Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Brotherhood of J. D. Robb

(Disclaimer: This post may be meant for readers of the series.)
All right!  Let’s get into this one.  J. D. Robb’s In Death #42, Brotherhood in Death.  The book where we finally get into Dennis Mira's story–including more “cuddle” talk about him.  Which, to be frank, is annoying sometimes.  We get it.  Dennis Mira is a dreamy, gentle-hearted and harmless man of a certain age who wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Now with that said.  I do like how–after all these years–Robb gave us a book unwrapping pieces of his character's past.
But before I get into all that, let’s set the book up.

Like any J. D. Robb book, the premise is pretty simple.  In Brotherhood’s case, Dennis and his cousin, Edward, were meeting a real estate agent.  It's time to address and settle an agreement on their late grandfather’s West Village brownstone.  Having grew up in the home, Dennis wants to keep it.  Yet Edward is ready to sell–with his former position as a powerful senator apart of the negotiations.  This leaves Dennis preparing a defense.  

Edward is calculating and tactful, and it’s those characteristics that left him dead in the brownstone.  It may seem random, but the truth is Edward's past came back to snuff him out.  Unfortunate for Dennis, he discovers the body upon entering the brownstone.  And is swiftly hit over the head by Edward's killer, only to awake with the body of his cousin missing.  Lucky for him, in his back pocket resides New York homicide Lieutenant, Eve Dallas. 
Sweeping the brownstone leaves little forensic clues for Dallas and her team.  Yet, that’s where her billionaire husband Roarke comes in handy.  Though through an illegal search, Dallas uncovers some interesting details around Edward’s life.  Particularly around his years at Yale University.  A time where he formed a pact–a Brotherhood–with a string of other recently missing or murdered powerful men around New York.  Of course, this leaves Eve Dallas and her team to draw the connections.
Someone–or many–are knocking these men out one by one.  And leaving Dallas to clean up the mess.  Yet, what she discovers asks who are the true victims in this case?  Corrupt men like Edward Mira?  Or the vengeful souls plucking him and his Brotherhood down, spurred by vigilance?  Or is it justice?
And that’s how Brotherhood in Death is set up.  Now turn away if you haven’t read the book because I’m about to spoil the hell out of it.  It’s a blog post, not the New York Times review.  So those who’ve read or don’t care, let’s talk about Brotherhood in Death.  I only made this choice because writing my thoughts out were just too damn vague.  So I had to lay it all out to make sense.  It’s sort of like trying to ignore the elephant in the room.

Good.  Some of you made it this far.  Here’s the underline premise/spoiler: a group of women who are survivors of rape have banded together to plot their revenge.  The catch, their rapists are a “Brotherhood” of powerful men.  If you’ve read this far past my spoiler warning, then you already know this about the book.
As a die-hard of the series, this one was just okay to me.  Much like the last book, Devoted in Death, there’s another stretched and heinous extreme delivered by the criminals.  In this instance, both sets of criminals.  Maybe I’m getting a little sensitive to the fictionalized crimes in this particular series.  Or I believe some of the crimes Robb comes up with are moving further into plug ‘n' play terrains.  I know.  I know.  How in the hell could I chew on my lip about this, given I’m a crime thriller junkie?  
Nevertheless, the subject of rape and the consequential response with murder has definitely glowed in previous books.  Yet in Brotherhood, its conversation came across as exterior to me.  Sure Robb explored and delved into it with the characters and victims.  But resoundingly–and this is just my opinion–it seemed like an auto-generated set-up.  An auto-generated stage.  Plot.  A plot muffled by too much of Robb’s and Eve's slack-a-dash procedural formula.  A formula that was just as weak as the conversation at hand.  (Let's talk about the witness who merely peeked at a piece of art with the killers' faces painted on it.  And how she managed to give just enough details for a sketch artist to nail the killers.)
Here's the thing: the book just wasn't clever enough to me.  But–and it's a big BUT–I recognize it's not suppose to be.  We're 42 books into the series, so I got a handle on why I keep coming back.  Despite being bothered by some of the writing and lukewarm case developments.  Which would be hit or miss 42 books into any series.  
You see, it's the love story between Eve and Roarke that makes the series.  Eve's connections with her colleagues.  These make that word "formula" that I keep overpopulating this post with.  Sometimes the crimes are more or less window dressing.  Sometimes everything and everybody else congregates and "over talks" the potential for Robb's premises.  For her premises to go further.  Go deeper.  Go edgier.

Nonetheless, there's still plenty of good in Brotherhood.  Any reader like myself are firmly attached to the characters who fill this series.  Even when we don't necessarily need them chattering and crowding the stage at once. 

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