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REVEW: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

We Will Roarke You – Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

Naked in Death by JD RobbNaked in Death is the first J.D. Robb book I’ve read but the second Nora Roberts. I was thrown for a bit of a loop going in, because I hadn’t actually picked up on the fact that it was science fiction, so I spent about the first chapter going “hang on, why is she talking to all her electrical appliances? Are far more things voice activated in America than in England? Was this some kind of fad in the 1990s?”

So anyway, this book is about a hard bitten, emotionally closed-off cop called Eve Dallas and an enigmatic, surnameless billionaire called Roarke. It’s also about a lot of nasty violent murders. There’s also quite a lot of sexual abuse stuff later on, and I’ll be talking about all of these things in some detail so as always please bear in mind that this review might include spoilers and/or references to triggering material.

So anyway, it is the year … something. Like with Driven I’m a bit unclear when this story actually takes place, but there seems to be some suggestion that the twentieth century might conceivably be in living memory (although people also seem to be living a lot longer now)  so my guess is that it’s late 2000s, early 2100s. The world has changed quite a lot in some ways, although as with most science fiction written in the last century, there are some slightly jarring omissions – like the fact that data is still stored on “discs” and that computers still clunk and whir like a dialup internet connection.

One of the things that has changed in the future is that prostitution is now legal, and guns are now banned. Never the less, the story opens with a (licensed) prostitute being found dead with three bullet holes in her. It turns out that this woman is in fact Sharon DeBlass, daughter of Senator DeBlass, which makes the whole investigation rather more complicated. Despite the fact that the victim was murdered with an antique weapon of a variety that is no longer even manufactured, and lived in a high security building, and actually had sex with the man who killed her, there is never the less no real evidence pointing to anybody.

This means that Eve’s only lead – and it isn’t much of one – is that the last person to see Sharon alive (apart from the killer) was the mononymic mystery man Roarke. Who also owns the building she lived in (and the building the heroine lives in, this seems to be a feature of billionaire heroes, they basically own every location you go to in the book). And who also has a collection of antique guns. Eve is struck by Roarke’s looks the moment she prints off his file from whatever central computer system the police are using in the future, and when they meet at Sharon’s funeral they feel an instant and (to me) inexplicable connection.

I really wanted to like Roarke. I’d heard good things about him, and to give him his due, he’s somewhat less of a dickbasket than a lot of the other alpha heroes I’ve read so far. I mean, he still doesn’t let the heroine just get on with her damned job, but he’s nowhere near as controlling as this sort of character often is, and he seems more or less willing to give Eve her headspace. On the other hand he had one or two traits which pushed a couple of my buttons, particularly his self-consciously “old fashioned” attitudes. Now maybe this is going to be a plot point, and he’s going to turn out, in a later volume, to be a genetically engineered supersoldier from 1953, but it just rubbed me up the wrong way. In a book that was fairly specifically set in a future society where a lot of progress had been made on a huge number of social issues (I’m not taking a particularly heavy stance on gun control here, but it seems fairly explicit in the book that they’re now living in a world with greater social equality and less crime) it seemed bizarre and infuriating to me that a guy self-defining as having old-fashioned ideas should be anything other than deeply unattractive.

I think Roarke’s good sort of old-fashionedness is supposed to juxtapose with the bad sort of old-fashionedness displayed by the villains, both the misogynistic prostitute-murdering serial killer (who we are consistently told is committing “twentieth-century crimes, with twentieth-century motives”) and the first victim’s grandfather – the arch-conservative Senator DeBlass. But they just struck me as being the same thing in very slightly different hats.

For example, part of Roarke’s old-fashioned way of looking at things is that he feels very strongly about violence against women. This would be great if it was grounded in a progressive and nuanced understanding of the broader cultural implications of gendered violence and the ways in which violence against women is often normalised or sexualised by society but it, well, isn’t. He just doesn’t hit girls.

There’s a scene which particularly rubs me up the wrong way at about the 70% mark in which the heroine, having had an argument with Roarke because he was upset that she called him in for questioning in the murder investigation which she was conducting, and in which he was a suspect, punches him in the head. He responds thus:

“Go ahead,” he invited. “Take another shot. You needn’t worry. I don’t hit women – or murder them.” (p. 189).

 I think this is supposed to be … I don’t know, reassuring? Possibly even respectful? But to me this reads like he’s saying “Take another shot. Because I do not seriously believe you, or any member of your sex could conceivably pose a physical threat to me.”

It reminds me a lot of the attitude you get in Dashiell Hammett – Hammett is really down on hitting women, but if you read The Maltese Falcon or Red Harvest, it’s fairly clear that the reason he’s so down on it is that hitting a woman means treating her as an equal. In Hammett’s world you shouldn’t have to hit a woman to establish your superiority over her, because it should already be a given. Smacking a woman is giving her ideas above her station.

Eve very nearly calls him out on this in an earlier scene, which goes like this (for context, Eve has just outlined the reasons that Roarke is a plausible suspect, and Roarke is explaining why he isn’t one):

“I have what you might consider an old-fashioned quirk. I dislike brutalizing women, in any form.”

“It’s old-fashioned in that it would be more apt to say you dislike brutalizing people, in any form.”

 The thing is, Eve is exactly right here. But I couldn’t shake the notion that we were supposed to, if not agree with Roarke, at least find his “old fashioned quirk” secretly admirable. Certainly, I think we were supposed to count it as an indication that he wasn’t the murderer rather than an indication that he is in fact quite likely to be the murderer (people who have strict rules about the way you’re supposed to behave towards women tend to also have quite strict rules about the way women are supposed to behave, and they tend not to like it when those rules get broken as they are by, say, prostitutes).

I think the other thing that made it hard for me to get behind Roarke as a hero is that a lot of the time he felt like he’d been parachuted in from a different novel. Everybody seems to have heard of him, but nobody knows anything about him beyond the same small amount of public domain information (some of which feels like it should be more private than it is, like the fact that he has a background in petty crime). Even his close friends don’t really know who he is or where he comes from, and everybody’s opinion about him seems to sort of reflect the same basic party line – hot, enigmatic, awesome billionaire guy. It almost feels like he’s not so much a person who lives in their world as a character in a book that they all happen to have read.

I vaguely understand that Eve and Roarke are the co-protagonists of the whole of the In Death  series (which, looking it up on Wikipedia, seems to be really fricking long), so I appreciate that there’s a lot of setting up to do, but I felt like the book was pushing Roarke really hard, to the point where I felt he kind of overshadowed Eve and the actual serial killer plot. There are two separate occasions on which different characters (first Eve, then Sharon DeBlass’ parents, Roarke’s close friends) observe not only that Roarke couldn’t possibly have murdered Sharon or the other women, but also that he absolutely could murder people under different circumstances. It’s like they’re going “it’s okay, the guy you’re supposed to fancy definitely isn’t the killer, but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a badass. It’s just that he can only kill people in sexy ways.”

Because I found Roarke so difficult and so overpowering, I didn’t really get much of a sense of Eve as a character. I appreciate that this is a series, so you can afford to take a bit more time with your character development, and that Eve is quite an emotionally closed-off person for much of the text, but I just couldn’t really get a handle on her. I understood that she was sort of into order and justice pretty much on principle, and that she was totally hot for Roarke, but I didn’t get much sense of her beyond that. I mean, I know you find out quite a lot about her personal history as well, but it never really came together to give me a real sense of who she was.

Even more of a problem for me was that I also didn’t  get much of a sense of her being good at her job. I’m just about willing to give her a pass on “having sex with the guy who is basically your only suspect” although I’m afraid that did have me shouting “you are being grossly unprofessional” into my Kindle. What I’m less able to reconcile is the fact that she basically doesn’t actually solve the murders at all. Or even make that much progress towards solving them before the solution dropped into here lap.

I think part of this was just a bit of an expectation clash. The last Norah Roberts I read (and I do appreciate that this is J.D. Robb, not Norah Roberts, and that a big part of the reason for writing them under different names is that they’re very different sorts of book) had a very low-key romance arc that was integrated very well into the much more significant catch-the-mad-arsonist plot. Naked in Death is very much the other way around, with the murders seeming to serve primarily as a way to introduce Eve to Roarke and the reader to Robb’s fictional future.

The way things are set up, with a seemingly military-trained killer committing crimes which leave no physical evidence whatsoever and the entire political and police establishment stymieing the investigation at every turn, there winds up being literally no way for Eve to make any progress at all on the case. She finally works out who the killer is only when somebody literally calls her up and tells her. An event which could perfectly well have happened at any time.

I should probably say that I’m being a bit harsh on Eve here. She does manage to track down Sharon’s diaries, and she does spot a crucial piece of evidence in the videos the killer sends her (although she dismisses it because her computer determines that her conclusions have a low probability of being correct). But I never really got the sense that she was closing in on the killer. She also (with Roarke’s help) uncovers the corruption of a high ranking member of the police force, but again this isn’t related to the case except tangentially.

It’s at around about this point that I’m going to want to start talking about the identity of the murderer, so this is going to get spoilery and if you don’t want to be spoilered, stop reading. It’s also where the abuse stuff kicks in so, again, if you’d rather avoid that skip the rest of this article.

So anyway, it turns out that the killer is … basically the only person it could have been. More specifically, the killer is a combination of Sharon DeBlass’ grandfather the Senator, and his aide (who we were told fairly early on had known paramilitary connections, but who apparently the police didn’t think it was worth looking into even though they strongly suspect that the killer has, umm … paramilitary training). It turns out that the Senator sexually abused both his daughter, Congresswoman Catherine DeBlass and his granddaughter Sharon. There’s a reasonably strong implication that this is what led to Sharon going into the sex trade in the first place, and while the book makes some attempt to present this as a positive, empowering decision, it still made me a little uncomfortable, since I generally try to avoid assuming that women’s sexual behaviour is dictated by their past trauma.

