Friday, February 6, 2015

Caught-Up in Death

It has finally happened–I'm caught up on J. D. Robb (except for two short stories) and am officially ready for Obsession in Death’s release on February 10th. (Which is six days away from where I'm standing.) Whoo-hoo! It’s been a thrill slamming these four books down these past two months. A truly fun and exciting treat/reunion. There were nights where I stood up to keep from falling asleep, as I chuck down 200 pages. In contrast, there was a time where I–pitifully–spent ten days with one book.  Which is not a good thing. I got Lay's Simply thick cut potato chips wedged in some books, as I snacked alongside Eve and crew. I silenced my Korean dramas with the MUTE button to funnel my concentration into some of the more gripping cases.  And I suppose I should mention how I was almost late for work one morning, having stayed up to read and awoke to follow-up with a few more pages.

Fun, indeed.

So the last four books are listed as: Calculated, Thankless, Concealed, and Festive in Death. If I had to rate them in order from best to worse, it'll be Concealed, Calculated, Festive, and Thankless. Nonetheless, you can visit my previous post on Calculated and Thankless to see what I thought of them.  From here I’m going into Concealed and Festive. Okay. Enough rambling.

Concealed in Death is book number 38 in Robb’s In Death series, and it ranks up there with one Eve Dallas’s creepiest cases. It started off simple enough. Eve’s billionaire husband–and series star–Roarke is interested in creating a haven for abandoned children/teens. He’s taken an interest in an old building that done such a thing almost twenty years previous.  Then, it was known as The Sanctuary. 

Nevertheless, a bit of demolition is required to fit Roarke’s taste for the building.  With the contractor present, Roarke wields a sledgehammer into a wall to get the process started. And what he uncovers is a pocket of space. Tucked in that space are the skeletal remains of two, wrapped in plastic. Roarke wastes no time contacting his wife, homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas. And, upon her arrival, the skeletal remains of ten others are uncovered buried in further walls of the building.

This was probably one of the best In Death books since Treachery in Death. It’s books like this that make me roll my eyes at book snobs. You know, the individuals who look down on what they deem–snobbishly I should say–genre fiction. (Personally, I'd rather get rid of the “genre” and stick with Sue Grafton’s equivalent, “literary form.”) However, genre fiction, or mystery to be exact, explores social subjects and themes just as effectively as contemporary fiction. Though it's done under the duress of murder (which may be where all the snobby squealing comes from), that is only the vehicle to said themes and social conversations. 

Concealed in Death provided both murder and the conversation. Robb took readers on the individual stories of twelve (and then some) unfortunate teens who found themselves abandoned and/or abused by their families.  Subsequently, they're thrown into a shelter. Many of them gathered hard, abrasive defense mechanisms used to control those around them. Many harbored powerful, self-destructive rage. And many were so broken they were helpless and prey to a variety of influences. These teens manipulated, stole, and fought to relieve their sadness. And in the end, they were lured to their deaths by an individual just as destructive and broken.

Concealed in Death just goes on and on.  Whether it's the book's additional presence of mental illness and suicide; it opens conversation after conversation while telling a sad, troubling story that’s very much worth a discussion. It ranked right up there with the disheartening feeling I gathered after I closed Promises in Death six years ago.  Now, that's not to say that Concealed didn't have its flaws.  It certainly did.  However, just the conception of the case alone made it a winner to me.  Twelve skeletal remains hidden behind walls is chilling in itself.  Plus, I'm not one to nibble on flaws in books unless they're too big for me to swallow.

Which more or less brings me to book number 39, Festive in Death. A personal trainer named Trey Ziegler is discovered in his apartment. Murdered, of course. He was bashed over the head twice with one of his fantastic, high-flying fitness achievement trophies, before finding himself (well, his corpse of a self) stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife attached to a note reading Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!! Ho. Ho. Ho!  It would be somewhat easier for Eve if she found some sympathy for her playboy victim. Oh, yeah. The fact that he drugged his many sexual conquests takes part of her disgust. Nonetheless, this is her job; she must stand for the dead. So the search for his killer keeps going. From a fashion blogger, a native mistress, and Trey’s body-building rivals, the list of his potential killer goes on just as the variety of possible motives.  Was it a vengeance kill?  A passion kill?  Or maybe Trey was getting in the way of someone else's personal achievement? So, who killed Trey Ziegler and why?

There’s not that much I want to say about Festive in Death. I thought it was kind of standard. It wasn't all that exciting–especially after the gripping atmosphere Concealed gave me.  However, it was an enjoyable glide with Eve and the cast. See, the thing about Festive was Robb never really flipped any switches to me. I read it thinking to myself “wouldn't it be interesting if Trey’s killer was his gay lover”. Conversely, “what if Trey’s hiding someone else’s homoerotic voyeurisms.” Or even, “wow, I wish the character who seems naive and dumb was actually a blood-thirsty vengeful bitch.” Anything but the status quo would’ve done. And while it did twist a little in the end, it wasn't all that grand.  Plainly put, the book was too damn safe for me.

The true treat of Festive was probably the long scenes dedicated to Eve and Roarke’s life with family and friends. Seeing that this was a Christmas-themed book, it only made sense. Now, I'm not one to really invest too much in Eve and Roarke’s relationships with others. It’s true. To me, the books move so slow and are so stagnant in the relationship area that I don't feel like I really miss much.  Let me explain... 

Early in the series there was an arc where the dating couple, Peabody (Eve’s partner) and McNab (New York’s electronic division officer), were having a tiff.  He caught her being kissed by another individual and it deconstructed/reconstructed everything between them for a couple of books.  It was an issue that was there.  It came present, explored and experience without having been watered down or glossed over.  Another example comes when the resident psychologist, Dr. Mira, and Eve were on rocky terms during another arc in the series.  Their tiff had to do with an ethical disagreement involving a case. So other than that, nothing really sticks out to me concerning characters and their relationships with others. Perhaps I'm just blind to it, because I've read reviews where others are excited for growth in certain relationships where all I see is the same. Even with Eve and Roarke, I hardly see much of this “growth” people keep talking about. Basically, what I'm saying is that nothing breaks down to be built back up between these characters.  At least nothing serious, detrimental, or dynamic-changing.

I'm not as invested in the character relationships as other readers, but when it happens, I do notice piquing changes.  And I also want to add that I believe part of this issues comes with how everyone's world almost always orbits back around to Eve and Roarke.

Nonetheless, with all of that said, I will say that I did enjoy the parts in Festive not focused on the murder case.  (Honestly, I'm kind of shocked that I did enjoy them.) After all, a Christmas party is usually a good time. And in saying that, I still wish Robb would do something with the gay medical examiner Ty Clipper. So annoying how all these straight couples get to have all the fun. Even the coupling between a licensed male prostitute and a doctor (though I like them in general).

Well, that’s it. Enough rambling. I’m moving on to Obsession. Check with me there!

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