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REVIEW: Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb

Dear Ms. Robb:

It’s been a while since I purchased one of the In Death books in hardcover (I prefer digital these days), so when I received my ordered paper copy of Kindred in Death in the mail I immediately noticed a couple of changes. Not only has the author photo been removed, but the Nora Roberts name has been removed from the book, as well, replaced only by a general bio for JD Robb as a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author. I wondered whether those superficial packaging changes boded any substantive changes between the covers, and indeed, this book seemed much more focused on the police procedural and mystery aspects of the series, rather than the romance and personal relationship issues. That was not necessarily a bad thing, but I wonder if it’s what kept me from feeling totally engaged in Kindred in Death.

When Eve Dallas gets called to the home of NYPSD Captain Jonah McMasters to oversee the investigation of the horrific rape and murder of his teenaged daughter, Deena, both Eve and the reader know that this case will be especially difficult. Whoever committed this crime did so in the McMasters home while the parents were away and left the body tied and ravaged for them to find upon return. It is clear right away to Eve that the death is intended as both fact and message, with strategic clues left for the police to find and critical pieces of evidence wiped away or corrupted by the killer(s). Captain McMasters, who has recently been promoted to his new position, is at a loss to imagine who might be responsible, and as far as either parent knew, Deena was still too innocent to have a boyfriend and, as the intelligent daughter of a cop, too savvy to simply let a stranger into the home. So it is up to Eve to discover not only the killer(s) but also the motive. And she must do so quickly, impeded by the lack of physical evidence at the scene and haunted by the memories of her own past.

It is difficult to talk about the procedural/mystery aspects of Kindred in Death without giving spoilers, so I will do my best to be thorough in my analysis without crossing into substantial spoiler territory.

I enjoy best the books where Eve is pitted against someone smart and where she truly has to match wits with her perp(s). Kindred in Death is one of those books, facilitated in large part by the fact that Eve does not have an immediate set of good suspects. What I like about these books is the way the reader tags along with Eve, putting the pieces together just as she is, struggling with the same gaps and frustrations and limitations. However, there can be a challenge in this approach, as well, which is that the reader, as a mere observer, may not feel a strong connection to the case and the perpetrator(s). And in this book, that was the case for me.

The murder of Deena McMasters was brutal and brutally described. Multiple times. The repetition, along with Eve’s strong visceral reaction, was likely intended to engage me, along with Eve, to the mystery through the victim’s death. A sixteen year old girl who was full of life and promise. Who was innocent. Who was loved by her parents and had a friendship with Jamie Lingstrom. Who was the daughter of a fellow cop. All of these links, all of the horror of the death. And yet I felt estranged from it all, even as I was reading. Was it because I could not get into the mind of the killer(s)? Was it because I’ve become inured to the many horrific crimes with which Eve has had to deal? Or was it because one of the key criminal players had far too little page presence, despite this person’s importance to understanding (not just solving) the mystery?

I suspect it was all of those things, but I also wonder whether the increased prominence of the procedural aspects of the story contributed to this nagging sense of distance, as well. For me, it’s not that the romance is all-important; rather, the strength of the series is the way the romance is intertwined with the suspense. From Eve’s own personal journey to her relationship issues with Roarke, the personal and professional aspects of her life have been so compelling to me that I’ve relished the mystery/procedural aspects of the books as much as the romance, recognizing that they are essentially enmeshed and that they reinforce one another.

