MUST READ NORA ROBERTS’ “HOT ROCKS” FIRST
Even though its title does not contain the words “In Death,” “Big Jack” is definitely a legitimate issue in that series. It falls chronologically in story line right after Robb’s seventeenth book, “Imitation in Death,” as it picks up barely a day after Peabody makes detective.
Most serious readers are aware of the importance of reading series books in their proper order. However, this book has a triple whammy attached to it in that regard. First, “Big Jack” falls almost in the middle of a well-established series. Thus, a great deal of backstory and character inter-dynamics are already in play and essential to understanding events that occur within this plotline. To read it independently would likely be a mistake.
Secondly, and more importantly, this entry was originally published in 2003 as the second part of an omnibus titled “Remember When.” The first part of that omnibus was written by Robb’s alter ego, Nora Roberts, and contains the entire circumstances that lead to this novella. So again, if you have not read Part One of the omnibus, you will not understand the intimate connection of this murderer to the original crime. Nor will you truly understand the correlation Robb makes between Eve and the murderer in regards to Eve’s ongoing question of nature versus nurture, genetics versus choice.
And thirdly, in 2010, Roberts/Robb’s publisher separated the omnibus into two independently published stories. In the omnibus, the sections are only titled “Part One” and “Part Two.” When separated, Part One became “Hot Rocks,” published under the author Nora Roberts; Part Two became “Big Jack,” published under the author J. D. Robb. Thus, between the title changes and the seven-year difference in publication dates, many readers can be confused as to when to read what.
Therefore, the correct reading order is Robb’s “Imitation in Death,” then Roberts’ “Hot Rocks,” and finally, this entry, Robb’s “Big Jack.” Or you can just follow “Imitation in Death” with the omnibus “Remember When,” published under Nora Roberts’ name.
So, assuming you have read “Hot Rocks” or Part One of “Remember When,” the setup is as follows: Fifty-six years after the diamond heist, one-fourth of the “hot rocks” have never been recovered. Samantha Gannon, the granddaughter of Laine Tavish and Max Gannon, writes a book about the heist, called, confusingly, “Hot Rocks.” Shortly after its publication, it becomes a “hot ticket,” and Samantha goes on tour all over the U.S. The day she returns from that tour, she finds her house sitter with her throat slit. The next day, her maid is found immolated in a vacant lot. Someone apparently thinks Samantha knows a whole lot more about the missing diamonds than she has published in the book.
Eve Dallas is the primary on the house sitter’s murder while Baxter is the primary for the maid. When they make the connection between the victims and then the book, the hunt for a human connection to one of the original thieves is mounted.
I am not a heavy reader of Nora Roberts’ books, not like I am with J. D. Robb’s works. But reading this particular crossover package was not only intriguing, it was necessary for me to continue the In Death series with the best understanding. Never the less, I still had two problems with the idea.
First, it appears that the two parts were written back-to-back and that it took the author awhile to get out of the “Nora Roberts” mode and into the persona of J. D. Robb. Secondly, the title “Big Jack” only makes superficial sense. It’s true that Big Jack O’Hara was an important character in “Hot Rocks,” but he has been dead for fifteen years before the J. D. Robb entry starts. And he has virtually nothing to do with this story, dead or alive.
Cover Art from Goodreads