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REVIEW: Fantasy in Death by JD Robb

Fantasy in Death by JD RobbDear Ms. Robb:

This is a difficult review for me to write, because something happens in Fantasy in Death that many will likely regard as insignificant, but which for me changed the series in a fundamental way. Several books ago, Jane noted that Eve did something at the end of Creation in Death that seemed completely out of character for her. Whether blip or character shift, only time would resolve, and for me, with this book, it's resolved in favor of a frustrating change in Eve's character. Readers who see Eve as any different or who don't find the change I see concerning will probably find Fantasy in Death a much more satisfying book than I did. Especially if they are enjoying the stronger mystery/procedural focus the series has recently acquired.

When techno boy wonder Bart Minnock is found dead in his locked holo room, burned, bloody, and alone except for the disk of the new game his up and coming company, U-Play, is readying for sale, the NYPSD and Eve Dallas are stumped. There was no sign of tampering with Bart's droid, his apartment, or the lock on the holo room, and no record of any visitors since he came home from work the previous day. As soon as the e-team tries to retrieve the game disk from the hard drive, it self-destructs, a safety measure Bart had in place to deter spying and stealing. How could a guy who seemed to have no enemies and whose biggest competition was the man who had generously helped Bart build his business (Roarke) be murdered? How could anyone actually get in that room to murder him?

These mysteries generally run one of two ways: Eve has a suspect in mind from the beginning and spends the book setting him/her/them up, or she is working to narrow down a broad field of suspects before revealing the killer near the end of the book. Fantasy in Death is of the second variety, and it is an effective suspense builder, as the way Bart died is so closely connected to who might have done it. From Bart's girlfriend to his three partners to game company competitors to the kids in his building who played various games with him, there are numerous people around Bart who could have been responsible, even though it is difficult to imagine anyone wanting a guy like Bart dead. Affable, honest, brilliant, non-threatening, and young, Bart is a rather unlikely murder victim. In fact, was it even murder that took his life?

For the past handful of books, I have been noting a decided shift toward a bigger emphasis on the mystery and police procedural aspects of the series. While Robb has always woven the relationship and mystery elements together, the past few books have featured Roarke and Eve working together on these cases, almost like partner detectives, with Roarke's own world-domination a footnote at best and any battles between them erupting in the context of the case or over a somewhat mundane issue. I will return in a bit to the main conflict between Eve and Roarke in this book, because it connects to my most substantial problem with Fantasy in Death, but in terms of their personal life more generally, Nadine's book launch is the primary "life event" featured in this book (and note that the book is launched in print hardcover!), allowing Trina to make her usual terrorizing appearance, Leonardo to design a fab dress for Eve, and the extended gang of friends to dress up and mingle at the launch party. These appearances are becoming routine (Eve feels compelled to say something nice about Mavis's baby Bella, Peabody gets to dress up and be complimented by Roarke, etc.), although they are reassuring in regard to series continuity.

As for the mystery, I actually guessed the method early on, although it took me a while to catch on to the responsible party. Fantasy in Death felt current to 2010 in its specific focus on gaming and on the changing technologies we are, even now, seeing around us. I have always wanted the more futuristic aspects of the In Death world to be more directly featured in the books (as they were in the beginning), and Fantasy in Death delivers on this a bit more than quite a few of the recent books have. I enjoyed all that quite well, and even though I caught on pretty quickly to what was going on, it was still fun to watch Eve's brain sift through various suspects and theories. I've always found her most compelling when she's in "cop mode," and there's a great deal of that in this book.

Where I had real issues was in the way Eve's moral compass, the aspect of her that has been so powerfully inflexible since the beginning of the series, has, in my opinion, gone inexplicably wonky (well, I think there is an explanation, but I'll get to that). I still remember the huge battle Eve and Roarke undertook in Purity in Death over whether "justice" as Eve or Roarke sees is should prevail over the limits of the law and Roarke tells her how "black and white" she is. Or when, later in the book, she makes a deal with a dirty cop who took the law into his own hands to bring down his confederates:

She looked away from him a moment because knowing she'd try for the deal made her sick. The greater good, she told herself. Sometimes justice couldn't sweep clean.

