Strangers in Death
by J.D. Robb
Review by Paul Haggerty
Putnam Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780399154706
Date: 19 February 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Thomas A. Anders is widely considered to be a good man, a good husband, a good businessman, and a philanthropist dedicated to helping children who are in desperate need of help. But there's no one to give him the help he needs one fateful night in March 2060. In the aftermath of his murder, Eve Dallas is going to do everything she can to make sure whoever took his life pays the price for crossing that line. The problem is that all the evidence points to sex games gone wrong, there's no evidence of who he was seeing, and the nominal prime suspect, the wife, has an airtight alibi thousands of miles away. Still, in her heart, Eve knows this isn't what it appears to be. And if the evidence isn't apparent, she'll just have to dig deeper. Every murderer makes mistakes, and Eve won't rest until she's found the thread that will unravel a macabre plot.
Strangers in Death is the 26th book in the In Death series by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). The mystery is convoluted and nobody is who or what they seem to be. The problem is that most of the uncertainty isn't caused by people trying to hide the truth. People frequently know things that aren't really true, or willingly lie to themselves that things are as they should be, even when they know they aren't. The characters that inhabit the future world of J.D. Robb are, for the most part, true to life. They're not sure of what they've seen, don't keep meticulous records, have biases that color their attitudes, and have personal lives they'd very much prefer the cops not go prying into. While very natural, this makes murder investigations much more difficult than simply picking up the murder weapon, sending it to the lab, and having the murderer's name delivered in the afternoon post.
In Strangers in Death Eve is convinced that the wife, Ava, has had something to do with the murder, but there's no proof to back that feeling up. In fact, as Ava was on the island of St. Lucia with two friends on the night in question, she has an unbreakable alibi. There is simply no way on Earth she could have done it. The house's security system was turned off, there's no sign of a break-in, there's sex paraphernalia all over the bedroom, and even the cause of death indicates the victim invited someone over for a fantasy that went horribly yet unintentionally wrong. But facts will out in the end. And once all the lab reports come back, there are pieces that simply don't make sense given the proffered scenario. Someone set up the stage and carefully planned what they thought was the perfect murder. And although Ava Anders can't have committed the murder, Eve is sure she's involved somehow. And she's determined to continue digging and questioning until all the mismatched facts, recollections, and opinions can be joined to form some kind of logical whole.
Meanwhile even Eve's personal life isn't cooperating. For a one-time loner, Eve's managed to collect quite an ensemble collection of friends, all of whom have lives of their own, and when all the life circles intersect, nerves-of-steel Eve gets very nervous. Mavis and Leonardo are still adapting to the birth of their first child and hell-bent on sharing all their happiness with Eve. Then there's Charles Monroe, currently dating another friend, Dr. Louise Dimatto. Something is up with their relationship, something Charles refuses to tell Eve about (which is infuriating to someone who digs out secrets for a living). Eve is sure Louise is about to get hurt, and the last thing she needs is to have to try and pick up the pieces when that bomb goes off. And even her relationship with her husband, Roarke, though considerably smoother than in the first dozen novels, still has a few mines left in its otherwise idyllic fields. Nothing too severe, but far more distraction than Eve wants to have to deal with while trying to dig out the truth behind a carefully woven tapestry of lies.