While the procedural aspects of the novel were prominent, I felt that there was far more time devoted to solving the mystery as opposed to really understanding the psychology behind it. Although it’s possible I feel this way because the whole set-up felt a bit forced to me, unpredictable more in artificiality than in novelty. As for the personal aspects of the book, it’s not so much that Eve and Roarke’s relationship felt like background in this novel as much as it felt familiar in ways that kept me from sharing the sense of urgency and emotional engagement in the novel’s movement. Even Charles and Louise’s wedding, which should have been a highlight of Kindred in Death, did not really move me. As soon as Eve spontaneously volunteered to host the pre-wedding preparations at her home, I felt I knew what to expect (i.e. Eve immediately regrets her generosity, Peabody approves of Eve’s moment of weakness, social terror ensues, etc.). And ultimately, I couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing was a replay of Mavis’s baby shower a few books ago, complete with Trina and her dreaded beauty potions. From Mira and her harmoniously coordinated wardrobe and perfectly styled hair to McNab and his neon clothing combinations and sleek blond braid, the series cast all felt a bit bland in their familiarity. And while Summerset and Eve seem to be experiencing a nice evolution in their everyday sniping, it wasn’t enough to make Kindred in Death a winner for me. Instead I found the book a competently written, reasonably well-plotted procedural. C+

~Janet

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

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

18 Comments

  1. katiebabs
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 11:00:19

    Wouldn’t it be great if Peabody ended up pregnant? I love Eve’s reactions to babies and people being in love.

    I also agree things have become a bit bland, but after 35+ books and counting, it happens.

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  2. Kati
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 11:04:55

    I thought that the procedural was really strong and I enjoyed that aspect of the book quite a bit.

    I do have to say, that I like Eve and Roarke best when they’re fighting, and it’s been a while since they’ve had a spat. I do hope that the next book will raise the tensions between them some. But overall, this is one of my very favorite series, and a first day autobuy for me.

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  3. library addict
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 11:20:08

    The “Nora Roberts writing as” has been off of the books for some time (since Salvation).

    Personally, I like the way the books vary: some emphasize the characters' personal lives, some the case/mystery, and occasionally there’s the perfect balance between the two. Kindred was much like Strangers, Holiday, and Survivor in that Nora made me really care about the victims. So the book worked well for me.

    And I liked the wedding preparation stuff more in this book than the over-the-top cutesy bridal shower scene in Promises.

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  4. Becca
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 11:51:22

    I think the series has become rather blander since the high point of Visions and Divided. In Kindred, I found that the clues fell rather too neatly into place for Eve. I’m still addicted to the series, however, whether it’s because I like the universe or love the characters or just Nora’s way with relationships (which I thought was a bit weak in this book) — doesn’t matter, so far they’re still autobuys in HB and audio for me. I’ll be interested to see where Nora takes the series next, since she seems to have everyone all nicely settled now.

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  5. Shel
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 12:03:09

    I enjoyed the book. I am primarily a mystery reader and “police procedural” aspect of the book was done very well. The books do vary, and I like not knowing what I’m going to get when I pick one up.

    Having said that, though, the strength of this series for me has always been the relationship between Eve and Roarke, and that part of the story was a bit flat this time around. The best books are the ones that focus on the two of them and their relationship.

    This series always delivers for me, I’m already counting down the days until the next installment.

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  6. sandy l
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 12:15:35

    I was very disappointed with this book. Basically, there was no conflict or character growth. The one plotline was rather straightforward, and I missed the angst that sometimes occurs between characters or with the events moving the plot. I also could not detect a theme.

    I wasn’t sure exactly why Roarke was involved in this case. Frankly, it seemed out of character for him. Even the murder fell flat for me. It felt contrived. It is not enough for me just to “watch” the characters.

    My review is rather harsh, but I have high expectations for Ms. Roberts. She can deliver a better book. For me, these mysteries are at their best when everything is somehow connected or reflects with the characters. Also, when I buy a hard cover (and this is my personal thing), I want a higher word count for my money. Stories with one plotline feel more like a short story to me rather than a novel. With three plotline lines, the story is multifaceted. With anything less, it’s like viewing a two-hour version of a six-hour mini-series.

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  7. El
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 14:20:27

    On my first read, I kept going “This is just like” (fill in plot aspect from other In Death book/novella). I did that multiple times, referring to multiple works.

    On reread, I was able to let go of that and I enjoyed the book more. There were some nice small moments as well. (And we discover Dennis Mira’s occupation!)

