Trigger Warnings: The In Death Series by JD Robb includes mentions of child abuse, rape, and violence.
While Dan and I want to promote independent authors (and bookstores, which I will be writing about soon), I also think it's important that we make it a point to talk about all of the books and stories that we really love. For me, some of those are classics (Jane Austen, you are my hero!), some are popular fiction writers (Stephen King!), and some are independent writers (looking at you, Starla Huchton!); the thing that they have in common is that they all write a hell of a good story.
Which brings me to JD Robb.
JD Robb is really Nora Roberts. Roberts writes very enjoyable romance novels under her own name, but as JD Robb, she writes killer (hahaha) futuristic murder mysteries featuring New York City homicide cop Eve Dallas and her bajillionaire husband, Roarke. How many of these mysteries has she written, you might wonder?
Oh, um ... About forty-six. They're called the In Death series, and let me tell you, when you have SHELVES of books that all have titles that end with In Death, people look at you like you might possibly be a serial killer instead of an avid reader who likes to surround herself with books. As the titles would suggest, these books can be rather dark. Eve's backstory, which is central to her character and development, is very violent and the source of some of the trigger warning that appeared at the beginning of the post; as I noted, she IS a homicide cop, so most of the mystery aspects of the stories involve tracking down some kind of killer.
Despite some of the dark content, however, the books contain a warmth and humor. The characters are interesting and, as you can probably imagine, develop quite a bit over the course of forty-six novels (and more than a few novellas as well).
Are there a few issues with the series as a whole? I would say yes. There is a bit of a formula to the crime solving aspect of the series which becomes apparent after reading just a few of the books. Does it take away from enjoyment of the series? For me, it does not, and in the context of the world that Roberts-as-Robb has constructed, the formula makes complete sense.
Apprentice in Death is the most recent title in this series, and it finds Eve Dallas trying to track down a sniper who has murdered multiple people. This novel pulls in the usual cast of characters -- Roarke, Peabody, Summerset, etc -- with the usual amount of exposition (Harry Potter-style reminders about who everyone is, and their roles in the novel), as well as bringing in a new potential love interest for Nadine Furst, and developing a character who was first introduced a few books back. Confused? Don't be -- Robb does a great job of making sure everything flows well and is understandable even if you haven't read any of the other books in the series.
The storyline of this one is paced quite well. There's no drag -- every scene keeps the story moving to the ultimate showdown between Eve's team and the Big Bad. While this was not as much of a whodoneit as some of the other novels in this series -- the killer is identified fairly early on -- the search for that killer is interesting and doesn't bog the story down.
The dialogue is snappy, and some of it amused me enough that I read it out loud to Dan because I thought it was funny. (Fortunately, he did as well.)
When people ask me why I like Nora Roberts or JD Robb (or any other popular fiction, as opposed to more literary fiction) I put it like this: sometimes, you want a fancy gourmet dinner. And other times, you want a cookie. You need to feed your brain all kinds of things. The In Death series might be a cookie and not, you know, molecular gastronomy. But you know what? Cookies are fun, and Roberts/Robb is one of the best cookie makers around. You can get Apprentice in Death in bookstores or here.