers herself a scorned woman. And a scorned woman gets payback, somehow. By the time you have finished reading the scenario in which Julianna dishes out her first payback on Eve and then finish their final confrontation, you will truly understand the meaning of the phrase “cat fight.”
Cover Art from Goodreads