Or what about Conspiracy in Death when Eve temporarily loses her badge and is literally inconsolable because her respect for the law is so complete and her dedication to enforcing it so fundamental to her identity. How many times in the series has Eve taken a stand to do things the "right" way, from within the letter of the law? Dirty cops have disgusted her, cops who take the law into their own hands have enraged her, and she's made many hard choices out of respect for the law. Even her use of Roarke's unregistered equipment has made her feel conflicted, although that lessened once she was able to officially bring Roarke on board to her investigative team. Any mercy she has shown has been carried out within the letter of the law, even if it was at the very edge. So, a few books ago, when Eve stepped out of that moral absolutism in regard to a suspect it was extremely shocking to me. It seemed a very clear and abrupt change of direction for a character whose identity for more than 20 books has been consistent in regard to her respect for the law.

Whether that change was a blip has, in my mind at least, been settled by Fantasy in Death. And my belief now is that Eve has changed, and the change is a function of what I see as the new series focus, namely Eve and Roarke, married detectives. Here Roarke, runs a deep security check on his own employees, because of the close professional connection between his company and Bart Minnock's (yes, of course Roarke is developing new gaming technologies). Eve objects strenuously to this search, not so much because it violates police procedure but because he does so without telling her and being told by her to do it:

"Any data from your run has to coincide with mine, and officially come from mine whether it clears your whole crew or somebody bobs to the surface."

"I know how it works, Lieutenant. I'll just get back to it then, so you can have what you need and shift it back to your side of the line." . . .

She sat brooding into her wine. She didn't know, exactly, why they were at odds. They were doing basically the same thing for basically the same reason.

Basically.

But he should've let her do it, or waited until she'd assigned him to do it. And that probably grated. The assign portion. Couldn't be helped. She was the LT, she was the primary, she gave the damn orders.

Now she was passing aggravated and heading toward pissed, she realized.

She'd just been trying to shield him a little. Wasn't that her job, too? she thought in disgust as she rose. Part of the marriage deal? So why were they fighting when she'd done her job?

So Roarke's stepping outside the strict limits of the law is now merely a challenge to Eve's authority and a frustration of marital responsibilities? While I have always enjoyed the petty struggles Eve and Roarke engage in; I even enjoy the petty aspects of Eve's character – they help make her human and relatable. But the old Eve, in my opinion, would have been worried that Roarke was himself going to take the law into his own hands, not so much whether she should have assigned the work to Roarke first.

If, indeed, the series is moving more toward Eve and Roarke as a detective team, Roarke has to become more "official," and thus his often unorthodox methods have to become more "official," and I wonder if this is why Eve has taken a turn away from her previous stance of the law above all. It makes a certain sense that this would be the case, and certainly, spending two years married to Roarke has challenged many of Eve's previously unchallenged biases. However, for me, her fundamental respect of the law and its limits has been the most defining aspect of her character, and I fear that is going to be more and more undermined as the series – and Eve and Roarke's professional partnership – moves forward.

As far as the mystery and procedural aspects of Fantasy in Death are concerned, while I can never read the interrogation scenes without counting the Constitutional violations (and yes, I assume that a society that still has some version of Miranda hasn't substantially altered the Bill of Rights), I found the book moderately enjoyable. Not the best of the series, nor the worst. Somewhere between feeling engaged and entertained and wishing for a bit more fire and novelty in the series, or between a B- and a C+.

~Janet

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This is a hardcover. The mass market release is set for July 2010.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

38 Comments

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    May 26, 2010 @ 13:19:35

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  2. MF Makichen
    May 26, 2010 @ 13:25:22

    I agree that this book was not the best or the worst of series. However, I’m surprised by your reaction to the character of Eve and her moral compass. Yes, Eve does believe in the law but I think since her marriage she’s begun to see that not everything is black and white–there is definitely grey. I would find it more surprising if after 20 books her view on the law, or right and wrong, hadn’t changed.

    I never viewed that as necessarily the defining aspect of her character. She always tries to do what’s right within the bounds of the law, but at the same time she knows the law sometimes lets people down. She’s fiercely loyal and she stands up for the dead. She wants to give the dead and their loved ones closure. I think she does try to do that within the bounds of the law. However, occasionally when a crime is especially heinous, she is willing to bend the law a bit. I don’t think that has really changed. Does being married to Roarke make it easier to bend the rules, absolutely. However, I still trust her moral compass as she applies it to her cases. I guess we’ll see if this is more of a slippery slope in upcoming books than I perceive it to be.

    Also, it just occurred to me that since the series starts when Roarke and Eve meet we actually don’t know if she ever skirted the law in similar ways before Roarke :D.

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis!

  3. Tabby
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:23:14

    “I wonder if this is why Eve has taken a turn away from her previous stance of the law above all.”