It turns out that Sharon was running a highly lucrative blackmail enterprise on the side, and that one of the people she was blackmailing was her grandfather. Although confusingly the terms of this blackmail were … umm … that he would pay her five thousand dollars a week to have sex with her. I can sort of see where this is coming from. As I’ve said rather a lot recently, it isn’t my place to police people’s reactions to their abuse experiences, and I can just about see that if somebody did sexually abuse you, and you did become a sex worker, it might be therapeutic have them as a client, in that you’d be sort of changing things up so that they were screwing you on your terms rather than theirs. And I sort of get that because Senator DeBlass was so ultraconservative she might have taken a kind of pleasure in confronting him with his own hypocrisy. But at the same time … dude.

I think the thing that niggles at me just a little is the fact that it feels a bit like a visit from the misdirection fairy – that little magic pixie that visits mystery plots and makes people behave in bizarre and out-of-character ways so the audience doesn’t work out what’s really going on. The basic reason that I didn’t think it was the senator from the outset was that the killer caught the murder on tape, and the way Sharon behaves in the video didn’t strike me as the kind of way you would behave towards the abusive grandfather you hate. A problem I often have with mystery plots (and this extends far beyond Romance) is that they frequently feel like they were – for want of a better term – written from both ends at once. That is to say, like the writer came up with a setup (high class prostitute from wealthy political family murdered by client) and a solution (killer turns out to be abusive grandfather) and then tried to make them meet up in the middle, which leads to a lot of slightly wobbly seams where the two plots connect (in this case with the rationale leading to the victim accepting her abusive grandfather as a client).

I was also bothered by how spooky perfect the killer wound up being. It turns out that all of the murders after the first (which was sort of an accident) were carried out by the Senator’s aide – an ex-paramilitary type who suggests to the Senator that the best way to cover up his granddaughter’s death is to use the tried and tested “pretend it’s a serial killer” strategy. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this plan in a whole bunch of sources, although I first remember seeing it in the 1998 BBC series In the Red, in which the murders of a string of bank managers turn out to be a smokescreen thrown up by a guy who wants to kill his bank manager brother.

Anyway, I understand that the killer is ex paramilitary, and can therefore be expected to have a certain amount of training. But can he really, truly be expected to know how to remove absolutely all traces of his presence from the scene of a crime? To break through any security system, no matter how sophisticated? And I get that he also has political protection but I sort of felt that the investigation was artificially stalled at the beginning (by positing a nigh-supernaturally efficient killer who covered his tracks flawlessly, leaving the police with literally nothing to go on) and then artificially accelerated at the end (with Catherine coming forward, the diary showing up, and everybody conveniently confessing despite the fact that there was basically no solid proof against any of them).

As is so often the case, I do wonder how much of my trouble here is to do with this being the first book in a series. There’s clearly a lot to establish and since Roarke is the hero of forty-eight books and counting there’s an extent to which, narratively speaking, he really is more important than the actual case. And strangely having read the first book there is a little part of me that would be interested to see where things go from here, since if nothing else I’m kind of a sucker for endless series of procedurals.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading Naked in Death: The future will have flying cars, but not cloud storage or USB drives. The funerals of murder victims are great places to pull. It’s okay to shag the prime suspect in the murder you’re investigating if his mates say he didn’t do it. Twenty-first century birth control techniques will thwart forensic science.

67 Comments

  1. Sue Peace
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:18:26

    I think if you keep reading you will come to really, really like Roarke!! ;) Well, I do anyway :)

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  2. Ness
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:25:12

    The first three books of this series are a little hard to ‘get’ and get into, but Robb really hits her stride after that. I loved Eve and Roarke so, so much right up until book 30-something, when the scenes and stories started to seem recycled and sometimes ludicrous. I still read the new releases, but I no longer buy them, and it’s more out of habit (“oh, new In Death; should get that”) than excitement.

    Although, I bet if Roarke had turned out to be a genetically engineered supersoldier from 1953, I’d have stuck with the series. :p

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  3. Colleen
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:34:54

    You really need to keep going. This series gets so good because of the way Eve grows and the relationship between her and Roarke gets so emotional. Yes, the first one is not the best but this series is worth reading a few more.

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  4. Meg
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:49:09

    It’s February 2058 in this story. Later books specifically state the year and season or month. As of the most current one, it’s November 2060.

    One of the absolute best things about this series is how it grows and changes. I’d be interested to see how you would weigh in one of the later books in the series against the first. Some of the absolute best of the “In Death” series comes once you have the main characters throughly established. For example, Eve gains an aide in the third book (after a brief introduction in book 2) that is simply one of the best characters in the series.

    The cast is changing and evolving, and the best part is that Eve and Roarke evolve right along with it. I’ve always liked Roarke, but once you dive into his past and get inside his head, you can understand him better. What I love is that their relationship growth happens over time. Eve’s not instantly comfortable in a long-term relationship, and you can see her chafe and grow and try to be a good partner for Roarke. Eventually, you learn that Roarke is not so perfect, which is very endearing. The books do eventually follow a formula, and while there’s some dry ones, the audiobooks help liven those up. By the way, this series is excellent on audiobook.

    If you’re interested in pursuing the series further, here’s my recommendations for future books (this is using the GoodReads order):

    - Immortal in Death (book 3): Mainly because you have a lot of game-changing background in this story that will leave you lost in further books. Also has the introduction of several key secondary characters.
    - Conspiracy in Death (#8): This one dives into Eve’s head a lot as she’s pitted against a cop gone wrong. You see a lot of how Eve has built her identity.
    - Loyalty in Death (#9): Written before 9/11, but very spooky in a post-9/11 world
    - Reunion in Death (#14): A big chunk of reveal on Eve’s background plus a great villain.
    - Portrait in Death (#16): Mainly if you want to see a lot of Roarke being not-so-perfect and development of his background
    - Visions in Death (#19): I love everything about this book, from the properly scary antagonist to a scene that never fails to make me cry toward the end, even though I first read this book nine years ago.
    - Origin in Death (#21): This one is better as an audiobook and is key to understanding a lot of references made in the series after this point.
    - Creation in Death (#25): Another really strong book overall, and the unique hook here is that you see Eve’s work being done through Roarke’s POV.
    - Fantasy in Death (#30): This is pretty much just a shoutout to fandom and geekdom.
    - Treachery in Death (#32): A great look at the role Eve plays in her department and how she’s grown as a leader over the course of the series.
    - New York to Dallas (#33): This is a must-read if you want a good conclusion regarding Eve’s background. However, it’s the one book in this series that you wouldn’t get unless you read earlier books. The bare minimum you’d need to read before this book is #3 and #14.

    Really though, I love the entire series. It’s hard just to narrow down my specific favorites. I will say this – book 2 (“Glory in Death”) nearly lost me on the series entirely because the mystery was just boring. Thankfully, the character interactions saved it for me.

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  5. Tina
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:52:24

    I often wonder how if I would enjoy these books as much as I do if I had started reading them now instead of when they first came out in 1995. Something tells me….oh heck who am I kidding? I think I would still love them.

    But I will say that this book, Roarke, and most especially Eve felt very fresh in ’95. And honestly at that time, I barely paid much attention to Roarke (scandalous! I know) because he was very much like most heroes at the time. But Eve was very much not a typical heroine. Especially coming out of the romance genre. So I hear what you are saying about Roarke. He is ‘old fashioned’ because she wrote a book set in 2058 and made her hero still very much a 90s hero. But I think Eve is what kept me going back. And as others have said, she gets to fleshing out Roarke more so that now I enjoy him as much as I do Eve.

    Also in later books there is a lot more humor.

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  6. library addict
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:54:06

    I’ve reread it so many times at this point it’s sometimes hard to remember my initial reaction to it. I used to reread every book in the series before a new one would come out, but I had to stop doing that around the time the series went to hardcover.

    I will say, I never took Roarke’s statement the way you did. I always tell people to try the first three books and if you aren’t hooked, then the series isn’t for you. As much as I love this series as a whole (and specific books in it individually) it’s not for everyone.

    And as with any series, long-running or otherwise, some books work better than others. Which ones work or not is different for each reader. What I love most about the series is that we get the ongoing relationship between Eve and Roarke, and Eve and the various supporting characters (there are a lot of them after so many books!) and those scenes often save the book for me when the mystery is not one I like. In some books we know who the killer(s) is right away and the book is more about how Eve catches them. Others are more of a whodunit. But even though only a few years have passed in book time there are no cliff-hanger endings. In each book you get a complete story.

    @Meg: Many of the ones on your list are personal faves of mine, too. But I loved the second book (mostly for the Eve & Roarke relationshiop stuff). And I disliked Origin a lot, though there are some nice Eve/Roarke moments in it. As I said, different books work best for different readers but I wouldn’t skip any of them.

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  7. cleo
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:55:18

    Wow. I’ve read Nora Roberts but not J D Robb (suspense isn’t my thing) and thanks to your review, I don’t have to. The plot reads like a list of everything I try to avoid in romance.

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  8. Cate
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:55:29

    Dickbasket……..not only is my synapse boggling,I’m keeping it for further use….once I’ve stopped laughing.
    As for the In Death series, they’re bloody addictive .

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  9. Linda B
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:57:01

    WOW – judging from your review, you had your mind made up BEFORE you read the book and then looked for ways to harshen the review. That said, everyone likes different books and series and that is part of what makes reading discussions interesting – the exchange of likes and dislikes. I adore the series and have from the beginning. To read the growth of the characters (even secondary characters) and how she ties in tidbits from past books has been fascinating. I have come to love Eve and Roarke, more so as each bit of their histories and personalities is revealed. You might want to give the next couple of books a shot. And, maybe, not look for hidden meanings that aren’t there. All the books, so far, have taken place over a 2 – 3 year span, with each new book picking up just shortly after the end of the previous book. And the series starts in the year 2058 or 2059. It does state that specifically in the first book. And each following book tells the exact date it happens. I would love to see your review on the series as a whole after you are four or five books in. I think you might be sucked in, too :)

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  10. Nikki H
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:03:24

    I agree with the others–that you need to keep reading. I felt that Naked just did the job of setting up the relationships and gives readers an idea of what’s to come. It’s not my favorite In Death, but I still reread it occasionally, just to remind myself how far Eve and Roarke have come.

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  11. Isobel Carr
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:09:38

    This book was DNF for me. I wanted to like it, given all the praise I’ve heard for it for years and years, but I just didn’t (and I thought the world building was really poor). I keep hearing the series gets better later on, so maybe someday I’ll scan plot synopsis of the first few books and try again.

