<--Previous Review Click Here to Return to Index of Reviews
Click Here to Return to Home Page
Next Review-->
Click the Cover Picture or Title to purchase this item from Amazon.com -- a new browser window will open.
Varying the Formula
Portrait in Death
"J.D.Robb" (Nora Roberts)
Roarke doesn't own the scene of the crime! I think that that may be a first for this series.

Likewise, Roarke's part in the investigation is much smaller than usual, as he spends the first two-thirds of the book either tending to his major-domo/surrogate father, Summerset, after he is injured tripping on the cat on the stairs, or investigating surprise revelations about his own heritage in Dublin.

With Roarke mostly out of the way, Roberts concentrates strongly on Dallas and Peabody's investigation of the killings; other regulars like McNabb, Feeney, Nadine Furst and Dr Mira make only peripheral (though fairly important) appearances.

Just as an earlier volume (Seduction in Death) seemed to take a major part of its inspiration from the Leopold/Loeb murders that also inspired Hitchcok's Rope, this volume is, once all is revealed, somewhat reminiscent of both Psycho and Red Dragon.

What Roarke discovers in Dublin and County Clare, after revelations from a social worker at the refuge for abused women and children he is funding, may well change the future course of the series. (And, here, there is an interesting resonance with the [sadly] now defunct, often brilliant DC comic Hitman, in which anti-hero professional killer Tommy Monaghan makes a similar journey to discover similar history... but with widely differing results.)

Someone is killing brilliant and beautiful young people, photographing them and sending the imagery to Nadine Furst at Channel 75; apparently the killer seems to believe that somehow he will, through his post-mortem photos of the victims in life-like poses, capture what he calls their "light" and, perhaps, become immortal if he can capture enough such "light".

As usual, Dallas takes these attacks on the innocent and defenseless as a personal affront, and doggedly tracks down the killer.

Also as usual, while the form of the books is police-procedural stories set in a science-fictional milieu, there are lapses in logic as the story advances by coincidence and intuition. ((This does NOT make it a bad story as such, just one in which the reader doesn't have much chance of solving it ahead of the protagonist.)) As often in this series, the identity of the killer sort of comes out of left field, though when revealed, both plausibility and consistency are there.

One thing that sometimes causes me to drop the rating of books in this series by a star or so from where i usually would rate them based on the story alone is the background.

Dallas and Roarke and Co are operating in the New York City of 2059. The history of now till then as she Roberts has sketched it in, involving something called the "Urban Wars", is acceptably plausible (and conveniently vague); but the world that they live in bothers me.

Most specifically, in the year 2059 (which is, after all, only fifty-six years in our future), Roberts would have us believe that interstellar -- not interplanetary but interSTELLAR -- travel has become so common that there are luxury resorts on the worlds of other stars, and that faster-than-light interplanetary/interstellar communications not only exist but are apparently at about the level that long-distance phone calls were, forty or so years ago -- expensive, but not particularly so.

I don't believe it. And, while i am willing to perform that trick called "willing suspension of disbelief" up to a point, i am sometimes jarred while reading these books (and others, more overtly pitched as "science fiction", for that matter) by a necessity to hang my disbelief by the neck until dead.

But, that said, this is a worthy entry in a series that consistently delivers solid reading enjoyment, good if not particularly plausible cop action, the occasional little gruesome shiver, and plenty of enjoyable interaction between the members of a well-established and solidly-constructed cast.

And more than usual of Dallas and Summerset's running feud, and of their joint love of and concern for Roarke.

(Which reminds me, i suspect that one of the characters in this book may well become a new semi-regular in the series.)

There's no doubt that Pierce Brosnan would make a wonderful Roarke, if anyone were making a film. But i can't, for the life of me, come up with an actress to cast as Dallas...