    Eve has never placed the law above all. From the very first book Eve has been willing to bend the rules. And certainly her willingness to overlook and even help cover up the fact that Roarke murdered how many people? goes way beyond willing to overlook the small things–murder is as big as it gets, imo. And it isn’t even limited to Roarke, there was the kid who killed the cult leader who she covered for too. Each and every book Eve has bent or just flat out broken the law. And for me personally, after a couple of years and thirty some books I’d find it really freaking annoying if Eve was still debating whether or not it was ok to use the unregistered computers to do illegal searches.

    I think it’s a sign of healing and growth for Eve to recognize that everything isn’t black and white. Being able to function in the gray areas of life instead of having the foundation of her world rocked everytime is one of the biggest signs Eve is becoming a healthy and whole person to me.

  4. library addict
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:32:06

    I didn't see this as a character change for Eve. She's always known that sometimes the punishment doesn't fit the crime. In Loyalty in Death when Peabody is shocked the PA plea bargains the first murder down so soon Eve thinks about how infuriating it is, but that she also knew it would happen. She's always known plea bargains are part of the job. But knowing that a plea deal is the best the law can do doesn't mean that she doesn't feel sad/bad about it or that she wishes such deals didn’t happen.

    As for the shift to more of the mystery/procedural elements, this has happened with the series before. I think it goes in phases, a few books focus more on the police aspects, then the series shifts back to seeming the more personal elements, then back to the procedural. That's my take FWIW.

    This was not one of my favorites of the series because the mystery aspect was lacking for me. But after the emotional wringer that Promises and especially Kindred were, I actually appreciated the more analytical aspects of the case and not being as emotionally attached to the victim.

  5. Carolyn
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:59:27

    I think Tabby said it very well.

    Eve stands for the dead and what’s important to her is justice for them and their families. One doesn’t always get justice by following the letter of the law and she’s always been aware of this.

    I would have been disappointed if she’d remained so rigid and uptight. She’s growing as a person and growing into a relationship she trusts. Even her nightmares are diminishing.

    I still love this series and can’t wait for the next book.

  6. Joanne
    May 26, 2010 @ 15:06:54

    Yeah, I’d have to agree with the other comments, I don’t see Eve as changing her respect for the law so much as maturing. It may have a great deal to do with being married to a man like Roarke but I think it also has to do with the amount of time she’s spent on the job.

    Many LEOs learn to accept that the letter of the law is not always going to get the job done. There’s frustration in that, and a willingness to search out the gray areas. Dunno, that’s my take.

    And dear God, please Ms. Robb, don’t make Eve a flippin’ saint. Please. Let her cross lines and kick ass and put the slime behind bars. Makes me feel all warm & fuzzy.

  7. El
    May 26, 2010 @ 16:48:11

    I’m actually sort-of-rereading (i.e., skipping around in) that book right now, and I hit that scene. My basic take on it is “Uh-oh, Dallas is starting to look on Roarke as an employee. NOT good. Not good at all.” So I’d agree with that part of the objection. But a change in her moral compass? I don’t see it that way.

    I think Dallas shows a respect for justice, which the law usually but doesn’t always serve. The issue in Creation ID was that she’d promised justice to Ariel and was by gum going to deliver it. (I personally disagree with the details–I’d rather see sickos offed, thanks very much–but that’s another issue.) It didn’t seem at all a departure for Eve, *because* she’d made the promise to Ariel. The need to deliver what she sees as justice, with the promise, trumps the need to follow the law. That doesn’t seem like a change to me.

    That said, given that I figured out pretty much instantly how the murder was done meant a lot of the discussions were kind of pointless. Ah, well.

  8. Bianca
    May 26, 2010 @ 18:38:10

    @Joanne: And dear God, please Ms. Robb, don't make Eve a flippin' saint. Please. Let her cross lines and kick ass and put the slime behind bars.

    Yes! Yes! :) One of the reasons that Eve is such an interesting character is because she is flawed, because she occasionally bends the law, because she isn’t all rigid morals and no heart.

    Although, I’m not entirely clear, with the review: is it Eve changing that has Janet upset or is it that the change was poorly done, not believable?

    If it’s the second, then that is a real problem.

  9. monkeygravity
    May 26, 2010 @ 21:20:21

    does anyone else wonder whether or not JD Robb aka Nora Roberts is still writing the books herself?!

  10. meoskop
    May 26, 2010 @ 21:43:12

    @monkeygravity: No, because NR takes too much pride in her work to outsource it to someone else. So no, despite the question coming up from time to time, I don’t wonder at all.