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  12. cleo
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:20:24

    @ Linda B – just curious what makes you think AJH had his mind made up before reading it, because I didn’t get that at all from reading the review.

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  13. FD
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:36:17

    @Tina: I agree with you on Naked In Death Roarke being a 90′s hero, and also that this series felt seriously original way back then, although as a reader from an sf background, even then I was side-eyeing the tech.
    I personally didn’t like Roarke AT ALL and certainly for at least the first 3 maybe 5 books, I was reading for Eve alone. (I was vaguely hoping she’d throw him over for the cute M.E.)
    Bearing in mind that this was before the big wave of uf got going, there really weren’t many ongoing female leads like her outside the mainstream mystery genre.
    As to A.J.’s comments on the mystery aspect of the plot, I don’t think these have ever been actual mysteries; despite the marketing this has always been, to me anyway, a romance gateway series. If you go in expecting it to fit standard mystery genre conventions, you kind of come up with a bump because while some books fit them better than others, NR breaks them as often as not.
    As the series got into its stride the relationships developed, and I started reading for the characters, including the Eve/Roarke arc. Once you have his backstory, the throwbackness seems more explicable and he evolves too as the series goes on.
    Any one else feel a little squinty eyed about the bits set in Ireland? They always felt a little appropriation-isty faux Irish to me though I can’t quite say why.
    Oh, and again with the caveat, ‘for the time’ the series handles the PTSD in its various character manifestations amazingly well – it wasn’t a really something I’d come across in my reading experience back then. Particularly in romance.

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  14. Willaful
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:50:01

    I can’t tell you how baffled I was when perfectly ordinary birth control came up in a later book — I was assuming they must have fantastic futuristic stuff that also prevents disease, since it’s never mentioned or even thought of by Eve or Roarke.

    If you’d like to try another one, I think Witness in Death would be a good bet. It’s an homage to 1930s cozy mysteries. Then again you say you don’t like mysteries. But you have to like 1930s cozy ones, right?

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  15. Meg
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 13:57:07

    @library addict: Oh yes, the second book is saved by the Eve/Roarke relationship stuff, which was just fantastic. When I re-read “Glory,” I pretty much skim the mystery and focus on Eve/Roarke and Eve with Nadine and the introduction of Peabody. Because Peabody!!

    @FD: I’m intrigued to see the guessing at tech. Modern iPhones look to be pretty much the equivalent of the 90s-era PPCs in the book. I would personally love an AutoChef. Granted, I also am used to the hand-wavey tech used on Doctor Who, so it doesn’t come off as that odd.

    @Willaful: Oh yes, Witness in Death is a lovely homage that genre, especially Agatha Christie. That was a book I really appreciated more on the second read and the audiobook.

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  16. AJH
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 14:04:44

    @Sue Peace:

    I honestly did get the impression that there’d be a lot more to this series if I carried on reading it. Roarke, in particular, felt like he had an awful lot to unpack. I might have a look at another one at some point in the future.

    @Ness:

    To be honest, I think if a book can hold your interest for thirty volumes, it’s doing pretty damn well :)

    I think most long-running series take a while to get into their stride although I admit I find it faintly intimidating when I hear it takes the first seven to warm up, but gets really good after that.

    @Colleen:

    Obviously my tbr is huge but this is one of the series I genuinely have felt I should carry on with. If nothing else, I’m kind of a sucker for procedurals. Also I’m weirdly amused to notice that the Wikipedia entry for this series has a lovingly compiled list of exactly who gets murdered, and how, and by whom in every book.

    @Meg:

    Oh my word, that’s quite a list and, once again, we’ve run up against my pathological fear of reading a series out of order. I think if I’m going to read another book in this series – and I would like to – I’m afraid it’s probably going to be, well, book two. Even if I’ve been warned it’s not so great actually.

    Thank you for the list and the link, I’ll go have a look and a play around.

    I agree, in general, that the thing that seems interesting about this series is that it has got a central relationship that develops over a long time. I’m not sure, but that seems pretty unusual for the genre, and I’d like to see how it works. I’ve got a vague impression that a recurring hero and heroine might be more common in romantic suspense but I have no idea where I’m getting that impression from.

    I might also have a look at the audiobooks because I quite listening to them while I play video games so it might be a nice way to continue the series without spending all of my time reading JD Robb.

    @Tina:

    Apart from some very very superficial features of the setting, Naked in Death didn’t actually strike me as being particularly dated. Obviously I’m not really in a position to talk about how the romance genre may or may not have evolved since 1995 but I didn’t get that jarring “oh my God, this was obviously written in the past” feeling you get with some of the older romances I’ve read. Or old sci-fi for that matter.

    But I can see how the context could make a huge difference – I’ve actually read a few self-sufficient, arsekicking heroines so I probably took Eve a bit for granted. And mid 90s or not, Roarke is by no means the worst hero I’ve read.

    @library addict:

    Wow, that is some serious commitment.

    I think Roarke statements about hitting women are very much open to interpretation – it’s just sort of one of my personal buttons because I know a lot of guys who make a big deal about how chivalrous and old-fashioned they are, who actually treat women (and, for that matter, everyone else) quite badly. I didn’t actually see anything objectionable from Roarke in terms of his behaviour, it’s just one line that I reacted badly to.

    I think “if you’re not hooked by book three, give up” is probably a good call :) I think for series fiction in general you kind of need to try a few of them to get a sense of what the series is doing and where it might be going, but at the same time it’s important to recognise you just might not like something.

    And I’m definitely intrigued by the long-running relationship aspect to the books.
    Also murders :)

    @cleo:

    Oh gosh, I feel bad now. I suspect, and from what people have said, there’s a high degree of variation in the sorts of things that happen in the books.

    @Cate:

    Glad to be useful :)

    I can see how the series might be addictive but I might need to smoke a few more before I get hooked.

    @Linda B:

    I’m terribly sorry if I came across that way.

    I think I had quite mixed expectations going into the book. As I think mentioned in the review, I didn’t actually realise it was science fiction until about chapter two, and I went in quite well-disposed towards it because I’d enjoyed the last Nora Roberts I’d read, and I’d heard good things about JD Robb.

    I do fully intend to try at least book two. I did actually quite enjoy this one, and I’m sorry if that didn’t come across in my review.

    @Nikki H:

    I agree that there was a lot about Naked that felt quite setupy. I think part of what I found odd is that Eve and Roarke’s relationship seems to move at an extremely accelerated pace for about half the book because they go from being total strangers to totally made for each other. I sort of assume that as the series gets more established that there’s a lot more slow development of the relationship, which I think might give me a little bit less emotional whiplash.

    @Isobel Carr:

    I can absolutely see how this book wouldn’t work for a lot of people. Like I said in the review, the dead call girl and the chivalrous hero pushed a few of my personal buttons. But I still romped through because, ultimately, I really like that sort of thing in general. Err, I mean murders and sci-fi, not dead call girls.

    I’m honestly a bit torn on the world building. I thought it had a very light touch, which I liked, but there were little bits of it where I wasn’t sure how they fit together or sort of how plausible they were. Maybe this is just my English stereotypes coming to the fore, but I really can’t imagine America banning guns within fifty years.

    @Willaful:

    Yeah, the birth control thing did confuse me and, although I actually read this book a few weeks, I also seem to recall having the impression that there was some kind of special magic future disease solving thing going on.

    I’m not quite sure how I gave the impression I don’t like mysteries. I don’t read a lot in the mystery genre but, actually, I quite like mystery stories. I watched a lot of MISS MARPLE as a kid, and I absolutely love the 1930s Agatha Christie style of country house murder.

    Thanks for the rec, and you’re probably right, that would appeal to me a lot … but … must … read … in … order. Gah :)

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  17. Keishon
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 14:06:43

    I read your summary. Naked in Death was pretty great flaws and all when I first read it years ago but as long series are wont to do, it got predictable and I quit. Never regretted that decision.

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  18. Sarah
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 14:48:30

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, though I can’t find the exact source, Roberts only intended this to be a trilogy which I think accounts for the different feel that the first three books have. The later books flesh out the characters and world much more. I initially read the series out of order (picked up Survivor in Death out of a remainder bin and decided to give it a try) and if you do that, it’s easy to see that the earlier books are weaker (though I still adore and reread them often).

    I also think that Naked has the weakest mystery/police procedural plot and Eve’s skills are on display in later books – trust me when I say she is actually a pretty damn good detective, or at least a doggedly determined one.

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  19. hapax
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 14:49:54

    NAKED IN DEATH is one of those weird books for me, in that it’s a Desert Island Keeper that I don’t actually re-read very often.

    I do love the series, partly for the genuinely evolving relationship between Eve and Roarke: they have sex, they have dinner, they fight, they make up, they compromise, they agree to disagree… y’know all those things that REAL couples do. And since they work out a lot of their arguments by sparring (literally, with proper protection and everything), Roarke definitely gets over his “not hitting a woman” thing where Eve is concerned, because otherwise she would beat the sh*t out of him.

    The other thing that keeps me coming back to the series is the simply amazing cast of supporting characters, most of whom don’t show up until the third book or so. Morris is in this one, I think, and he’s one of my favorites, but I was absolutely gobsmacked the first time I read this and realized that Peabody wasn’t in it (oh, Delia, how I love you, not even Roarke is as good as you at keeping Eve in line!) Still, it surprises me how good Robb is at creating these memorable characters, that I didn’t even need a cast list in the back to remind me who they were when they reappear.

    In the earliest books, Roarke is truly mostly a paper-thin wish-fulfillment fantasy (and not MY fantasy), which gifts him with impossible attractiveness, a ludicrous skill set, and a wangsty backstory, all of which Robb has striven to make more plausible in the later books. Still, there are moments from the very first (ahh, Eve’s button!) which hint at the fully fleshed character he will become.

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  20. Willaful
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 15:04:27

    @AJH: I over-extrapolated what you wrote about not liking certain kinds of plots. You probably would like Witness. Unfortunately there are some stinkers before you get there… or not stinkers, really, but I was losing interest and probably would have stopped on that one if I hadn’t liked it so much.

