Monday, 27 January 2014

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

Naked in Death (1995) (Piatkus)
J.D. Robb a.k.a. Nora Roberts
Grade: A+
Genre: romantic suspense / futuristic / crime
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own 
In Death: (1) Naked in Death, ... (35) Celebrity in Death

It’s something of a novelty to go back to read the first In Death book when I’ve just read book thirty-seven (review coming soon), the latest in the series. The writing style is unmistakeably darker, Eve and Roarke are shells of the people we now know them to be and there are none of the bonds with the recurring and secondary characters we know and love – that said, I love it and in a strange way, miss it.

The year is 2058 and homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPSD (New York Police and Security Department) has committed her second termination after ten years in the force. She’s scheduled in for Testing the next day – a mandatory physical and mental evaluation when an officer terminates a subject – but a high-profile case has her Commander bypassing normal regulations and dropping a Code Five case into her very capable hands. She’ll report to no one but Commander Whitney and can only rely on herself, with her old pal and partner Captain Ryan Feeney, head of the Electronic Detection Division to assist.

The deceased is Sharon DeBlass, granddaughter of a State Senator and right-wing Conservative who intends to run for the Presidency. Sharon had always been a rebel and continued to shock her family as an adult, becoming a Licensed Companion and flaunting it in their faces. Brutally murdered and violated, naked in her own bed, the murderer left behind a chilling note declaring Sharon to be the first of six.

The investigation brings Eve to Roarke, one of the last people to see Sharon alive, and single-handedly one of the richest men on the planet. He’s slick, sharp, and is desired just as much for his brains as for his body. With every encounter, he matches her move-for-move and makes no secret for his desire for her. However much she dislikes his arrogance and determination to keep pertinent facts from her, Eve can’t bring herself to stay away – after all, he’s her only source of real coffee. Eve can count her friends on one hand and keeps her distance from the people in her life for a reason. Since being found in an alley way at eight years old, Eve has only ever wanted to be a cop. Now, the job is her life. Roarke invokes feelings in her that she never thought possible and never thought she wanted – too bad that the evidence keeps pointing back to Roarke as the prime suspect.

With Senator DeBlass and his assistant Rockman following and criticising her every move, the pressure is on – especially when a second body is discovered, with all the hallmarks of Sharon’s murder. The killer is baiting Eve, mocking her at constantly being two steps behind and the case becomes personal, fast. With appearances from future favourites Mavis, Eve’s best friend and former grifter, Nadine Furst, reporter for Channel 75 and a mutual source of information, Dr Charlotte Mira, Cop Central’s psychiatrist who secretly harbours maternal feelings for Eve, Charles Monroe, licensed companion, and Eve’s ‘adoption’ of our favourite overweight cat Galahad, we follow Eve’s first book with a dark and disturbing case that leaves an impression on her life and career in more ways than one.

Having read every (full-length) book in this series, I’m fully aware of how tight Eve and Roarke become and how they’ve aided one another’s development, Naked in Death has become very primitive. It was a raw read the first time round, but it’s now even more so in the context that I’m re-reading it. There was a recent Nora Roberts interview where she explains how the In Death series was born, and she describes Eve as the darkest character she’s ever written. I often re-read my favourite parts of Naked in Death when I get the urge, but it’s been a long time since I’ve re-read it in full and the darkness is almost startling. With the contrast of Eve as I now know her in my mind, the Eve of Naked in Death has been stripped raw of her compassion and relationships, making this a brutal yet beautiful re-read.

We might have met a handful of the recurring characters in Naked in Death that we come to love, but a single book is not nearly enough time to form proper attachments to the character and their backstory. Feeney and Mavis already have their solid place in Eve’s life, as Summerset does in Roarke’s, but it’s nothing like what it will become. As much as I love the series and the characters for who they become, there’s nothing quite like going back to the very beginning to get that new-series feeling and see how they all started out.

Re-reading Naked in Death brings back so many fangirl moments, memories and undignified squealing – partly because I know what’s going to happen in the future and so I like seeing all the precursor moments to future events. Standalone books and even regular series don’t give the characters enough of an opportunity to develop and become self-actualized – In Death gives you that, partly because of the sheer number of books and partly because Nora Roberts is just a Master at writing well-rounded characters. While the tiny little facts and incidents have helped to make the series what it is, over the course of almost forty books, they’ve become somewhat blurred in my brain and I’ve lost the ability to attribute every detail to a single book. This proper re-read has allowed me to discover little gems (how Galahad got his name, Mavis’s job at the Blue Squirrel, Charles Monroe’s ‘Lieutenant Sugar’) and it’s like my first read, all over again. I’m more than half-way through Glory in Death, but I’ve forcibly stopped myself from finishing it until I’ve written and posted this review. I know how addicting the books are and I know that once I get started, I can’t help myself.

Naked in Death was only meant to be the first book in a trilogy, which explains how Eve and Roarke’s relationship moves as fast as it does. As to the plot itself, we get a very in-depth and gory insight into Eve’s job as a homicide lieutenant. Sharon DeBlass’ murder isn’t pretty and it’s not meant to be. If you’re the slightest bit squeamish, then this isn’t the series for you. Personally, I find that the depth with which Nora Roberts goes into the investigations is one of the factors that makes the series. While my primary reason for reading and re-reading is Eve and Roarke’s journey, I always know that I’m in for a compelling and heart-wrenching ride.

The In Death series, as it stands, is a formidable commitment. It was 29 books long when I started in 2009 and it's still going strong: a testament to the quality of Ms Roberts writing, her enduring characters and the huge fanbase that Eve and Roarke have gained over the course of 18 years. You're not standing to lose anything by trying Naked in Death, but for a few hours of your time and if you want to start somewhere, then the beginning is (especially in this case) the very best place to start. If it's not your cup of tea, then that's fine, but I hope that like me, Naked in Death is your introduction to a new favourite series that won't let you go.

Image courtesy of Waterstones.

The UK editions have had three different styles of cover (as far as I'm aware), as shown below, chronologically. Style 1 (left) is, as far as I know, the original UK cover. Styles 2 and 3 (centre and right) have been over the course of  the last 2/3 years. They released Promises in Death --> Treachery in Death and the first ten or so books in style 2. All had the recurring theme of a woman against a backdrop of a scene in a single colour. In the last year, the entire series has been re-released in style 3, on the right. Practically the same, right? Which is why I don't understand why they needed to bloody re-release them! As much as I love style 1 for nostalgic purposes, style 2 was beautiful! All they've done is get rid of the woman, make the text bigger with different fonts (as if they weren't promiment enough), and change the focus of the background image. To EVERY SINGLE BOOK. %!?*&£#$
(I hadn't even planned on including a cover rant, but here it is. It took me a while to find a copy of the original cover because of the plethora of new ones, and I got a little incensed. Because I actually like ranting about covers, I've now decided that at the end of every In Death review, I'll be posting the UK covers for your leisurely viewing. Which is your favourite?)

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