  11. Robin/Janet
    May 26, 2010 @ 23:44:53

    @monkeygravity: While I have noticed changes in the narrative voice, IMO Roberts has such a strong work ethic, I cannot imagine her farming these books out. I have chalked the vacillations I see to editing and to the fact that she write so many books in general (especially in between ID books).

  12. Robin/Janet
    May 26, 2010 @ 23:58:26

    I knew my assertion about Eve would be controversial, but I must admit that I’m curious about why such a change would signal “maturation” in Eve. If a RL cop started privileging justice over the rule of law, I don’t think we’d be praising him/her for his/her character growth. So why is it so with Eve? Before I respond to the comments more fully, I’d like to know what you guys who advanced the maturation idea mean by it.

  13. meoskop
    May 27, 2010 @ 00:39:26

    I don’t know what they mean by it – but as you get older, idealism falls away. What ‘should be’ becomes less important. Eve has lives with Rourke, she’s seen him break the letter of the law in the service of it’s spirit (she’s done it herself) and she is already coming from an abuse background. At first, she had to hold herself to rigid morality to guard herself against the fear that killing her father meant she was immoral. As she grows to accept that it truly was not, as she sees that the shortest distance between two points can save lives, she is naturally going to be more adaptive to working in the grey area of procedure. She still wants her t’s crossed for prosecution.

    However, based on NR’s style, I expect this very change in Eve to bite her in the ass five or seven books down the line. I don’t think Eve will get a free ride from Internal Affairs forever. I expect one of Eve’s conflicts to be this very issue – how much of herself (if any) has she compromised to comfort and speed – how much of that (if any) is wrong?

  14. sao
    May 27, 2010 @ 01:42:29

    No series can maintain meaningful relationship issues after book five or so. Certainly not after book 10.

    I wish more authors would just create new characters.

  15. Tabby
    May 27, 2010 @ 02:11:28

    @Robin/Janet:

    If a RL cop started privileging justice over the rule of law, I don't think we'd be praising him/her for his/her character growth.

    Actually, I expect every RL cop to do just that to a certain extent everyday and if they aren’t capable of doing that without it becoming an abuse of power I don’t think they’re suited to be a police officer in the first place. I expect anyone in a position of authority to be able to make those sorts of decisions–it’s part of what makes them suitable for the position in the first place. If you’re not able to do that I think you eventually get lumped into the group of people we call assholes for being inflexible–asshole boss, cop, judge etc. and hopefully weeded out.

    As for Eve, like I said, I don’t think she ever fell into that category. Right from the first book she can and does bend and break the rules but she seemed to pay a huge emotional toll to do what I think the majority of people do as a matter of course. Questioning yourself and even second guessing is good and even necessary up to a point but it shouldn’t be devastating and make you doubt what kind of person you are. Healthy people with a solid sense of self are able to deal with and make these sorts of judgment calls without having to remake their world and their place in it–even if you make what turns out to be a bad decision.

    In the grand scope of Eve’s world, owning and using the unregistered equipment isn’t and shouldn’t be a big deal at this point–the decision was made and the line crossed a long time ago. Or at least that’s how I see it.

  16. Caorlyn
    May 27, 2010 @ 05:01:21

    I didn’t like Eve at first and almost didn’t continue in the series. I’m sure glad I did. She has become more likable with each book, more complete in herself.

    In the beginning, law enforcement was Eve’s refuge. She had two things in her life: her past, which she couldn’t completely remember and her job, which she used to beat down her past.

    Until she met Roarke.

    And I would love if some of the assholes in RL, who escape punishment on technicalities, etc., were quietly made to pay for their crimes. I’m not talking killing per se, but there should be consequences.

    The book titles all blur together for me, but that killer who was planning to legally terminate and thus escape his painful disease, and Eve with Roarke’s help made all his legal papers disappear so that the killer was forced to suffer from his disease – I went Yessss!!!

    Justice.

  17. Joanne
    May 27, 2010 @ 05:25:59

    I knew my assertion about Eve would be controversial, but I must admit that I'm curious about why such a change would signal “maturation” in Eve. If a RL cop started privileging justice over the rule of law, I don't think we'd be praising him/her for his/her character growth

    That’s funny. If you knew it would be controversial why are you surprised that some disagree? Just want to debate?

    My take is that it’s not putting justice over the rule of the law if justice is served. Sure that can flow into vigilantism with some assholes but I’m suggesting that making decisions based on knowledge of the criminal elements comes with time on the job. I used “maturing” rather than aging because that’s politically correct and God knows we have to be PC.