    I liked Eve and Roarke partially because their relationship reminds me of me and my husband. She’s high-maintenance in a similar way to me, which you don’t see much of in romance. Ah, if only we were as attractive and rich… ;-)

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  21. Kristi
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 15:44:06

    Argh. You come and destroy my favorite author and then you keep spelling her name wrong. Like poison darts in my eye! (Nora…. NORA! Not Norah!) Anyway. I get that we all have different thoughts on books, which is why it makes it fun. I hope you continue to read and update us on how you liked them after book 3 or 4!

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  22. Susan
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 15:49:32

    I read a number of the Death books in quick succession about 8 years ago. Although I didn’t dislike them, I expected to like them more than I actually did. Reading some of them out of order probably didn’t help. I still have some unread PBs I should donate somewhere. But…I’ve always thought I must be missing something since so many people rave about them. So, I (re)bought the first several as ebooks…where they now languish on my Kindle. Maybe reading the comments here will re-inspire me.

    I don’t remember all my thoughts about the book, but I did think the relationship was rushed. This was one of the instances when I would have been ok w/ having things still unresolved/unconsummated by the end of the book. (That’s probably against the rules, but surely Roberts has the clout to bend rules if anyone does.) I really didn’t get Rourke’s attraction for Eve, other than a rich guy’s, “New! Hard to get. Must have!” And I think it would have been truer to Eve ‘s reserve to have her hold out longer. (Although choc and coffee do wreak havoc on willpower.) And, yeah, there was the whole cop/suspect thing, to boot.

    And, although it was shocking and titillating, the mystery wasn’t that compelling. I wished Eve had been more badass and awe-inspiring in her ability to solve it on her own.

    As far as the tech stuff, I don’t remember feeling that there were some things already terribly dated, but it was 8 years ago and stuff moves fast. I felt a kind of Bladerunner vibe–some things advanced, other things not so much. Literal astronomical wealth beside gritty subsistence. I liked the worldbuilding, for the most part.

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  23. lawless
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 15:54:00

    I read the 28th book in this series, Promises in Death (I bought it for cheap from a rummage sale because of a friend’s love of the series), and enjoyed it. At this point, Eve and Roarke are married (btw, I assumed “Roarke” is his last name), and Eve is hosting a … bridal shower, I think? — which lightens the atmosphere, seeing as she’s so focused on the case that she keeps forgetting that the shower is coming up, and she has no idea what to buy the guest of honor. The shower also includes many of the side characters, who try (mostly unsuccessfully) to get Eve to relax and forget about the case for a little while.

    The case is interesting, and Eve and her work partner Peabody (who is female) make a good crime-fighting and detective team. Roarke is supportive and puts his business and resources at Eve’s disposal, but doesn’t insist that she use them. The book was a lot of fun to read; at some point in the future I intend to read some of the earlier volumes.

    My main quibbles were with some exoticism that was evident in the depiction of the Asian ME, Morris, and the godawful purple prose description of Eve and Roarke’s sex life, but thankfully the latter only lasted a paragraph or two at a time and there were maybe three such “scenes.”

    In short, I think it would be worthwhile continuing the series in some form. Listening to audiobooks while you play computer games might well be a good way of doing that.

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  24. library addict
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 16:19:41

    I know many people love the audio books’ narrator. Susan Ericksen is much better than the first narrator who spoke in…a…monotone…oh…so…slowly.

    Personally, I do not like the way she does many of the characters’ voices. I don’t picture Baxter as southern or Ian as a surfer dude. I also don’t like her Nadine and her Roarke sounds like the Lucky Charms leprechaun to me. But I do think she’s does a good job with the narration otherwise. I just no longer listen to the series on audio and stick to reading them.

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  25. Willaful
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 17:19:49

    @library addict: I started to listen to one of hers and the….gooshy way she made Peabody sound was unbearable.

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  26. cleo
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 17:26:34

    @AJH – oh no, the mark of a useful review is that it helps one decide if a book is right for them. I already vaguely knew that this series wasn’t for me because I don’t like romantic suspense, especially rs with serial killers. But until your review, I had no idea about the abusive grandfather / dead prostitute plot and that seriously hits every trigger and squick button I have. So I owe you thanks, you saved me from picking this up on a whim (as well as from the extra therapy I’m sure I’d have needed to recover from reading it – jk, but only a little).

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  27. DS
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 17:54:56

    I remember being thoroughly annoyed when I bought this book new anticipating a science fiction mystery. I felt cheated because it was so romancy. (I wasn’t reading romances at the time though I had before and restarted reading them some years later.) Amazon had just added this cool feature that let customer’s write reviews, so I did what I have done lots of times since– complained about my busted expectations in an Amazon review. I don’t think it’s still up though I haven’t looked at those old reviews in years. I’m sure I got beat down by J. D. Robb fans though.

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  28. fullybooked
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 18:46:26

    So I love this series in spite of numerous problems with the mystery aspects. It is either obvious right from the beginning or completely out of left field. Coincidences abound and homage is paid to many well known mystery classics-often the reason I know the bad guy right away because it is the same one as in the original. The first misdirect killer i read was Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders.

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  29. Robin/Janet
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 18:54:43

    @library addict: OMG what she did to Leonardo, though, still slays me. How is it that a guy who’s basically described as at least part Native American comes out sounding like a strangled Russian? It’s even worse than her pronunciation of “Peabuddy.” And Roarke sounds like he should be doing an Irish Spring commercial. Although I have to say that as I’ve grown more disenchanted with the books, I’ve used my Audible credits to pick up the audio to listen to on the way to and home from work. That way I stay loosely connected in case one of the books wows me the way the early (read: paperback) ones did. Every few books, I feel like the series is in the same groove it was at the beginning.

    @Tina: and @FD: I read the series in one long glom in the mid-2000′s, right before the series went hardcover. And I didn’t find it dated, in part because despite my persistent dislike of Roarke (he was too controlling there for a while, IMO), Eve was so compelling to me, and the way Roberts switched up the gender roles in their relationship still felt fresh (actually, that element is still pretty fresh to me today).

    The only odd thing about reading the books like that was that I became really impatient with the readers who felt like Eve needed to hurry up and get over her trauma. For those readers, the series had been going on for years, but my experience was closer to the timeframe of the actual books, and I actually *still* feel that Eve has moved through all that a bit hastily.

    @Sarah: You are correct about the original trilogy intentions. I think Roberts may have said that at Dear Author or Smart Bitches, in response to a question about the rushed timeframe from meet to marriage. I think it was partly that rush that made me feel that Roarke was initially too pushy with Eve (I HATED him in Glory). It wasn’t until Vengeance, at least, that I started feeling like his character was being fleshed out a little more. By Portrait I thought he was pretty well developed. And I suspect that the later books are more intense on the police procedural aspects because they’re trying to broaden the market for the books. Because they were experimenting with using the Roberts name and picture and taking them off the cover, I supposed to potentially increase the number of men and non-Romance readers in general picking up the books (I think they even added a quote from Stephen King).

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  30. farmwifetwo
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 18:54:47

    I started the series in /98 when we moved here and the ,librarian introduced me to the series. Truthfully, in my 40′s I call it the forgotten decade. You think of things like n the 80′s and after 2000 computers and cellphones become a fact of life. So I forget when I read a 90′s pub book that things were changing but not changed yet.

    Remembering that may help getting onto the series.

    Also, the first 3 are not my fav’s to reread but I always recommend reading them and then quit.

    The latest are becoming bland but, I enjoy a good procedural and she never has a ‘magic’ solve moment. So I’m still buying when they cone out.

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  31. Tina
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 19:07:02

    I think one of the reasons I haven’t gotten tired of the series so far is because she’s made it somewhat genre bending in that it is sometimes mystery, sometimes police procedure and sometimes suspense thriller and yet there is always romance with some futuristic world building going. Sometimes the books are stone cold who-dunnits, sometimes you know right away who did it and it is a matter of Eve proving it. Sometimes they read like cozies. There are even a couple of very out-there science fictiony ones, Origin in Death for instance brings to mind Orphan Black. And yes, the homages especially to Hitchcock are generally well done.

    My biggest, biggest, biggest pet peeve is that Eve is a serial killer magnet. The series only takes places over about three years so far and out of the …what 37? cases, I would say that most of them are serial. The odds are so against that. Outside of the novellas, I think the closest she’s come to working a case that was a simple single murder was Salvation in Death.

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  32. Willaful
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 19:12:37

    I just remembered that I wrote a short post about my In Death complaints a few months ago: http://karenknowsbest.com/2013/05/10/boredom-in-death/

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  33. library addict
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 20:05:20

    @Sarah: Yes, she signed for the three books with the hope for more, but felt since that was guaranteed only the first three she needed to tie up the romance somewhat. I know we’d talked about it on ADWOFF more than once. And she’s said so in more than one interview. But Googling “In Death as a trilogy” just got me lots of Amazon and Ebay hits – lol.

    I don’t think it was until a few years into the series that it was officially revealed it was Nora writing them. But it wasn’t exactly a secret before then.

    @Willaful: Yes Peabody comes off much more whiney in the audio versions. Enough that I really started to dislike the character for a while.

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  34. Meg
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 20:07:51

    @Willaful: Her Peabody really wavers from book to book at first, but she finally settled on a voice for Peabody that’s passable. Still not what my inner Peabody sounds like, but far better than the first books where she voiced her.

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  35. library addict
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 20:08:28

    @Robin/Janet: I’d blocked out the whole Leonardo voice. Shudder. I like the narrator’s normal speaking voice. I’ll just leave it at that.

    My earlier comment is in moderation. I guess I do not know how to do multiple responses.

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  36. MarieC
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 20:52:26

    I loved this series in the beginning, but just haven’t been able to catch up (there are soooo many in the series!). However, I agree that Roarke is a little much to take from the onset, but I agree with many of the other posters that he gets better. I especially loved him and Summerset in ‘Vengence in Death”, which is my favorite of the books I’ve read so far.

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  37. Kaetrin
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 21:42:15

    I started reading the In Death series 3 or 4 years ago. I was able to read the first 20 or so in a straight glom and since then I’ve also listened to most of the audiobooks and kept up with new releases.