    That said, I also didn’t feel as engaged as usual. I never connected to Deena–there were plenty of reasons to connect, but it just didn’t happen. In thinking about it just now, I’m remembering a number of occasions where a descriptor didn’t match what had been said before. (Shy/uncertain/insecure vs. persistently helpful to others, liaising comfortably with adults from a young age, etc.)

    Doesn’t matter–I still love the series and will read this one again someday.

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  8. KristieJ
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 14:58:49

    I quite enjoyed this one – not my favourite of the group – but still it was enough to keep me reading this series.
    I confess to not noticing the lack of Nora’s name or picture. I truly hope this doesn’t mean she is moving away from the romance aspect of this series. It seemed in earlier books one would delve deeper into relationships and the next would concentrate more on the mystery. but I’ve noticed in the past few that the relationships have taken more of a back seat. I really hope this trend doesn’t continue and that her next one goes back to Relationship In Death rather than Mystery In Death. While I love the Mystery in Death books, I prefer the Relationships in Death books more.

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  9. Shel
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 15:10:16

    I’m wondering if the lack of Nora’s name and picture is an effort to pull in a broader audience for this series.

    Regardless, I hope this series continues with the same mix of romance and mystery that work so well together.

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  10. Annmarie
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 15:56:55

    I enjoyed Kindred In Death. Very much. I was totally engaged and couldn’t put it down. I love all of the characters in this series and adore getting a peek into their universe.

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  11. joanne
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 16:41:26

    There was some small disconnect for me, too, but it was with the victim’s parents.

    I don’t know why, the crime was certainly heinous enough to make a mystery reader want to know the who of it but I didn’t get that sense of foreboding or immediacy that I like. I had that with her novella in the Lost anthology, so dunno.

    Still Robb is always dependable and very much on my auto-buy — get it to me yesterday — list.

    I’ll be waiting for the UPS man to bring Fantasy In Death in February.

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  12. Bonnie
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 17:40:40

    procedural aspects

    Yes, this was prominent in Kindred.

    I did miss the characters. They just didn’t really show up enough for me. And as someone mentioned above, we need a really good Eve/Roarke brawl. They’re so much fun.

    But I liked it. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed every minute and wondered what I was going to read next when it was over. As I almost always do when I finish a Robb/Roberts book.

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  13. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 17:51:23

    I liked Kindred. It’s not one of my faves, but it was one that kept me up late until I finished it. It also sparked a marathon re-read, which I haven’t done in a few years.

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  14. Bonnie
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 18:01:10

    @Shiloh Walker:

    It also sparked a marathon re-read, which I haven't done in a few years.

    I read Memory immediately following Kindred. And now, I want to start from the beginning. Delicious reading, that.

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  15. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 18:05:38

    @Bonnie:

    LOL… yes, it is. But it’s exhausting, too. So many of them…

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  16. Bonnie
    Dec 23, 2009 @ 18:21:19

    @Shiloh Walker:

    LOL… yes, it is. But it's exhausting, too. So many of them…

    True, but on a reread you can take your sweet time. Nice. :D

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  17. rose
    Dec 24, 2009 @ 10:18:06

    I liked this one very much.
    Nora Roberts managed to create wonderful characters, that have in my opinion kept this series interesting after so many books.

    I think the marriage between Roarke and Eve is interesting enough because of their differences, we can’t expect them to fight all the time just to keep it interesting, they love each other so that has to come through sometimes.
    I have to say, it was a lot more fun before Eve got used to love, and the lifestyle, so I think something needs to happen there to stir things up a bit.

    I was a little disappointed at the end, because I felt, Charles and Louise’s moment was stolen, when it became all about Eve. I think this relationship is so interesting, maybe they could have a baby, or better still, triplets or more would be interesting.

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  18. Janet W
    Dec 24, 2009 @ 13:56:30

    No time for more except to say I 100% agree with Janet: something was definitely missing. Not enough passion — not enough life and catch up with all the extra characters. It just wasn’t up to the fabulous standards JD Robb has set for herself. Oh well, there’s always the next to look forward to … plus re-reads!

    ReplyReply

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