As I write this review, it is, coincidentally – if you believe in coincidences – a few days before Mother’s Day 2014. And again, coincidentally perhaps, this 17th novel in the In Death series is a tale about the serial murders of women who represent one or more characteristics of a mother figure.
The story opens with the murder of a street LC. Her throat is slashed and her body has received a field hysterectomy. A note has been left on her body, specifically addressed to Eve Dallas, and signed “Jack,” as in Jack the Ripper. Two days later, another note is left on the body of a grandmother who has been brutally raped and murdered in an exact imitation of the Boston Strangler killings.
It does not take Eve, or Dr. Mira, very long to profile this killer as a person who has severe Mommy issues, and who is using the imitations of previous notorious murders as a way of destroying exactly that which makes a person a woman and a mother. His game is to make the women powerless and thus make himself more important than they. And his goal is to best the most powerful female cop in NY City – Eve Dallas.
This theme surrounding motherhood actually began two novels ago when Mavis Freestone announced she was pregnant. Then, in the last novel, Roarke learned the true identity and fate of his real mother. In fact, Roarke’s emotional devastation totally shoved the Portrait Murders plot line into the background of that novel. Now, this novel, which begins less than three weeks after the conclusion of the previous, brings Eve’s mother to the forefront.
As the character of Eve Dallas investigates each suspect’s background, the author uses the results of her findings to illustrate the symptoms and effects of parental or parental figure abuse, both emotional and physical, upon children. However, J. D. Robb does not preach to her audience nor does she indulge in saber rattling over the issues. She simply compares and contrasts using the suspects’ lives and those of both Roarke and Eve to make her points. Robb even uses the very close and happy family of Dr. Mira to show the hurt and jealousy a child, adult or minor, can feel over the way a parent chooses to express or extend that motherly affection.
Just as Robb has been subtly, over time, preparing the reader for this particular plotline involving motherhood, the author showcases Eve’s character growth in a subtle manner as well. By the end of the novel, she and Roarke will have smoothly, but noticeably, grown together as a couple and as a professional partnership. Eve will actually use office and societal politics to further her investigation and her professional standing. And she will, scene-by-scene, live up to Baxter’s appellation of “Mom” as she psychologically guides Peabody to and through the day she takes her detective exam.
However, Robb and her editors were not too subtle about one major concept – the current book cover. So – SPOILER ALERT – do not even glance at the cover before you begin the book or you will know the identity of the killer just as soon as you read the suspect list that Eve compiles.
Cover Art from Goodreads