    I have re-read/re-listened to some of the books – strangely enough, Naked in Death worked better for me the first time. The second time, I saw more of the flaws and I questioned what exactly brought them together – but it totally worked for me on first reading. I don’t share the no-love for Glory in Death however.

    I’ve always pretty much liked Roarke. He was the first such character of his kind that I read and I regard him as a kind of archetype (Eve too actually). I see commonalities in many books I read. While I agree that if a guy says “I don’t hit women” and then treats them like shit, that would be bad, I don’t have a problem with a guy not hitting a woman. I think it’s a good thing. Contrasted to what I recently learned about Sean Connery (who thinks women deserve a slap every so often) (also, he is now dead to me), I’d much prefer a man saying that violence against women is not okay. There are plenty of ad campaigns saying that very thing and violence against women is a real problem. So Roarke gets a pass from me.

    I also read that scene differently to you (as we already discussed on Twitter) – I thought Roarke was reacting out of hurt because he thought she was accusing him of murder, that she really suspected him and, after what he thought they had shared, this wounded him.

    I’m a big fan of the audiobooks but it did take me a while to get used to the Peabody voice. Now that’s what I hear when I read and I’ve kind of assimilated it. Fun fact: Ericksen actually started at Seduction in Death, read the next few and then went back and did the first books in the series (which had previously been recorded by another narrator and seem to be universally disliked, although I haven’t heard any of them myself). Audible have recently released those first 2 books in updated audio version because the accents etc hadn’t really been sorted out in the first two books she narrated. For those of us who started at the beginning (Naked in Death), getting to Seduction in Death (the original one) was all kinds of strange because the accents were all different even Eve’s.

    I love the secondary characters in this series, I love how Robb/Roberts can get me invested so quickly in a character and I love how the Eve/Roarke relationship has grown. The most recent books have been kind of disappointing however – they’ve been less romance-y and more procedural. I hear that might be to try and attract male readers and crime readers. I don’t mind having every other book or so being more procedural but as a romance reader, I want the relationship ones too. I feel like the last relationship-y one was NY2D.

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  38. Linda B
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 22:02:31

    AJH – Absolutely don’t apologize for your review or how you came across! You reviewed the book and stated your opinion – isn’t that what a reviewer is supposed to do? I think a good reviewer isn’t hesitant to give a less-than-glowing review if that is their impression of a book. Even though I didn’t agree with the review, I did enjoy it. I love to see these kinds of discussions over a book or a series.

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  39. romsfuulynn
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 00:53:29

    I started them at the beginning – I always knew it was Roberts, and it was SFish. And that it was 2058 – and there had been “the Urban Wars.” In 1995 they seemed much more original – I also seem to remember that they were a slightly mischievous intent to write something that could be shelved in mystery or sf or romance (or general fiction which is where some booksellers put them.)

    Some are stronger, some are weaker. Also – you mention some triggery stuff in this. There are things in the later books in both Eve’s and Roarke’s backgrounds that are seriously triggery.

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  40. AJH
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 06:33:33

    @Keishon:

    I think predictability is an inevitable consequence of a series going on for a really long time. In a sense it’s sort of a Catch 22, either you change things so much that the series is no longer like it was when it started and the books no longer have the features that people were originally reading them for, or you don’t in which case, after thirty something books, things are bound to get a bit samey.

    @Sarah:

    If it was originally meant to be a trilogy, then the accelerated relationship makes a little bit more sense. Although I sort of think even a trilogy would give you enough space to take things a bit more slowly. But I suppose, if I’m reading it right, they get married later so – in that sense – there is a longer arc.

    I’m glad to hear the mystery elements get stronger because I think the general lack of progress on the murder front was my biggest problem with the book. I’d fully expect the mysteries to get more developed as the relationship gets more established.

    @hapax:

    I love “have sex, have dinner, fight” as a summary of all relationships. And, weirdly, it’s probably kind of true. I can see how seeing that much space given to an evolving central relationship could be really appealing because in most romances I’ve read you just kind of get the edited highlights (and that’s okay, but it’s always nice to see something different).

    Embarrassingly, I can’t actually remember a Morris at all. I have a terrible memory for supporting characters in general and I actually read this book a couple of months ago now. Oh wait, is he the male escort that Eve talks to when she’s investigating the murder? He was pretty cool.

    I definitely interested to see how Roarke’s character develops over the series. I’ve heard such good things about him that I was slightly disappointed. I mean, he wasn’t awful, but he didn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary to me.

    @Willaful:

    I’m really worried by what I’ve said about plots now. I think I actually quite like mysteries but because I consume quite a lot of them (mostly on TV and in movies, rather than novels) I’m very aware that they can often be quite badly done. As I was saying in this review, I think it’s very easy t o build a mystery that just doesn’t make sense in retrospect because so often the way these things seem to be written is “work out the setup, work out the solution, glue them together in the middle.”

    Also, is your husband some kind of ninja? :)

    @Kristi:

    Omg, I’m so sorry. I suck. I have now fixed the spelling. Weirdly, I managed to spell it right the first time, but then never again. I think I must have been thinking of NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST or possibly Norah Jones.

    Also I really didn’t mean to destroy anybody. I actually really liked the last Nora Roberts I read, and I quite enjoyed this one but I think I went in with higher expectations because it had been so highly recommended.

    @Susan:

    I think I had that problem as well because I sort of went in expecting to love it, and only sort of quite liked it. I think it’s fairly common to feel like you’re missing something when lots of people really dig a series but you, well, don’t but I think the thing about fiction in general is that it’s often quite personal. And sometimes you just won’t particularly like what something is doing, and that’s okay.

    Also I think when somebody has read a lot of series and, therefore, really invested in it, they’re often in a completely different reading space to you because they’ll always be looking at the series in its wider context, when you’re just reading a book.

    As I said in the review, I agree with you that the central romance felt a bit rushed. In some ways, I’m not sure why I got that feeling because on a rational level I don’t think it was more rushed than most other romances I’ve seen, at least within genre romance. Again, I think maybe because I knew it was the start to a series I expected it to be slower at the beginning. Although also, as you say, because Eve comes across as so reserved (and, also, because sleeping with the suspect in the case you’re investigating is so grossly unprofessional) I think it would made sense for things to be a bit slower.

    I confess I didn’t get much sense of the world at all really. There are quite a lot of references to specific bits of tech or specific social events, like the Urban Wars, but it didn’t really come together for me into a coherent picture of a world. Honestly, I’m not sure it really had to because neither the romance nor the mystery relied on world building concepts (and the mystery explicitly uses twentieth century methods).

    @lawless:

    Ah, Morris is the medical examiner. I really failed to notice him at all.

    I have enough trouble going into a series at book four, let alone book twenty eight. I’d just be too busy freaking out to appreciate it – although it does sound like an interesting set up, especially since I know where and how the series begins.

    Incidentally, as far as I understand, Roarke’s name is just Roarke. Like Madonna.
    I do actually have some unused Audible credits so I might pick up book two, and see how it goes. I can listen to it when I’m playing SHADOWRUN RETURNS.

    @library addict:

    I … don’t know who any of those people are, so I’d probably be able to adapt to audiobooks a little bit more easily. Although, like you, I do find listening to audio versions of books I know really well quite jarring sometimes, because you tend to have developed quite set ideas about what the characters sound like.

    I’ve got to admit I didn’t really read Roarke has having an Irish accent at all. I kind of assumed he was Irish American.

    @cleo:

    Yeah, I didn’t want to make assumptions but I kind of figured that the dead prostitute, abusive grandfather thing might be a deal breaker for some readers. As I mentioned above, two out of the three romantic suspenses I’ve read so far have featured dead prostitutes. I recognise that obviously killers tend to target vulnerable groups, and sex workers are vulnerable (we had a serial killer who targeted sex workers a few years ago in this country in, I think, Bradford), but , as a narrative trope, it makes me a little bit uncomfortable. I think it’s that I can’t shake the feeling that sex worker gets used as a shorthand for “vulnerable but a little bit sleazy.” You have this horrible thing where you’re almost invited to pity the victim as much for being a prostitute as for being murdered.

    I should probably stress here that I’m talking about the trope in general, not its specific instance in NAKED IN DEATH.

    @DS:

    It’s funny how your expectation can really change the way you react to a book. I think I’d probably have felt the same if I’d gone into this expecting a sci-fi thriller but since it was recommended to me as a romantic suspense I obviously knew what I was getting into, and I expected a lot of, well, romancyness.

    Just out of curiosity, have you tried going back to the series as a romance series, rather than as a sci-fi thriller series? Or do you think the initial disappointment will have left a bitter aftertaste.

    @fullybooked:

    I’m actually a big fan of homage mysteries so that wouldn’t really trouble me, particularly because while I’m enthusiastic about the genre, I’m not terribly well educated in it.

    I don’t think I’ve even read ABC MURDERS, though I have read some Christie. Or, at the very least, seen it on TV ;)

    Is there one where it turns out they all did it?

    @farmwifetwo:

    I didn’t find the nineties-ness particularly stopped me getting into the book, I just noticed it as a feature of that era of sf. And I think you’re right that the nineties is a funny era because it doesn’t have the total cluelessness that you had in the eighties, where you expected that the internet would be this kind of magic dreamworld that you plug into with your brain, but, at the same, there are major technological developments that just nobody could have predicted – like data storage or even smartphones.

    I’m probably going to press on with the series, at least for a bit, to see how I feel about it with a bit more context. Also I do like procedurals, and I genuinely quite like formulaic fiction.

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  41. AJH
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 07:55:56

    @Tina:

    I can see why with a thirty-something book series you’d have to switch things up a bit to keep things fresh. Honestly, I have no idea how unusual it is for suspense or mystery series to switch between modes. Although, thinking about it, I suppose most detective series will stick to being either mysteries or thrillers. It’s not like you’ve sometimes got an episode of MURDER SHE WROTE where the killer is revealed in the first five minutes or an episode of COLUMBO where it wasn’t. Or, for that matter, A MURDER SHE WROTE where Jessica Fletcher is hot on the trail of a serial killer. Which is a shame. Because that would be awesome.

