Book review: Festive in Death by J. D. Robb

Festive in Death by J. D. Robb
Festive in Death by J. D. Robb
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The Christmas party season isn’t all baubles and bonhomie as New York homicide detective Eve Dallas quickly discovers…

When a man is found murdered with a note on his chest reading ‘Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!! Ho, Ho, Ho!’ she knows all too well that her feeble flickering of festive spirit died with him.

American author Nora Roberts, using her pseudonym J.D. Robb, published the first of her addictive ‘In Death’ murder mysteries in 1995 and the latest Christmas ‘cracker’ marks the remarkable 39th book in the series.

Readers all over the world have fallen for her tough as nails but emotionally damaged homicide cop Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire Irish rogue husband Roarke whose evolving relationship has been the talking point of this futuristic series.

The stories, set in the middle decades of the 21st century, are noted for their thrilling plotlines, rich assortment of characters and flashes of dark humour. And with a heroine who specialises in ‘murder and mayhem’ pitched against a husband interested mainly in ‘money and meetings,’ the two opposites create some delicious tensions.

West Village personal trainer Trey Ziegler, a well-toned slicker with a history of double-crossing women, wasn’t many people’s favourite person but he didn’t deserve to be beaten to death with one of his own trophies.

A kitchen knife jammed into his cold heart had been specially positioned to hold the mocking cardboard sign in place, and his body proves a shocking discovery for two young women who were visiting his flat on a personal revenge mission.

One of them is Eve Dallas’s (only occasional) beautician Trina so it’s not long before the trusty lieutenant is hauled out of bed on a cold December night to launch the murder investigation. And it couldn’t come at a worse time as Roarke is busy planning a huge and glittering Christmas party.

Ziegler, it seems, was a load of trouble in life and is causing even more problems now that he’s dead. Vain, unfaithful and vindictive, he had cultivated a lot of enemies and had been acting strangely recently… putting a second lock on his work locker and spending hours at the gym even when he had no clients.

Soon Eve’s list of possible suspects is as long as her arm and when she and her sidekick Detective Delia Peabody uncover Ziegler’s sinister secret, the case takes a deadly turn. Christmas may be a festival of light but Eve and Roarke will be forced down a very dark path in their hunt for the truth…

Robb’s festive feast serves up her usual eclectic cast – some familiar friends and some potential suspects – along with an intriguing murder mystery and some laugh-out-loud moments.

This is much-loved fare for regular ‘In Death’ readers who will revel in the firm focus on rough-edged Eve and smooth-talking Roarke, but there is also plenty of meat on the bone for series newcomers who simply enjoy an absorbing whodunit.

(Piatkus, hardcover, £18.99)