    Eve (and many cops) scorn some lawyers because they bend the law every day to get some criminals back onto the street. The revised Miranda hopefully includes “talk without an attorney until your mouth drys up, you creep”.

    Oh, and it’s fiction. Not. Real. Life.

    At least in fiction we get to have the good guys win. For the bad guys to win you have to read nonfiction and biographies.

  18. KristieJ
    May 27, 2010 @ 07:48:46

    I’m with most of the others who have responded. I don’t see this as a shift in Eve’s moral compass, rather I see it as another aspect of Eve evolving as a woman and as a person. Having reread Naked in Death not that long ago, she’s pretty much just a living machine at the beginning; very little interaction with co-workers, only one real friend, her sole focus is the job. The law is what she was. But once Roarke became the catalyst, she did begin to see shades of gray in her black and life world. She is certainly a lot more human now than she was at the beginning. As a reader and a huge fan of this series, I’m glad that Eve is focusing more on justice than on the ‘letter of the law’. There is often a big difference and I prefer justice.
    That said, I’m wishing for a return to a more relationship focused book. I’m almost afraid that the author is concentrating more on the mystery/suspense aspect at the expense of the romance side of it.

  19. Gina
    May 27, 2010 @ 08:31:30

    Many times on Dear Author we read reviews that lament when characters in a book or series do not change, do not grow, do not learn from their experiences. We may not always agree with the changes, but they are fundamentally necessary to portray a believable character.

    If Eve had remained as she was drawn in book 1 this series would have died a long time ago. Part of the draw beyond the mystery, beyond the romance, is seeing Eve learn to adapt to the life she stepped into and all the people who inhabit that life.

    But Eve isn’t the only one who has change, we must note the significant changes in Roarke. Eve married the King of Bad Boys, handsome, smooth talking, above and uncaring of the law, a career criminal living the high life on the dividends of a lifetime as an untouchable. His quest for world domination hasn’t changed, but his methods have become more ‘legal’ and his ‘illegal’ activities are mostly reserved for helping further justice instead of hinder it.

    If Roarke blurred Eve’s moral compass, Eve brought his into focus. Not completely of course, but they have found a common gray area to work in – and the differences that remain make for great marital conflict.

  20. Jane
    May 27, 2010 @ 08:48:17

    I’m surprised at how cavalierly people treat the rule of law in this thread. Is it because in fiction Eve is always right?

  21. Shaheen
    May 27, 2010 @ 09:21:03

    For me the question of Eve’s questionable moral compass came up in Vengeance in Death, when you discover that not only did Roarke cold-bloodedly murdered several people, but that he did so in a particularly brutal way. That she can live with this – that is questionable to me. Considering that she tends to regard killing her father in self-defense as murder, it is odd that she can gloss over Roarke’s actions. [ViD is the one In Death that I have never re-read, and I choose to block it out of my memory of the series as far as possible. The line it crosses is too far for me in terms of what is acceptable bad behavior in the past of the hero!]

    The little things that blur the line in this book? They are considerably minor in comparison. Also – do they really blur the line? Roarke is after all their employer and would be entitled to do background checks. It does seem to me this was more a squabble about chain of command in marriage/detection, then about the legality of his actions.

  22. El
    May 27, 2010 @ 09:36:42

    Jane:

    I admit to having been startled sometimes when I view what a character does as fine because you know he’s right and then think about how I’d respond if someone did that in real life. So for me, there’s definitely an element of “this is a fictional world in which the protag knows what’s what.”

    But I also don’t consider the rule of law to be an absolute in real life. As a trivial example, if there’s a “no turn on red” sign, it’s 2 am, and no one’s in sight, I’m apt to turn on red–the sign is there because at 5 pm turning on red could be dangerous. The higher the stakes, the less likely I am to be willing to shift, though.

    Invading privacy via the unregistered is exactly the sort of thing I think is useful for an honorable person who’s trying to find the truth and who will truly not use the information for ill, and execrable for a dishonorable person. And if few people think of themselves as villains, villains might do that–it’s an uneasy line. Especially when others might die if the truth isn’t found. But again, that’s a fictional setup; real-life crime rarely works out that way.

  23. ehoyden
    May 27, 2010 @ 10:42:56

    If a RL cop started privileging justice over the rule of law, I don't think we'd be praising him/her for his/her character growth

    It’s not Real Life. It’s fiction. That’s why I read the ID books. I want to see someone bend rules to get the scum off the street. Maybe Eve will have to answer for her indiscretions down the road, maybe not.

