PEABODY IS THE STAR IN THIS ONE
Even without the book’s promotional blurb, within ten pages, the reader recognizes the basic and oft used plotline. A serial killer is beating, raping, and killing women. They all fit a certain physical type, all are posed identically in strategic public venues, all are identically adorned and all are identically mutilated.
Any reader who devours non-cozy mysteries and thrillers on a regular basis knows this killer’s profile. He is ritualistically and repeatedly killing the likeness of a dominant female figure from his past, probably his mother. What the reader doesn’t know is the method J.D. Robb will take with such a common theme in order to ratchet it up into something that will keep the reader interested for another 344 pages.
Robb writes in not one but three devices that add originality to the basic formula. First, the beatings are not meant to subdue, setting an easy stage for the rape. They are meant to destroy the face, the ribcage and the internal organs. The rape is another issue entirely. Secondly, the mutilations – removing the victims’ eyes – are not forms of torture; they are conducted post-mortem only. And thirdly, a female psychic/sensitive comes forward, claiming to have witnessed the killings through visions occurring in real time. And this psychic knows details that have not been provided, nor have leaked, to either the media or the next of kin.
Robb also changes up the storyline by making Peabody the main instrument in the investigation rather than the usual Eve/Roarke dynamic. Peabody’s upbringing in a family of Free-Agers and sensitives gives her unique insight (no pun intended) into the visions and makes her a natural lead. She is able to guide Eve through her misgivings about psychics and educate her in how to use the visions as an investigative tool.
And speaking of Peabody as a lead character, the promotional blurb states that Peabody is badly injured during this investigation, leaving Eve, Roarke and Feeney to finish the job. However, in at least two ways, this blurb is just a tad misleading, so be aware that SPOILERS FOLLOW. First, usual promotional text speaks of events that occur near the beginning of a tale – teasers, if you will, to spike a reader’s interest. But, in this tale, you will push through 80% of the book before Peabody is even scratched.
And, secondly, that phrase about being badly injured is the understatement of the decade. Unless, of course, you want to describe the comatose, bloody, broken lump of ruptured flesh and shattered bone that Peabody becomes as “badly injured.”
This is ultimately a tale about love – true love, misguided love and tortured-out-of-existence love. This is also a tale about friendship, with all its privileges and its responsibilities. And Eve makes great strides in understanding the concept of friendship, with Mavis, with Nadine and particularly with Peabody.
And, as is normal in an In Death novel, Robb uses the case to take Eve back to her roots and brings her forward beyond what she has been capable of acknowledging before. The social concepts of nature vs. nurture, excuses vs. choice and blame vs. responsibility are cleverly woven into both the dialogue and the aspects of the investigation.
As usual, this entry in the series is first rate. And, as the 19th Eve Dallas tale, it is in no way a stand-alone entry either. There are simply too many actions and consequences in this novel that are dependent upon previous scenarios and character interactions for this to be anyone’s starting place in the series.
Cover Art From Goodreads