This is the very first of the “In Death” series by J.D. Robb, who is of course better known by her other name, Nora Roberts. To this day I remain very fond of this entire series, since it’s among the first that got me into regularly reading romantic suspense, and it’s a good bridge between that and my more preferred genre of SF.
And given Ms. Roberts’ usual mode of writing, this first of the long line of Eve Dallas novels is actually more enjoyable to me for the futuristic worldbuilding than it is for the romance. Don’t get me wrong, Roarke is a very swoonable love interest–but his main function in this plot is to be handsome and mysterious, and to put our heroine, NYPD cop Eve Dallas, through a wringer of OHNOEZ HE IS MY PRIMARY SUSPECT YET I CANNOT RESIST HIS HOTNESS. Compared to how their relationship develops later, Eve and Roarke are really kind of cliched getting out of the gate. On the other hand, it must definitely be said that the way Roarke really gets to Eve emotionally, giving her real coffee, is both a great little worldbuilding detail, since real coffee is rare in this timeframe, and very, very sweet.
But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this book, if you like your romantic suspense with a light dose of SF on the side. The setting is just far enough into the future that we’ve got flying cars (YAY!), droids, interstellar travel as well as super-swift planetary transit, and other technological marvels. What appeals to me just as much are the political and social worldbuilding details, though. In the Eve Dallas universe, prostitution has become legal and those who engage in it are “licensed companions”; the Browncoat in me just has to grin at this. Motherhood is considered a paying career choice, and women who elect to stay home and raise their children are in fact paid salaries as full-time professional mothers, which is awesome.
This early in the series–and this is something I’d forgotten, given how long it had been since I read this one the first time–the setting is rather grittier than you see later on as well. Eve is still primarily a street cop, and she hasn’t gotten her future aide Peabody as of this story. So you see a lot more of her doing legwork and encountering various disreputable characters as she works the case. I really rather miss that from the later books, since it makes this one and the couple that follow stand out better as individual plots.
As for the case itself, it’s a high-profile serial killer case that has Eve running afoul of a U.S. senator as well as Roarke, the richest and most powerful man on the planet. The plot structure won’t surprise anyone familiar with Roberts’ work or really, with romantic suspense cop plots in general. But it’s a fun light read and a great start to a series with impressive longevity indeed. Four stars.