    I DO want the romance to stay in her ID books. NR had a good balance going and I hate to see that lost. If I don’t want romance in my mysteries, I’ll read John Grisham.

  24. jmc
    May 27, 2010 @ 11:07:47

    Y’know, I hadn’t noticed that particular passage or marked it as emblematic of change in Eve’s moral compass, but you make a good point. Eve’s acceptance of Roarke’s past behavior in Vengeance in Death has always bothered me, and the scene Jane mentions in Creation rang bells, too.

    Generally speaking, I have to suspend all disbelief (or else have my head explode) whenever illegal searches are run or other activities that violate constitutional rights are undertaken — always so casual and blithe about it, and never any repercussions.

    TBH, Eve & Roarke sleuthing together don’t interest me as much as Eve as detective does. If I were reading the series for their relationship alone, the shift in Eve wouldn’t bother me at all. If the shift occured in her behavior on her personal time, that’d be fine, too. But shifting how she performs in her professional capacity as a function of her husband’s increasing “official” role bothers me.

    Yeah, I’m not sure what my point was, other than to agree with your assessment. Sorry for babbling.

  25. Robin/Janet
    May 27, 2010 @ 12:21:14

    @Joanne: Oh, I expected debate. What floored me, though, were the assertions of “maturity” — I’m still kind of agape about that, actually, especially all the proclamations of how the rule of law doesn’t matter.

    @Gina: We read and evaluate every book/series on its own terms. Whether or not I find character growth in another book doesn’t really impinge on whether or not I see it in Eve’s character. Every book has its own logic and context, and we base our evaluations on how we see that logic presented (is it, in fact, logical within the terms the book has presented).

    Beyond that, though, is the question of how change is presented in the course of a book/series. IMO what happened in Creation in Death was an abrupt shift in Eve’s character that IMO is not a mere plot device for one book.

  26. Robin/Janet
    May 27, 2010 @ 13:46:24

    Okay, a few thoughts in response to comments:

    Regarding RL cops, their job in the system is not to mete out justice – our system of checks and balances is only part of a very wise understanding that it’s never a good idea to give the police too much power (one word by way of example: Arizona). Further, the tens of thousands of innocence people every year who are wrongfully convicted of various crimes (and the ways race, especially, plays into this), are of much greater concern to me than the idea of a guilty person getting off on a “technicality.” For the most part, I think these things — i.e. Constitutional protections of privacy, due process, etc. — are only perceived as “technicalities” when they’re not being used against any of us (i.e. the cops show up at your home without a valid warrant to search or pull you over and begin to search your vehicle without your permission or reasonable suspicion, etc.). ;D

    If we cannot count on cops to uphold the rule of law, to defend that which they are sworn to uphold, how can we EVER be assured that justice is served — that someone truly IS guilty?

    In fiction it can be much different, and in the case of Eve, I think we’re encouraged, as readers, to safely indulge a vigilante fantasy because we are led to trust that Eve is correct in determining the guilty party. And so, from that perspective, I can understand defending Eve’s actions on the other side of the legal line. It can be an immensely satisfying reading experience and a reflection of how much trust Roberts has generated among many of her readers. In Eve’s case, we can safely throw the rules out the window because we trust that Eve is meeting a higher level of justice — we are given the tools and the knowledge to know that she has discovered the true perpetrator of a crime (a luxury we don’t really have for the most part in RL).

    To which my own reaction is two-fold, and the heart of my objection to the direction her character has taken: first, I see this as a diminishing, not a maturation of Eve’s character, and second, I think the change in CID was both abrupt and inexplicable within the context of the series.

    For me, Eve’s unique potency as a character has always been located in the struggle she has had to remain honest in her work, to respect the order of the rule of law while negotiating the moral dilemmas her life presented. As a friend of mine put it:

    As Robb originally structured Eve, she did not love the law, she believed in it like a religion–something larger than herself and therefore sometimes incomprehensible but it was her rock.

    Seeing her struggle with Roarke’s past actions, with her own patricide, with her own faith in the rule of law, with decisions she has had to make that violate her own moral and ethical rules — these are the struggles in Eve I would characterize as “mature” because for me they indicate a strong conscience and a strong consciousness of her role as a cop (not prosecutor, not jury, not judge) — more complexity of character, in other words.

    Trying to reconcile Roarke’s past with her love for him, trying to deal with her own guilt over her father — these struggles defined Eve’s character, IMO. And I found them infinitely more interesting than an Eve who worries about Roarke getting too sassy with his unauthorized authority. The more like Roarke she becomes — because their opposition has fueled so much of their relationship, passion and pain — the more bland she becomes, IMO. Roarke and Eve as Nick and Nora Charles just doesn’t have the same appeal for me as Roarke and Eve, moral adversaries and devoted partners in love does. Clearly a personal preference, but there it is.