    Again, I’m very unfamiliar with either crime fiction or romantic suspense but I have a vague sense that serial killers are sort of the norm. Although I suppose it’s particularly bizarre in this series if the thirty seven books only cover three years of Eve’s life.

    @Willaful:

    Thanks for the link :)

    @MarieC:

    I sort of know what you mean about losing track of a series and then feeling you can’t catch up again. I get that way with American TV shows. Obviously they’re a lot longer than British series and therefore require quite a hefty time commitment so unless I’m really into them and buy the new series when it releases over here, I’m likely to never to go back to it because next time I turn around they’re up to like Season Eight and I’m still on Season Two. So I give up. And, of course, comics are completely lethal for it – you turn back for five minutes and there’ve been two reboots and a whole new cast.

    @Kaetrin:

    I think mysteries in general often work best the first time round because your attention is totally swallowed by the plot. Sometimes it can be really interesting to re-visit something but sometimes you just end up seeing the holes and the cracks. Also I think it can often be quite hard to go backwards through a series because you’re sort of invested in what it evolves into, not what it was at the start.

    On the not-hitting-women thing, I think there is a massive difference between being opposed to violence against women, and the cultural taboos against hitting women. I actually think Eve sums it up perfectly well in the book when she says he shouldn’t like “brutalising people in any form”. Heck, I do martial arts in a mixed group. Having a “don’t hit women” policy would be completely absurd because I often spar with them.

    As I think I said in the review, the problem I had with Roarke’s stance on hitting women was that I very much didn’t read it as a nuanced position on violence against women as a social problem, I read it as a thoughtless reiteration of quite a harmful social stereotype. I think, to me, there’s an inextricable connection between rules that govern how one behaves towards women and rules that govern how women are supposed to behave. Cultural taboos against hitting women are grounded in the assumption that women are not allowed to defend themselves, or to show aggression, or to be otherwise self-reliant. You don’t hit women because women aren’t supposed to fight.

    I think what really troubles me about men who “don’t hit women” is that it implies that the only thing stopping that man from hitting any given woman is his personal and magnanimous decision not to. If a man wants to hit another man, there’s a recognition that the other man is an agent in that, and whether you hit him or not is something he should have a personal say in. I think to me hitting someone is like swearing at them in the sense that generally speaking you shouldn’t go around swearing at people but if you have a policy of swearing in front of men but not in front of women then you’re actually sort of covertly policing the behaviour of women.

    Of course, I absolutely understand that violence against women is a serious issue, but I think one of the really toxic things about cultural attitudes to violence in general is that people think violence has to mean striking. What I feel to be one of the most dangerous things about cultural taboos against hitting women is that they don’t actually preclude violent behaviour towards women in any way. In its most extreme cases, gendered violence taboos basically mean it’s not okay to punch a woman with a closed fist but you can slap her or throw her around as much as you like. A lot of violence against women, and violence in general, is the sort of thing that people who say they’d never hit a woman wouldn’t even consider to be violence. You can aggressively physically dominate someone without laying a hand on them.
    Sorry, that got really long. I should probably stress that I have absolutely no problem with Roarke’s behaviour towards Eve in NAKED IN DEATH. It’s just that particular line, as I said above, presses a lot of my buttons. Again, I can understand why he says what he says and to an extent it’s not even the fact he says it that I have problem with, it’s that the book seemed to think he was right, or that he was expressing a noble sentiment.

    I’ll definitely check out the audiobooks, though. And, obviously, since I’ve only read one I’ll have less investment in how the voices sound.

    @Linda B:

    While I am absolutely here to record my responses to books in as honest a way as I can, I was just a bit concerned that you felt I’d gone into the book with preconceptions, and that I was deliberately trying to write something negative, which certainly wasn’t my intent.

    @romsfuulynn:

    Obviously, it’s quite a different experience to read a book in 2013 than to read it in 1995, although actually I didn’t find the book notably un-original or dated, except in some very trivial senses. I think it’s just the context means I take certain types heroes and certain types of heroines much for granted.

    Thanks for the warnings about Eve’s and Roake’s backgrounds. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’m not personally triggered by many things, but it’s always good to know what you’re getting into.

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  42. Kaetrin
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 09:14:58

    @AJH you make interesting points that I hadn’t considered before re violence against women. I come at it from the perspective that, in broad terms, men are usually physically bigger and stronger than women. Expressing anger in physical form (as opposed to consensual martial arts etc) against someone physically weaker is to be abhorred I think. I mean, I think you agree with that as a general proposition. I’m not suggesting you think otherwise. Eve Dallas is kickass. She’s tough and she can fight against much stronger and bigger opponents. But I couldn’t. From where I sit, gendered violence taboos aren’t just about a closed fist. It includes any form of physical violence or intimidation. I see physical violence as an attempt to dominate by physical strength alone, which is more a matter of genetics than of being “right”. So someone choosing not to use physical strength to advantage but choosing to resolve issues another way is not, to me, policing my behaviour, but rather, giving me a level playing field, or, at least the chance at it. But, I don’t believe a woman should hit a man either, because that is using his physical advantage against him, which is also unfair. I am fortunate that I haven’t been in the situation where someone has hit or threatened me. I witnessed it once as a young girl when a neighbour couple got into an argument when we all went camping together. It has shaped my views I think. He had such contempt for her when he was slapping her face. It was very much a way to keep her “in her place”.

    I am not trying to devalue your hot buttons and, like I said above, you made some interesting points and had a take I hadn’t considered or even thought of before (not that I think about this a lot). And, I do agree that if not hitting someone was presented or reasonably perceived as magnanimous that would be sucky because it almost sends the same message doesn’t it? That “I could have overpowered you but I’m letting you off”? I’d much rather that the hitting part wasn’t even a consideration. For many men, possibly/probably the vast majority, I don’t think it is.

    Sorry for thread derailment! :)

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  43. AJH
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 09:38:40

    @Kaetrin:

    I actually think broadly in agreement here.

    I absolutely agree that you shouldn’t use violence of any form to enforce your will on another human being, regardless of gender.

    I think that my problem is that actually gendering it reinforces some really harmful cultural stereotypes.

    I think the problem with a lot of these sorts of cultural taboos is they become kind of talismanic. I don’t want to get too much into TMI territory here but I know people whose fathers would beat their mothers but would still “not hit women.”

    I guess to me the issue is that the statement “I do not hit women” does not actually show any understanding of women as individuals with rights, or address the wider issues of violence against women or against anyone. As I said it my last comment, expressing it in those terms makes it very much a choice a man makes about the sort of man he wants to be. It’s not actually about the rights of people to control what happens to their bodies.

    Also, as you point out, ideally hitting someone – a woman or otherwise – just shouldn’t be a consideration, so the mere fact that people feel they have to go out of their way to establish that they won’t almost carries an implied threat. I could but … I won’t. Because I’m just that great.

    I think it also bothered me because, while I’m not great student of human behaviour, I tend to feel there’s very little correlation the things people loudly say they don’t do and the things actually don’t do. I mean, someone who tells you they lie is not someone you should trust.

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  44. Kaetrin
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 10:02:30

    @AJH oh I see what you mean about saying it loudly. I’d certainly disbelieve someone who just sprouted it at random, like a badge of honour.

    I think the two concepts can kind of co-exist, as in “I don’t hit women because that’s not the kind of man I want to be, as I’m a man who believes women have the right to disagree with me without me beating them up to shut them up just because I’m bigger and stronger than they are.” FWIW, I think Roarke is more like this. I also know that *spoiler alert* Roarke’s father beat him as a child so violence against a weaker opponent is anathema to him for personal reasons too).

    And frankly, the kind of man who would say “I don’t hit women” and then beat his wife is not only a liar, he’s also an utter arsehole who deserves a good beating himself.

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  45. AJH
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 10:31:24

    @Kaetrin:

    You see, I kind of feel that sprouting it randomly like a badge of honour is exactly what Roarke does in that scene, and that’s why I reacted to it so badly. However, as always, that’s just my interpretation and I can see why you, and other people, read it differently, or aren’t troubled by it.

    I think I can see where you’re coming but, for me, it just isn’t appropriate to hit someone for disagreeing with you no matter who they are, so making it explicitly about gender sexualises something that should in no way be sexualised.

    I guess I self-define as a man who does not resort to violence to solve his problems, so I don’t see why women need a separate sub-clause. Basically the circumstances in which I’d hit a woman are exactly the same as the circumstances in which I’d hit a man: self-defence, sparring and extreme vengeance because they’d like murdered my brother or something (and, even then, I’d probably actually just go to the police).

    I do briefly want to address the weaker opponent thing, if that’s okay, because it actually makes me uncomfortable. First of all, it’s really important to recognise that human beings have a range of body types and, while on average men are very slightly taller than women, society tends to exaggerate those differences and this can be quite damaging. A woman is not less feminine because she is tall, a man is not less masculine because he is short. And, clearly, a six foot heavily built woman is not smaller or weaker than a five foot six lightly built man.

    I think the real reason it bugs me though – and I’m really sorry if I sound like a men’s rights activist here – is that if a tall muscular man hits a short, skinny man society very much sees that as being the second man’s fault for not being manly enough. If it really is about a big, strong person hitting a smaller, weaker person then it, again, gendering it is really really difficult. Because then what you’re saying is that men shouldn’t hit women because women are “supposed” to be small and weak, and men aren’t, but it’s absolutely fine to hit other men no matter how small or weak they are because they should just damn well man up.

    I think the problem with the weaker opponent line is that it’s not really followed through in practice – obviously I’m not talking about the books here, I’m talking about life in general. There are certain categories of person who are socially designated as being unable to defend themselves – women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities – but it does not , for example, include men who aren’t conventionally masculine.

    And now I’ve derailed talking about a book into talking about violence against women and then derailed that into talking about violence against men. I’m not trying to be all “but what about the menz” here but actually gendering violence is bad for everybody. It’s bad for women because it doesn’t actually protect them because, as I mentioned above, believing you shouldn’t hit women in general and not physically abusing your wife or daughter are different things for a lot of people. And it’s bad for men because all of this stuff about it being wrong to attack someone who is physically weaker than you doesn’t apply to us.

