“Delusion in Death” J. D. Robb

J. D. Robb is a pen name for Nora Roberts who writes mostly romance & romance/crossover novels under her real name. Robb writes futuristic crime/thrillers, and her protagonist is Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in a future NYPD homicide division. There are loads of these books, all called Something In Death, this one (Delusion in Death) is last autumn’s one (there appear to be two per year). In it Dallas must figure out what could make a bar full of perfectly normal business people suddenly slaughter each other – leaving 80 dead and nearly no witnesses. What could’ve caused this, who did it & why? And can Dallas stop the perpetrator from doing it again?

These books are guilty pleasure books for me, candy floss for the brain – ok in small doses but you wouldn’t want too much. There’s definitely a formula for these, a pattern to the shape of the story that holds true across the whole series. And I have the distinct feeling that the choice of a futuristic setting is to remove the need to have the murder methods be plausible with today’s tech or have the police follow acceptable to now standards. She’s even written in a collapse of society & rebuild in between now & then so extrapolation from here to there doesn’t need to be obvious. (Although having said that, the world she’s invented for them does hang together pretty well it’s not just a get out of jail free card she’s put some thought into it.) It doesn’t stop them being fun reads, and a series that I will pick up the next instalment of as soon as I see it in the library (and mostly finish reading while standing in the library) but I won’t bother reserving them.

Robb/Roberts’s strength is creating characters and making them feel real, and distinct. Obviously in this series Eve Dallas and the other recurring characters get fleshed out gradually over the course of several books, but even the one-offs for this book feel like individuals. Even the antagonist – who’s a pathetic weasel of a person, not a meglomaniac or caricature.

I don’t know if I’ve really got anything else to say about this book – fun but possibly not worth looking too closely at the plot in case I see holes.

“Think of the Children” Kerry Wilkinson

I picked this book up at the library coz the title (“Think of the Children”) caught my eye & then it turned out to be a crime story so I started to read it. It’s billed on the front cover as “A DS Jessica Daniel novel” so I guess it’s part of an ongoing series (although I do read in the crime genre, I don’t read much or keep up with it in any way).

The story opens with the protagonist, Jessica Daniel, pretty much stumbling across a case – she’s driving to work when there’s a car accident in front of her & when she goes to check on the (dead) driver she finds a body of a child in the boot of his car. It’s her team at the police force that get the case (partly because she’s the one that was first on the scene) which quickly generates several leads linked with other missing children in Manchester.

One of the things I liked about this book was the sense of reality – there’s political infighting between the various departments of the police force, and sometimes the need to look like they’ve done something is what’s driving the press releases rather than actually finishing off the investigation. Also not every lead turns out to be linked, some things are red herrings, some things are just superficially related. I also liked the way even tho it concentrated on the case at hand there was a feeling of a slice of the lives of not just Jessica but also her friends.

But all that made the conclusion of the main bit of the case feel more jarring. It felt like the novel had suddenly descended into unreality and storybook territory – Jessica comes up with a scheme to get the villain to confess what’s actually going on and her scheme is both illegal & rather implausible. And it’s a sudden descent into a more vigilante attitude on her part, rather than the rest of the book where she’s much more presented as working within the structure of the police force. It was much more the sort of thing I can think of Tempe Brennan doing in Kathy Reichs’s novels, and felt out of place in this book. (I like Reichs’s books, just they’re a different sort of story to the way the bulk of this book felt.)

Another niggle is that the author more than once did the “I know something but I’m not telling you” trick. Jessica gets ideas and makes plans & tells a colleague or whoever about them but we the reader don’t find out till it’s unfolding. It feels too much of a cheap trick to heighten suspense & I’d’ve preferred the author to find some other way to do that.

Overall fun, but flawed. I’ll probably pick more up at the library if they catch my eye, but I’m unlikely to go searching for them.