    Also, nothing, IMO, nothing she did ever approached the line that she crossed in Creation in Death. In fact, I’d argue that CID is the first time she ever truly crossed the line and took the law into her own hands, so to speak. It was only a few books ago, in Divided, where she and Roarke almost separated because he wanted to take the law into his own hands for Eve’s benefit. She could not entertain that at all, even though she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the people in question had perpetrated a great wrong on her. When has Eve, before CID, ever broke the rule of law like that?

    Sure she bribed Dickhead, but she bribed him to do his job, not to violate it. Sure she used the unregistered, but she did it to make sure she had the right person, not to *decide* what fate someone should have (I exempt a lot of her actions during interrogations, since we have not been given clear indications of the rules in force there). Of course she has somewhat accommodated her ambivalence over her past and Roarke’s, because she could not survive in the world otherwise. But what she did in CID? Totally different level, IMO.

    Another issue here, I think, is the time frame of Eve and Roarke v. readers. Many have been reading this series for more than a decade; I have read the entire series over the past three or four years, so my time frame is virtually the same as Eve and Roarke’s. So for me it hasn’t been ten or fifteen years since Eve met Roarke, and I do think that affects the abruptness I perceive in these changes.

    Still, for me there was not adequate context to prepare me for the change in CID. For me it basically came out of the blue, and so even beyond the time issue regarding Eve’s evolution, I’ve never been able to reconcile the logic of the change with the way Eve has been constructed throughout the previous books.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t get or respect the fact that others prefer Eve the way she is now — we all relate to her in different ways, after all, and I think this change serves the direction in which I see the series headed. But for me, at least, the change was not logical or desirable.

  27. Sue T
    May 27, 2010 @ 14:26:17

    @Jane: Really? After all the people who embraced a drug addict who doesn’t change? Surely, that means it’s okay to treat law cavalry. Mind you, I agree with you – I’m constantly surprised at what readers think is okay. I suppose, if it’s okay to have a drug addict heroine and embrace that, it must be okay for a law upholder to flout the law. As long is it’s fiction. Sigh.

  28. Joanne
    May 27, 2010 @ 15:03:33

    See here’s the thing, everyone is so good.

    No one ever tried to talk their way out of a ticket because, golly gee, we want our cops to not care that we’re rushing to the hospital. Nope, don’t think there officer, just uphold the letter of the law.

    If it’s your child that’s killed it’s okay if the murderer goes free as long as the letter of the law is upheld? There’s nothing in you that says you don’t care how ‘cavalier’ you are perceived to be you just want the scum behind bars at the very least? Nah, let him or her fly away because, you know, letter of the law.

    And we would never want an author writing about a drug addict. It doesn’t matter that no one is forced to read that book or about that kind of character. Nope, let’s just roll our eyes because, you know, romance readers.
    I’m done with my rant now. Thank you.

  29. Moriah Jovan
    May 27, 2010 @ 17:07:26

    @Sue T:

    I'm constantly surprised at what readers think is okay. I suppose, if it's okay to have a drug addict heroine and embrace that, it must be okay for a law upholder to flout the law. As long is it's fiction.

    Yes, exactly. As long as it’s fiction.

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t read fiction to get my morality.

    Or at least, I haven’t since Laura Ingalls Wilder brainwashed me at a tender age…

  30. Tabby
    May 27, 2010 @ 18:08:02

    @Jane:

    I'm surprised at how cavalierly people treat the rule of law in this thread. Is it because in fiction Eve is always right?

    It’s both for me. In RL I’d be incensed to find out my privacy was being invaded with computer searches like Eve and Roarke routinely do but for Eve’s world it’s a no brainer at this point. They do it every single book–I think it would be absolutely ridiculous for Eve to have a crisis of conscience over it every time considering she’s determined the end justifies the means a long time ago.

    But along with that I think our justice system is too large and unwieldy for it to be particularly just at this point. So without tossing all of it out the window and starting over I expect the people working in it to use some common sense and their own good judgment along the way to try and make sure justice is served and good people aren’t harmed in the process for no other reason than it’s the law. People who can’t see beyond “the law” or “the rules” and consider every exception a slippery slope are scary to me–and are part of the reason why I think the system is flawed in the first place.