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  46. readerdiane
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 11:10:26

    I have read these books since the beginning & they are on my Keeper shelf. IF you go in expecting these books to be the romance Nora Roberts, then you will be disappointed. I think that is why originally there was a different name. If you think about the kind of writing you find in SF & mysteries in the 90′s, it will explain the style & why it is so different from her romance. I love SF written by women, so this was an auto buy for me. I still buy the Hardbacks because reading the next in the series is like visiting with old friends-the characteriztion is so wonderful.30 books is pretty good for a series & I will keep buying them.
    Also think of how many trilogies Nora has written including some other fantasy/paranormal.

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  47. Kari S.
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 14:03:41

    Thanks for reviewing book one of my favorite series. I will agree that the world Robb creates is only touched upon in this first book. Because the series goes on so long, those of us who know and love the entirety forget how undeveloped most of the world is at this point. At my first reading there were 15 or 16 books out for me to read and savor, and we have to remember that you haven’t gotten that far yet.

    Some spoilers ahead (but not too spoilery, I hope).

    Violence against women and children is actually a recurring theme in the series. Both Eve and Roarke were raised in equally brutal circumstances. Their fathers were not nice men. It has shaped their lives – Roarke frequently remarks that they are “two lost souls” who created a happy life together against enormous odds. Roarke came out of it a little better because Summerset adopted him before he was completely grown, which gave him a more “normal” upbringing. (Eve and Summerset loathe one another at first sight, but slowly will appreciate each other’s place in Roarke’s world.) Eventually Roarke even funds a shelter for abused women and children, as a tribute to Eve.

    I’m not sure that a male reader will ever appreciate Roarke completely. My sister-in-law loves the series, but when I asked her if she’d given the books to my brother to read, she said flatly that he wouldn’t appreciate Roarke. He is a female fantasy- beautiful, sexy, intelligent, powerful and incredibly charismatic (not to mention being the wealthiest man on this or any other planet). Despite all his perfections, he picks Eve – a woman who doesn’t seem to be that unique or attractive to many of the people she meets, nor does Eve understand it. Woman after woman wonders what he sees in her, and Eve wonders too. She is shocked in an upcoming book when another man makes a pass at her. We then discover that Roarke doesn’t mind hitting other men.

    A few points:

    Roarke is a surname. His father’s name was Patrick Roarke, but we never learn if he gave Roarke his own name (which Roarke then refused to use) or whether he never bothered to name his kid.

    When visiting Ireland, we discover that apparently the 21st century has passed it by, and much of it is beautiful and rural, which Eve finds disturbing (to Roarke’s amusement). Nora does much the same in her contemporary romances that are set in Ireland.

    I agree that there are too many books featuring serial killers. There are also a few books made more interesting because Eve sides (inwardly, at least) with the murderers. I’d like to see more of those. Many of the male serial killers are too similar. The women who kill are more interesting, as a rule.

    Finally, I’d like to put in another plug for my favorite Loretta Chase book, Mr. Impossible. Next to Roarke, he’s the hero I’d like to meet!

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  48. Susan
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 14:23:19

    This has been an interesting discussion. I don’t think I even registered Roarke’s comment when I first read the book. Even if I never go back and read this particular book, it’s a lot to consider moving forward.

    Re Christie, some people see her as quaint and old-fashioned, but she was quite the ground-breaker and totally reinvented the mystery genre. She invented tropes and twists we now take for granted–the narrator did it, the dead guy did it, they all did it, etc. (And, to answer your earlier question, I don’t think it’s spoiling it for anyone if I say the last one applies to Murder on the Orient Express.)

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  49. Susan
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 14:32:11

    BTW, would it be terribly rude and OCD of me to point out that “review” is misspelled in the post header?

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  50. Marianne McA
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 16:02:23

    Naked in Death is my favourite, though I also liked Conspiracy in Death because I always love that story – where you take the thing that defines the character away from them, and watch how they cope.
    I read the first dozen, but the only one I thought worked as a proper murder mystery was Witness in Death. Thing is, it’s a familiar plot (Ngaio Marsh wrote it at least twice), so if you read in the genre, you know whodunnit.

    I’ve got to say I never warmed hugely to Roarke – partly because I think anyone who got that rich through crime must have done some unforgiveable stuff, partly because I don’t trust that very easy Irish charm (though I know really lovely people who have it in spades) and partly because I got bored with him owning everything in the world.

    As far as I read, one of the problems was a lack of – not character development, exactly – but the kind of problem you have in long running soap operas where characters don’t react to their own life story.

    @FD – I didn’t really notice anything much (as far as I read) about her depiction of Ireland, though she tends towards tourist board Ireland in some of her romances. I was a bit miffed when she reunited Ireland: given that she didn’t include any of that sort of world-building, it read a bit as a political point. But then she said in an interview that her dad (or grandad?) was Irish, so maybe it was a sentimental gesture.

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  51. Kay Webb Harrison
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 16:53:02

    Christie’s The ABC Murders was made into a movie, but very long ago, I think. Do read or watch one or all of the versions of her Murder on the Orient Express.

    I think that ME Morris had a different surname in the first few books–Matthews, or something like that. The male licensed prostitute is Charles, who is also a “regular” in the series. I remember these details because in one of my re-reads of the series, I wrote pencil notes in the blank pages at the front of the books.

    I keep reading the In Death books because I like mysteries, futuristics, romances, family sagas. I like the many characters Robb has created; I admire her ability to keep me interested in them from book to book. I like the way she changes up the type of story from book to book; of course, there is repetition throughout the series, but Robb does a fine job of spacing them out.

    Kay

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  52. library addict
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 17:42:26

    Morris isn’t actually introduced until book 4, Rapture in Death. After that his name is misspelled as “Morse” in a few of the early books starting with Witness in Death IIRC. We didn’t learn his first name until Promises in Death.

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  53. Michele Mills
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 21:03:08

    @Kari S.: Now I love Loretta Chase as much as the next romance reader, but he’s already reviewed her. Time for some new blood, and therefore I’m eagerly awaiting his review of JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. Bring it on!

    I agree with your assessment that Roarke is a creation of female fantasy (sigh), and as such, this won’t ever translate for AJH. Sorry, but it’s true. :) But, AJH we ALL appreciate your strong stance against violence towards women. Thanks for being such a stand up guy.

    One thing I wanted to bring up, that I haven’t seen yet-and if it was already discussed I’m going to feel stupid- is how I feel Eve is the original kick ass heroine. What I remember liking the most about this book is how STRONG Eve is. At the end she doesn’t need to be rescued by the men (clinging to them, sobbing), instead she kills the bad guy and rescues herself. I just loved that moment! I know that kick ass heroines like this are common place now, but back in the day when this book was first written- not so much. I think we all need to remember that we owe Nora Roberts a debt of gratitude for being part of the movement towards including strong heroines in romance. Thanks, Nora!

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  54. Willaful
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 21:09:20

    @Meg: The one I tried was quite recent, so I’m going to assume that I will always hate her Peabody.

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  55. Kaetrin
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 21:11:08

    @Kari I think the women’s shelter was in tribute to Roarke’s mother ?

    @AJH thank you for expanding. I understand what you’re saying. Obvs my reading of the book was different to yours but I think we basically agree on the other issues, even if we have different ways of expressing it. :). The thing about women being physically weaker than men is only a broad generality of course. There are cases of women being the abuser in a m/f relationship and of course same sex relationships can have DV too.

    I’m definitely a talker not a fighter. But there is an element to our culture/society that makes male aggression somehow a marker of masculinity and something to be celebrated. I’m not sufficiently educated in the subject to know why that is but I wish that wasn’t the case.

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  56. Willaful
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 21:16:21

    @AJH: “Also, is your husband some kind of ninja? :) ”

    Yes, in that he is FREAKIN’ AWESOME!

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  57. Willaful
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 22:28:52

    @Michele Mills: Michele, AGH already reviewed Dark Lover… and I don’t know if you’re going to like it. ;-)

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  58. Kari S.
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 23:55:10

    Kaetrin (spoiler in case anyone cares),

    No, the shelter was for Eve. However, Roarke discovered the truth about his mother because one of the counselors at the shelter knew her. She even had a picture. Resulting in a major meltdown for our hero (Portrait in Death) that terrified Eve.

    The truth about his mother made the shelter even more meaningful for Eve and Roarke.

    I guess I’d like to read a review of Mr. Impossible by AJH because the hero is so unique and the romance with Daphne seems so unlikely at the outset. An adorable couple. After all, AJH fell in love with Jessica in Lord of Scoundrels, and this time the hero is good enough for the heroine. Plus it’s full of pyramids, tombs and the archaeology of Ancient Egypt! High comedy as a bonus, and a beautiful epilogue.

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  59. Michele Mills
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 00:32:28

    @Willaful: Thanks for the heads up! I can’t believe I missed this. What planet was I on? So, I read it and I was of course heartbroken that he trashed my favorite series. Sniff. But then I read this exert:

    By the end of the book, Wrath’s erection was coming perilously close to being my favorite character. It could almost have been a member of the Brotherhood in it’s own right. Although I suppose it would have had to call itself “Ehrection” or something. Although thinking about it, it could have got away with “Phallus”.

    And this was so f*ing hilarious….I forgave him immediately. :)

    Okay, my next suggestion is Kristen Ashley-Motorcycle Man. AJH’s take on that would be fun.

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  60. Kaetrin
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 02:08:12

    @Kari – yes, of course. Sorry, I forgot :)

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  61. MikiS
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 06:31:10

    I’m another one who loves this series, despite its flaws. I prefer her books with “normal” murderers (rather than the totally bat-shit crazy serial killers or anarchists). You should be aware, if certain issues are triggers for you, some of her murder descriptions are almost gleefully and disgustingly detailed. Maybe I skimmed them and didn’t notice as much when I read them, but nowadays I tend to keep up with series with the audiobooks and sheesh, some of those scenes give me the creeps. (I have to fast-forward through certain parts of “Betrayal in Death” whenever I listen to it).

