Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Naked in Death - the first of the Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb thrillers set in 2058.  It reminds me of future-world Criminal Minds crossed with old-school Greek Billionaire Harlequin. The grisly crime bits are grislier than I like to read, but I’m curious enough about the world to read more. (There are like, FORTY books in the series and counting.)

The above is what I wrote right after reading this (in March) - I've yet to read any more books in this series, but other things have brought it to mind -  more on that in a minute.

Eve Dallas (our heroine) is a NYC police detective, but of course in 2058 that means something different than it does in 2013 - or for that matter 1995 when this book was written.  Like many fictional cops, she's tough but vulnerable, smart but not without her blind spots. (mainly she pushes herself too hard and fails to see how great she is so the rest of the characters have to remind her all the time which does get tiresome.) When we join her in this book, she's suffering from nightmares and what sounds like PTSD after a case that ended badly. Roarke is an Irish billionaire enigma who is supposed to be a suspect in the murder case Eve Dallas is investigating, but if you've ever read anything about any of these books (or seen a movie or read any other book, ever)  you know as soon as you clap your eyes on his single name that he is the love interest and is certainly not jetting around New York killing prostitutes, no matter the circumstantial evidence. (but it does give Eve something more to fret about - she digs him on a cellular level and he conveniently owns half of the city, but why do all these people getting murdered have connections to him? JESSICA FLETCHER SYNDROME.) He's high-handed and bossy, throwing his influence around -  if that's the kind of thing that bugs you be forewarned. (Eve's more than a match for him in all of these areas, so it doesn't bother me too much.)

Robb has built an interesting future world - it's clear she's got an idea from the very first book how the law works, how people get around in their flying cars (I honestly can't remember if there are flying cars or not, but let's say YES), politics, money, etc. The prose is not up to the level of the ideas, but the book is plotty I just sort of threw myself into the mystery and went along for the ride. As I said before, some of the crime parts were graphic and grisly which is not something I generally enjoy, but there's enough else there for me to return someday. I'm in no hurry.

THINGS I'VE THOUGHT ABOUT in the months since I read this:

• pseudonyms - was it well known when this first came out that this was a book by Nora Roberts, famous romance author? She's best known for her contemporary romances and this is quite a departure. Is this a similar style-distancing tactic as used more recently by J.K. Rowling/ Robert Galbraith, or was it more a matter (ala Stephen King/Richard Bachman) of being so prolific? Or some other thing? Marketing? Breaking into a new genre?

• There are nearly 40 of these books now - whatever she's doing, it's working for a lot of readers. Men as well as women? I don't know why not. There's certainly a romantic element, but the main channel of the book is CRIME. Violent crime. Crime in the future. Crimes against fashion, for sure.

I think this would appeal to readers of urban fantasy although there is no magic, no werewolves, no vampires or faeries - only future-tech police work, a vast fortune, many billionaire/cop smoldering glances, etc. (Also a fantasy, but one that doesn't depend on the full moon or a curse!) Also to people who like grisly serial killer style crime fiction and people who love long-running series  - if you start now, you're not going to run out of these books any time soon.

what I liked: the imaginative noir-ish world building
what I didn't like: serial killer, graphic crimes against women.

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