  31. Robin/Janet
    May 27, 2010 @ 18:09:30

    @Moriah Jovan: Although I didn’t really think about it until I read your comment, IMO the series explored more in the way of moral ambiguity when Eve was struggling with her own moral and ethical values and was in face-off with Roarke.

    @Joanne:

    If it's your child that's killed it's okay if the murderer goes free as long as the letter of the law is upheld?

    More that *unless* you uphold the letter of the law, you will not be able to determine, to the satisfaction of every legal resource and limit, that you do have the right person. Because it’s rare that you ever know for certain, so don’t you want every possible means to protect the innocent and convict the guilty?

    In fact, it’s well-known within the legal community that eyewitness testimony is among the *least* reliable. That’s why circumstantial cases are often perceived to be tighter than those that rely on direct evidence like a witness. The goal is to prevent cases like this (http://is.gd/csfzO), which are, sadly, far more common than we would like to believe.

  32. meoskop
    May 27, 2010 @ 23:34:47

    That would be an interesting book – Eve discovering she once put the wrong person away.

  33. Michelle
    May 28, 2010 @ 07:02:02

    VID didn’t bother me because Roarke did go to the police, and they were corrupt. It wasn’t as if they were all sent to prison and he had them killed in prison, or once they got out.

    I view it that Eve puts the victim, and justice for the victim, before the law, when the law won’t provide it. She doesn’t do it for personal reasons, that is why she wouldn’t let Roarke act in DID.

  34. Kamilla
    May 28, 2010 @ 19:55:26

    First off I would like to say that I have read and re-read the In Death series for a number of years and I did not particulary care for Fantasy In Death. After reading some of the book online and inline at the store, I found that I was able to put off purchasing the book. One of the main reasons that I like the ID series is because it really gets you guessing as to who the true killer, rapist, etc. really is. This book reminded me of the TV show, Columbo (you always knew who did the crime adn Columbo spent the next hour explaining). As far as I’m concerned, everyone else in the book is a supporting character (including Roarke). Eve is the story. Her struggles with regaining her lost memories (have not been addressed in many books). Her struggles with upholding the law (while trying to provide her victims with justice). Her struggles as a child of the streets coping with the wealth of her husband and all that entails. Her struggles at being accepted in Roarke’s world (brought to light when she faced Magdelana). Eve is a contradiction of many and a sum of all. It seems that the ID series is now the Eve and Roarke mystery hour and that I do not like. It seems that it has been a long time since J.D.R (NR) has delved into the past of her characters. Such as I would like to see Roarke’s family fleshed out more. Let Mrs. Whitney get in to trouble. Redefine, revitalize, reinvent Mavis and Leonardo. Right now they seem like after thoughts. That is when ID is at its best. When you have a struggle with the main character and the supporting cast is doing more than just filling blank pages. I thoroughly enjoyed Promise in Death and Kindred in Death.

    I don’t worry about the morality of Eve as she depends on Roarke’s unregistered equipment more and more. I don’t worry about her really bypassing the rules to get her wo(man) because I know that there will come a time that she will have to pay the piper. She will have to reevaluate what and how she goes on. Maybe this will happen when she meets her real mother.

    Man this is the first time that I have ever done something like this. Keep on Nora (J.D.) I love your work.

  35. silvia
    May 29, 2010 @ 16:06:03

    @Moriah Jovan:
    I don't know about anybody else, but I don't read fiction to get my morality.”

    Yes, absolutely! This is actually why I’m drawn to urban fantasy, scifi, and futuristic crime series and such — I’m interested in viewing things from a more mutable perspective, from an alternate pov, and especially with some moral relativism thrown in.

    I like my fictional cops to be ruthless, my assassins to NOT have a heart of gold, and my vampires should actually kill people instead of sparkle.

    So a character becoming less focused on Doing The Right Thing? Is generally a plus to me.

  36. Gail D.
    Jun 11, 2010 @ 08:58:04

    Okay, am I the only one who nearly fell on the floor laughing over the discussion between Eve and Peabody over whether penises ever get tired? The vision of the penis in a straw hat with a pina colada had me laughing out loud…

    I really enjoy that aspect of the Eve Dallas books.

  37. Larry
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 18:46:22

    Individuals some times also conduct background check for personal reasons. Some dating safety sites advise women to consider conducting background checks at the beginning of a relationship, or even before the first date.

  38. Munchkyn
    Jun 07, 2011 @ 03:46:36

    Eve has never put the law first. She has always put justice first. In Creation in Death, she realized that sometimes the law gets in the way of justice, and took steps accordingly. I like that change, because it made her human.

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