    And just to be different from most of the other posters, I have to say I much prefer McNab (who you haven’t “met” yet) to Roarke. And yeah, okay, Morris is pretty yumilicious too. Eve can keep Roarke – he suits her. :)

    I usually tell people I recommend this series to that I read it for the character growth and the relationships (even though Eve is really not a good friend to anyone in her life except Roarke and maybe Mavis). On the whole, I think Roberts’ mysteries are never really very mysterious. She either tells you up front (often is villian POV passages) who the killer is or the bad guy is so obviously nasty you can guess right away. I think there’s only been one or two that I didn’t have it figured out fairly early.

    And yeah, her “future” is starting to look a little dated. But given how long she’s been writing these, I forgive her for that. I do smile every time I read about Eve getting stuff on disk – she didn’t guess the right direction to go in on that one. And if you pay attention to when she mentions the costs of things, you have to just stick your fingers in your ears and say la-la-la-la (to block it out). If you think about how much things cost 60 years ago from now, she really made no attempt to account for inflation in any amounts she quotes.

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  62. AJH
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 06:43:11

    @readerdiane:

    I’d actually very much expected it to be difference form romance Nora(noH) Roberts, but I’ve only read one of her books anyway. So, in my case, I think it’s just that people have been so enthusiastic that I’d just sort of generically expected to like it more than I did.

    I think from what people are saying that Eve and Roarke seem to be the archetypes of particular types of heroes and heroine that have occurred quite a lot in other books since. Like I understand that having a competent, arsekicking heroine was usual at the time.

    @Kari S.:

    Glad you liked the review. For what it’s worth, I don’t actually think the light-touch world building is a flaw of any kind. At least, not for me. I really dislike SF and fantasy forever explaining to you what their imaginary future is like. I’d rather just get on with the story and have it build slowly over time. I think I was mostly confused because I hadn’t realised it was sci-fi at all going in.

    I’m glad to hear that Roarke’s attitude to violence against woman and children is explored more in later books and, as I think I’ve said above, I was basically reacting to one slightly hot button turn of phrase in this book, but from what you’ve said it sounds like things get a lot more nuanced later on.

    In general I try to avoid very gendered readings of texts and I do absolutely understand why Roarke, and heroes like him are appealing. I think the thing is I was expecting something usual, people were so enthusiastic about Roarke that I’d expected him to be more different from other heroes I’ve read. I can absolutely see why handsome intelligent mega-wealthy sexy guy who inexplicably finds you attractive when you don’t think yourself that way is a powerful fantasy and I think, adjusting for sexual orientation, most men can actually get behind that.

    It’s just that, and maybe I’m misunderstanding the genre here, I’d always thought that handsome intelligent mega-wealthy sexy guy who inexplicably finds you attractive was kind of a standard hero type. And maybe Roarke is a particularly well done or particularly early or particularly archetypical example of it but, to me, the fantasy of Roarke is ultimately no different to the fantasy of Christian Grey (who admittedly comes from a book published roughly fifteen years later). I’m don’t mean this as a criticism or a dismissal, and actually there’s a lot I like about Roarke and, I think, as an example of that type of hero he’s one of the least arsehole-ish examples I’ve seen, and he kinds of gets points for that alone, it’s just I was expecting something unfamiliar rather than a very well executed example of something highly familiar.

    Thanks for the clarifications. I do remember getting a bit of an impression, and I can’t remember where from now, that Robb/Roberts has a bit of a thing about Ireland. And I’ve Mr Impossible so I’ll definitely be writing about it at some point.

    @Susan:

    As I think I’ve said, this is a just a very very personal reaction to a particular way of phrasing a largely harmless sentiment.

    As for Christie, I absolutely agree that she had a profound impact on the English mystery/detective genre. I believe she also piloted the detective did it ;)

    And, no, pointing out a pretty basic error is OCD or rude at all :), I did actually notice but I haven’t quite got round to fixing it yet. I’ll do it after I finish these comments. Sorry for the carelessness. My reviewing schedule has been a bit off for one reason and another, so I’ve been a little bit rushed.

    @Marianne McA:

    I’m really intrigued that NAKED IN DEATH is your favourite, since it seems to run contrary to conventional wisdom – everyone else is telling me the series gets better :) Just out of curiosity, what did you like about it so much, or like less about the others?

    To be honest, knowing whodunit doesn’t really trouble me. If you read ,or watch, a lot of mysteries then I think you get so used to the structure that you kind of know whodunit just from meta-textual clues. My mother watched a lot of detective shows and she used to say that you could always spot the killer by working out which character has no other reason to be in it.

    And I’ve found that actually works pretty well.

    My theory is it’s because people often write murder mysteries starting with the crime and then sort of fill everyone in around that, so the killer and the victim don’t really fit in to the situation as it winds up being presented.

    Obviously I’m not sure, but I think for Roarke to work you have to be really into the type of hero that he is. In retrospect, I do agree that Roarke’s criminal past is treated somewhat bizarrely at least in the one book I’ve read so far in that, as you say, making a lot of money out of crime often involves doing some quite reprehensible things. But Eve’s misgivings about Roarke’s past tend to be presented as a sort of charming peccadillo rather than as serious, legitimate concerns about the sort of person you are choosing to spend the rest of your life with.

    @Kay Webb Harrison:

    I’ve seen pretty much all the Poirot adaptations. I think David Suchet has done the whole lot now. But, to be honest, because I tend to watch them on a Sunday afternoon they sort of blur into each other.

    On reflection, I think more long running series should have space for notes in the front. It would really help. Although, actually, I’ve read a couple that have them written for you. GRRM has genealogies in the back that are longer than some books. And DARK LOVER opens with a handy glossary of all the in-world slang.
    I absolutely agree that every single element of the series appeals to me. I also like soft SF, mysteries and large ensemble casts. And, for what it’s worth, I’m listening to GLORY IN DEATH on audiobook now and having quite a good time with it.

    @library addict:

    Thanks for the information, I feel a lot less like an idiot now :)

    @Michele Mills:

    I don’t think being opposed to violence against women makes me a stand up, I think it’s kind of a moral baseline for people in general. And also, as I’ve sort of said above, talk is easy, it’s behaviour that’s important.

    Obviously I’m not terribly well read in the genre and really not well grounded in genre history but I think a big part of the reason I didn’t respond as positively to Eve as I’d expected to is that I’ve sort of got used to kickarse heroines already, and I was just a bit confused by the fact she didn’t seem to be doing her job very well again. Although I’m couple of hours into the GLORY audiobook and she’s coming across as a long more solid.

    @Kaetrin:

    Yes, I think we’re basically in agreement about this stuff. As I said, it was a matter of one line that particular pushed my buttons, because of the way I’ve seen it used in other contexts.

    I don’t think any of us are sufficiently educated to explain why our cultures are the way they are. I mean, you can make glib generalisations about hunter-gatherers and historical precedents but, ultimately, it’s just that most cultures contain some toxic elements.

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  63. Kaetrin
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 07:22:51

    @AJH I could be wrong (because of course I have not read every romance book ever written in chronological order), but my sense is that Roarke was one of the first, if not THE first of the billionaire rogue type hero. He was certainly MY first. And Eve was a very different character for her time too I believe. Again, she was my first really kickass, tough, heroine. Those characters are archetypes for me. But I do think how you perceive them has something to do with one’s general prior reading experience. That’s not a criticism. It’s just that if one has read a number of/many billionaire rogue heroes, Roarke won’t seem fresh or different. And they are ubiquitous right now.

    I’m glad you are enjoying the audiobook. When I first listened, I thought Roarke sounded too Irish. The books say he has a bit of an Irish lilt but the Irish comes out more when he’s angry. In the audios he sounds fully Irish IMO. But I’ve come to love the accent now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  64. Marianne McA
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 10:20:29

    I’m not sure whether you can get an objective view of whether this kind of series gets better – people who’ve read 50 odd books in a series are going to feel a kind of brand loyalty towards the product. And people who don’t like the books won’t have read enough of them to be able to say anything meaningful.
    (And it’s hard to even remember how books read in the context of the time they were published – I’ve read all of Pratchett: be hard to say whether Feet of Clay in 1996 was better than Going Postal in 2010. I can say which I like more now, but I can’t remember how I read Feet of Clay at the time.)

    As I recall, I liked Naked in Death as a romance. For me, the series doesn’t work as sci-fi: as far as I read -which is only a quarter of the way in – there was no cohesive world building at all, no sense of difference except in really superficial ways. The series didn’t work as conventional murder mysteries in that you can’t work out whodunnit or why. And there wasn’t enough development of Eve and Roarke’s relationship to make it worth reading for the romantic subplot alone.

    And gradually the things that I didn’t like about the series cumulatively outweighed the stuff I did – there’s a lot of graphic violence on the page and I’m squeamish, and, as I said before, I felt the characters ignored their own history. In just those dozen books practically every main character was traumatised, brutalised or badly injured and no-one ever seemed to consider retiring and retraining as a teacher.

    Just in case no-one’s pointed it out (and I hope I’m allowed to post the link) one of the reviwers at AAR did a spoof of the series in their purple prose competition back in 2001:

    http://www.likesbooks.com/ppp2001b.html#parodydeath

    (Love your mum’s theory. Sounds more reliable than the ‘Which suspect is played by the most famous actor?’ approach.)

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  65. Annamal
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 14:44:38

    One thing I love about the later books is the tedium…
    Spoilers (obviously)

    Seriously in most of the later books a good chunk of the police work is shown to be tedious but absolutely necessary (things like cycling through a list of 50 people who might have bought something ). Eve is shown to be intuitive about police work but unlike most of the books with a “brilliant” detective she is also shown endlessly running down leads and adding small pieces of information.
    She is also canny about procedure in a way that Roark isn’t (this seems to be a point of contention).
    I only really like Roark as a character when he’s discombobulated (which does happen but is sadly rare)…he does good discombobulation.

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  66. Kay Webb Harrison
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 17:09:00

    Here are two film versions of The ABC Murders. The first is the David Suchet version, the second is a film from 1965. I truly believed that I saw a black and white version on Turner Classic Movies once, but the name was very different.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467432/

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060094/

    Kay

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  67. Kaetrin
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 23:08:12

    I will say that I got over Eve “solving” parts of the crime in her dreams real quick. That’s not my favourite thing and I’d be happy not to see it again.

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