Books: ECHOES IN DEATH

By J. D. Robb

#1 USA Today bestseller, 2/16/17

What it is: The 44th entry in the “in Death” series of crime novels by the incredibly prolific J. D. Robb, pseudonym of the even more prolific romance writer Nora Roberts. The series takes place in the future and follows hardboiled NYC cop Eve Dallas. In this entry, set in 2061, she tries to track down a serial rapist and murderer who invades couples’ homes dressed as a movie monster and forces husbands to watch as he violates their wives.

The last Eve Dallas book, Apprentice in Death, was kind of fun to write about because of how ludicrous it was: Dallas and her husband Roarke were obvious wish-fulfillment contrivances, the futuristic angle didn’t seem to serve any purpose, etc. Echoes in Death ratchets up the Grand Guignol sensationalism of the crimes being investigated but tones down pretty much everything else, including Dallas’s authoritarian streak, though there’s still a moment early on when she’s tempted to punch a woman at a party for saying that the justice system is too focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation. God forbid Robb let a book go by without telling us we need to be tougher on crime; maybe she’s planning to run for office.

Again, there’s no real reason for this book to take place in the future, and it makes the classic sci-fi mistake of referencing real-life pop culture from our current era because it can’t be bothered to imagine how media might evolve over the next few decades. So Roarke urges Dallas to watch The Avengers and gets her a music box that plays “Tiny Dancer” (“[a] twentieth-century classic,” he says), and the number one TV show in the book’s world is basically a Walking Dead imitation called Planet Plague, which would be like if people now were still watching ripoffs of Bonanza. Incidentally, the most prominent film of 2061 is a movie based on Dallas’s life, and we’re told it’s been nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. J. D. Robb is not a subtle writer.

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