J. D. Robb writes futuristic mysteries featuring New York cop Eve Dallas. Set in 2059, one might at first consider them near-future science fiction; however, the future setting seems primarily present to provide the cops and criminals with cool toys. The background is not worked out with any evident depth or rigor, but feels more like a stage backdrop, with details conjured up as necessary.
So these are not primarily science fiction, or at least not good science fiction. They are fast-paced, character-driven mysteries that are consistently and thoroughly entertaining (and only a slightly guilty pleasure for me). Conspiracy in Death, the latest installment in the series, is no exception. As usual, the mystery portion of the book is intimately intertwined with the emotional landscape of Eve Dallas, who fought her way from her beginnings as an abused, amnesiac child found in an alley in Dallas to become one of New York City's best cops. Previous books covered the rocky development of Eve's relationship with her husband Roarke, the regaining of some of her childhood memories, and the imperiling of her friends and friendships. This book hits Eve in a particularly vulnerable spot: her badge. (It also stands alone, as do other novels in the series, though there are references to past events.)
In Conspiracy, people are turning up dead with specific organs surgically removed—diseased organs of no apparent value, since artificial replacements are widely available and effective (if nothing else, the novel might help discredit the persistent urban legend about waking up in a bathtub with your kidneys missing, since everyone points out how difficult a surgical process organ removal is). Eve, investigating, find unexpected pressure on her from many directions, until finally her hard-won identity as a police officer is threatened.
Robb is better known as Nora Roberts, many of whose mainstream romances include psychopaths. As the psychopaths occasionally seem a slightly odd fit in the romances, so do the frequent and sometimes improbable sex scenes occasionally seem overdone here. However, Robb makes Eve's problems compelling, keeps the plot moving smartly, and tosses in the occasional particularly apt image (for instance, one character was "built like a redwood and had the heart, and often the nerves, of a six-year-old approaching the first day of school."). By and large, then, this is an effective installment in an entertaining series.
%T Conspiracy in Death %A Robb, J. D. %C New York %I Berkley %D 1999 %G 0-425-16813-1 %P 372pp %O paperback
Copyright April 23, 1999 by Kate Nepveu.