Review: Witness in Death, J. D. Robb

Witness in Death is the latest book in J.D. Robb's . . . in Death series. While, as I've said before [1], these are more accurately described as futuristic mysteries than as pure sf, they're still quite entertaining. Witness also represents a welcome change of pace for the series.

Witness opens with the main characters, Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, watching an opening-night performance of Agatha Christie's play Witness for the Prosecution [2]. Life imitates art a little too well, though, as one of the actors is murdered on stage.

Unsurprisingly, this opening sets the tone for the book. Indeed, Witness is explicitly and implicitly paying homage to Christie: explicitly, in that the characters discuss several of her more famous works in the course of the book, and implicitly, in that the plot is very much patterned on her classic structure, right down to the end-of-book gathering for the detective's dramatic revelation of the killer. The move away from police procedurals about psychopathic serial killers, the form of many of the earlier books, is a refreshing one.

Other elements that make this book (and the entire series) enjoyable include humor, snappy dialogue, and vivid main and supporting characters, with their attendant emotional dilemmas. Like the other books, Witness takes place over a very short period of time, which allows Robb to naturally develop the characters and relationships over several books. This fast pace thus keeps the characters from becoming static or stale; it also provides a hook for the reader's ongoing interest between each book's self-contained mystery.

Robb (a pseudonym for Nora Roberts) is an extremely prolific writer, and while I enjoy having a . . . in Death book come out every six months like clockwork, I do wish the publisher would give the copy editors a bit more time to catch the small continuity errors that always seem to creep through. On the whole, though, Witness in Death is an entertaining and auspicious expansion of a fun series.

[1] in a review of Conspiracy in Death, which gives more background on the series.

[2] However, the book's characters are apparently staging the movie version of the play, for reasons which are not explained in the book. I did not realize this until I read the play some time after I wrote this review.

%T  Witness in Death
%A  Robb, J. D.
%C  New York
%I  Berkley
%D  2000
%G  0-425-17363-1
%P  338pp
%O  paperback

Copyright April 26, 2000 by Kate Nepveu. Originally posted to rec.arts.sf.written.

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