Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Reunion with Robb

I've decided that I'm going to cheat here.  See, for me to lay down exactly what this series is about (the series is almost 50 books deep) would cause me to burst into tears in an attempt to pull off a summary in one, clip paragraph.  With that said, I've got a link HERE that summarizes the story so far–from the author's own website.  If you're curious, click there.  Other than that, here's my last thoughts on this particularly entry in J. D. Robb's In Death series.

So it’s been exactly two years since J. D. Robb’s Delusion in Death (book 35 in her Eve Dallas series) was released, and two years since I got 20 pages in and decided to put it down. That’s where I stopped reading the series, having decided that after the disappointment of book 33, New York to Dallas, that I had my fill of Eve’s resurging past drama.  Nonetheless, I won't spoil anything.  Truly, it is a great and addictive series if all else fails. Recently, I've been thinking about the series–despite my previous complaints at its lack of character momentum and resolution–before I followed the urge to pull myself back into its world. It all just kept calling me back.

So what have I missed in two years? Well, Delusion in Death takes place in the year 2060. It opens inside of a crowded bar called On the Rocks (Robb was always, always kind of corny with names) in Manhattan’s Lower West Side. The bar is crowded during happy-hour, with business professionals searching for unwinding conversations and equally effective drinks. Everything seems sunny and cheerful until the headaches start. Like an invisible wave, those headaches quickly entice a blind rage that sweeps the brains of the bar’s patrons.  Suddenly, On the Rocks becomes a bloodbath where the once docile and tipsy patrons start a full-out assault against what appears to be their worst nightmares. The murderous frenzy leaves eighty dead. Only a few survive to tell their story.

Naturally, homicide lieutenant Eve Dallas reports to the scene, stepping her way over the bodies as she gathers evidence. Furthermore, considering her husband Roarke owns the bar, Eve has her hands full keeping his stake in the matter at bay. Nonetheless, through witness accounts and a set of interviews, Eve eventually uncovers the connection between an aerial hallucinogenic that swept the bar, and a buried apocalyptic cult called Red Horse. The question then becomes who is responsible for reviving the cult’s method of mass murder? Will he or she strike again? And how can Eve and her team stop the murderer and put the formula behind the airborne hallucinogen where no one else can ever have access to it?

So after a two-year hiatus from the series, I have to say that I did enjoy stepping back into Eve Dallas’s world. All the joshing between Eve and Roarke and Eve and her partner Peabody were present still.  I'm grateful for that, because the dialogue between characters are probably this series' strongest element. So I did miss the characters, and it felt great to be back alongside the cast during one of their investigations. Nonetheless, like usually, there are a number of other cast members who make up Eve’s team (and support) that continue to show and crowd up the pages. Having started the series in 2008, I'm very familiar with the cast, but after my little two-year break, I actually started to grow weary of some of them. There are just too many with minor purposes and even lesser development. Trueheart is still Trueheart, the green-around-the-ears cop. Baxter is still Baxter, Trueheart's mentor. Morris is still Morris, the cool medical examiner. (And you probably have absolutely no idea who these characters are!)  Like the series itself, character development often appears stagnant.  Now that's notwithstanding how each book/investigation covers approximately a weekend’s worth of time–give or take.  But regardless, a shake up in the cast is long past due.

As for the actual detection and police procedural portion, nothing much as change. On occasion does Robb write some solid action mixed with some even better avenues of investigation. And I mention that in regard to some of the other books in the series. Delusion, however, was mostly tepid in this area. Almost all opportunities to showcase Eve’s detection skills were unimaginative. To me, someone else is doing all the cooler stuff off-stage before handing Eve the information necessary to build her case.  To my chagrin, this is very contrary to her “digging up the dirt“ and "getting dirty" herself. In turn, this leaves Eve capable of only doing two things: processing interviews and staring at her murder board until an idea strikes. The former she pulls off excellently; it’s always a joy to watch Eve interview witnesses and suspects. The latter she more or less dispatches another cast member to act on her idea. I suppose she can do that as the lieutenant, and even in the very end she played a more active role in the story's conclusion. 

Nevertheless, it would be nice to see Eve untangling a little more than the files on her PPC (Personal Portable Computer). Even so, the series isn't so bad if you like Eve–which I do.  Not only do I find her charming, but she's also one of those characters that ask for your loyalty just as she displays it to her cast of supporters.  You learn to trust her as a reader.  She's the good guy. This is why I'm kind of glad I'm enthused about the series again. For me to detail what I love and what I dislike about the series would take an eternity, so from this point on, I’m just going to enjoy the ride and complain and marvel my way through to its end.

Super side note: thank goodness Robb chilled out on the comma splices this time around.   And what about those rumors that the series is now ghostwritten?  Anyone have a clue?

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