Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #1
Published by Berkley
Published on: July 1 1995
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
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In a world of danger and deception, she walks the line--between seductive passion and scandalous murder...Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she's seen it all--and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she's going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire--and a suspect in Eve's murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it's up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about--except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.
For those of you who don’t already know, J.D. Robb is an alternate pen name for Nora Roberts. I only read my first Nora Roberts’ book about a year ago, and was—to put it mildly—pleasantly surprised.
I’d always assumed that Roberts wrote cornball Walmart paperback romances for-your-grandmother, and when I saw a new book with “Witch” in the title, I figured she had jumped on the paranormal train, but was curious enough to check it out.
It was kind of amazing.
And with about 30 seconds of research I discovered that rather than “jumping on the paranormal train,” it was more likely that Roberts can be held at least partially responsible for making books with paranormal elements so marketable in the first place. (<------Assumptions make you look stoopid. FYI.) I really liked this book. BUT. The too forceful, borderline abusive love interest whose aggression is attributed to his sheer maleness who I was expecting in that first Roberts’ book (b/c ’70s – ’90s bodice rippers you stole from your grandma’s stash when you were a teenager) . . . Well, he was hiding out here all along.
Roarke Nolastname (*rolls eyes*) is a smoking hot Irish self-made bazillionaire. Say that three times fast. Go ahead. Do it.
He’s also a textbook example of a male with abusive tendencies. I know this for FACT, b/c I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter while I was in college, and before a place like that will turn you loose in the facility, they educate you.
Based on that education, Roarke is one giant Red Flag: he has zero respect for personal space, he makes unilateral decisions about things any rational person understands are not decisions to be made unilaterally, he has fits of temper that involve grabbing, shoving, and shaking . . . Red flags . . . Red flags everywhere . . .
And maybe that’s the difference between a book written a couple of years ago and a book written a couple decades ago.
B/c NAKED IN DEATH was written nearly twenty years ago . . .
BUT it takes place in the only slightly distant future (2058, I think). So there’s this sometimes interesting/sometimes uncomfortable combination of modern/future ideals and innovations coupled with surprisingly old-fashioned tropes.
Like how our heroine Eve Dallas is as hard core and strong a female character as I’d expect to find in any recently published SFF or UF novel, who lives in a world with legalized prostitution (gov’t regulated and taxed, naturally), but who also falls prey to Red Flag b/c hot DAMN.
No, seriously. Hot DAMN.
I fell prey too. Like . . . completely.
And part of the reason for that is b/c Roberts does such a good job of developing Eve and Roarke that you understand why he’s a Red Flag, but know that he’d never actually cross that line (even though your brain and statistics tell you otherwise). They’re both damaged, victims of horrific childhoods who were made stronger in the crucible rather than broken. They understand each other better than anyone else ever could.
For real. You can see it, feel it.
Eve is the one woman who can change Roarke’s playboy emotional detachment, and the fact that she has no intention of doing so only makes it more plausible.
And that kind of masterful manipulation is what makes the other stuff easier to swallow.
B/c there is lots of other stuff. LOTS:
All of the secondaries are flat, stock characters. Instalust, which is believable, crosses the line into instalove, which is not. Eve’s a cop; Roarke is a “reformed” criminal mastermind. I could put together a very strong argument that Roarke is the main inspiration for Christian Grey (I considered writing a nontraditional review on that vein, but didn’t have the patience to follow through). And there’s CORN. Cheesy ’90s I’m-too-sexy-for-my-shirt corn:
“I thought this vintage would suit you. What it lacks in subtlety . . .” He turned back, offering her a glass. “It makes up for in sensuality.”
Also, if you are particularly sensitive to sexual violation, especially the sexual violation of children, NAKED IN DEATH is not for you. I say particularly b/c pretty much everyone finds the notion upsetting, but as far as this kind of thing goes, it’s not too bad. There is only one scene that I would label as graphic and it takes place in the context of an adult remembering past abuse, so if you aren’t particularly sensitive, it’s not any more unpleasant than any other mystery/thriller with psychos or whack jobs doing psycho/whack job things.
There are other things as well, but you get the idea. Not that it matters, b/c I LOVED it. If I was making a purely emotional decision about this book, I would be giving it at least four stars. Instead, I’m forcing myself to be rational (b/c the handful of times I’ve gone with my gut, it’s come back to haunt me).
It’s worth mentioning that I’m nearly finished with #6 after starting the series four and half days ago, and that speaks for itself, but I can also say that while IN DEATH remains a series with flaws, there are marked improvements, especially in the area of secondary characters.
SO. Definitely worth a shot in my humble opinion. If you’re intimidated by sci-fi, this is just sci-fi enough to have interesting gadgets and speculative changes in federal laws (like the aforementioned legalized prostitution). ALSO, if you’re into audiobooks, definitely, definitely worth a try, especially if you can pick them up from your library, and I’d imagine most would have them considering how popular and long-running this series is. I’m notoriously anti-audiobook (b/c ADD), but I started listening to NAKED IN DEATH while roadtripping, and it easily held my attention b/c just that good.
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