Sunday, October 25, 2015

Devoted to Robb–and Eve Dallas

TODAY: Book number 41 in J. D. Robb’s insanely popular and lengthy futuristic police procedural series, Devoted in Death.  And while it would help to provide a quick, peachy rundown of what this series contains... I’d rather not.  No.  Seriously.  Condensing 41 books is asking for too much hell.  Besides, I’ve been posting about this series all year.  Ever since I decided to hop back on the Robb-Wagon (best decision ever) after taking two years off.  Thus, this post is probably more objective to those familiar with the world of In Death.

Devoted to Story

So what murderous crime takes place in Devoted in Death–as the 41st book in the series?  To start, New York homicide Lieutenant, Eve Dallas, investigates the brutal killing of a cellist.  His body turns up in downtown Manhattan, in an area known as Mechanics Alley.  Mechanics Alley is part of New York’s low-level district.  It's a district populated with seedy characters.  The prostitutes, gang members, and drug dealers there are far removed from the cellist's circles.  And the street is blocks away from his actual residents.  With his body slumped before a graffiti-covered wall, Eve concludes the body was dumped.  Further examination uncovers a carving in his skin.  It consists of a heart with the initials E and D slashed inside.
So just who the hell are E and D?
E and D stands for Ella-Loo and her boyfriend, Darryl.  These mid-west killers been hitting the road for New York, murdering and robbing along the way.  And, unfortunate to them, Eve Dallas’s radar.  The spree murders started when their car broke down in Arkansas.  Unwilling to waste time, Ella-Loo proceeded to bludgeon a man to snatch his vehicle in its place.  The couple’s taste for fusing murder and sex bloomed and intensified via a stream of murders.  Murders leading to Ella-Loo's dream of New York.  Dallas and her squad will trace their crimes.  And with the help of a former detective handling one of the couple’s murders, as well as the FBI.
It’s Bonnie and Clyde gone ultra-postal.

Devoted to Three
You have three things happening in Devoted in Death.  First, you’re taken on the path of the killers, Ella-Loo and Darryl.  So you know the killers right away.  You know their M.O.  You know their twisted psychology, as well as chunks of their backstory.  You even witness their first crack at murder.  And while the fly-on-the-wall view you're given adds to the tension of the book, it doesn't necessarily remove the sense of watching caricature villains at play.  I would even call Ella-Loo and Darryl cartoonish and silly.  Especially Ella-Loo.  
Second, you’re given the circumstances of Ella-Loo and Darryl’s current victims in New York.  This consist of two New Yorkers who’ve found themselves abducted by Ella-Loo and Darryl.  It’s been a minute since Robb wrote a villain(s) as outlandish and unchained as these two were.  The majority of In Death killings categorizes as manslaughter or second-degree murder.  You know.  Someone taking the opportunity to commit the crime in a rush of irrational behavior, or under aggravated factors.  However, Ella-Loo and Darryl are certainly in the first-degree psychopathic serial killer category.  So the question becomes how capable and quick-thinking can their captives out stand and survive before the couples kills out of excitement and boredom?  This, of course, tosses another poker into the tension.  
Lastly, you’re given Eve Dallas and her squad’s race to stop Ella-Loo and Darryl to save the captives.  So the fast-pace thrill ride goes without saying.
Devoted to Standards 
This is an In Death novel that’s wide open, with many of its thrills generated by the cat and mouse chase between cop and killers.  And I’ve said this before, but the series is 40 books deep.  So either you’re in the game or not.  And what I mean is the standard dressings of the series remain recognizable true.  You get the interactions between Eve and her billionaire husband, Roarke.  Eve and her partner, Delia Peabody.  Eve with the swirl of staple series regulars in and outside the cop shop.  Although her best friend Mavis was missing some.  
The police procedural aspect is always electric and crystal clear as the motivating force of the book.  Meaning Robb is to-the-point and doesn't ever linger or leave her characters directionless.  The drawback is she works with a very controlled formula, grant her characters and their individual professions/expertise are always required to break a case.  So Morris will always work the morgue.  Mira will always profile.  McNab will always look through electronics.  And so forth and so on.  
The futuristic setting and toys are present as well.  Speaking of which, I’ve been watching that new TV show Minority Report.  And let me tell you, Robb could use an upgrade on her description of New York and its futuristic gadgetry. 
Devoted to Technique 
Now I do want to address something I found annoying in Devoted.  And it's about Robb’s sometimes abusive writing technique.  
This time around, Robb had the tendency to overuse multiple paragraphs of dialogue.  It comes when a character delivers his or her dialogue–boxed into a paragraph.  Then he or she continues into the following paragraph without the closing quotation in the previous.  Fine.  That's how it works.  Nonetheless, the point is Robb kind of did it too much in Devoted.  I found her writing distracting for that overuse only.  Because of this, some scenes left me dangling over the flow of conversation between characters.  I used to have an issue with Robb's comma splices, inability to regard speaking characters to the reader, and sentence fragments as well.  
I’m not a grammar Nazi.  And I've certainly abused plenty in this post.  However, in terms of reading fiction and following narrative flow, I’ve often found myself distracted by parts of Robb’s writing.  With so many characters and information to process, it gets frustrating when you have to blink out of the story for a moment to realign yourself with the flow of the scene.
Devoted to Robb
You know, there’s not much I can say, other than this series simply speaks to and captives its readers.  You come in for exactly what you get.  Having the cases as the backbone kind of waggles how good the books are in terms of a police procedural.  But watching the characters do their work, talk their talk, and come alive to the experience is all there really is.  I will say that Devoted was weaker than February’s release of Obsession.  But hey, there’s always next year and another dollar toll to pay for the next adventure.
Anyway, that’s all I have for now.  I gave Devoted three stars.  It was a book pumped on pure adrenaline that sometimes found technical bumps that interrupted the narrative.  As well as cartoonish villains.  But really?  Who cares when Brotherhood in Death is releasing early February?
Sound off in the comments below if you’re an In Death fan.

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