It's always a pleasure to start a book when you know you're going to enjoy it. And in fact, I did. So why four stars and not five?
I've read and enjoyed quite a few of the books featuring emotionally and physically scarred Lt. Eve Dallas. Mostly because of her background, she's hard-nosed, driven and has a tough time understanding the "people" aspects of life. Except for her filthy rich, hunky Irish husband Roarke and her co-worker Peabody, she doesn't trust much of anyone. That, of course, is a large part of why she's such a good police detective.
This one begins with the murder of personal trainer Trey Ziegler, and it appears to be overkill. Not only has he been conked on the head with a hefty object, he's been dragged into bed and stuck through the heart with a kitchen knife. As Eve and Peabody start digging, they quickly learn this guy isn't exactly a nice guy. He's a narcissist, woman-hater and worse - or, as Eve puts it, a real "scumf***." Even as the suspect list grows, the detectives find it a little hard to work up much sympathy, reckoning - as do almost all of those suspects (and me) - that he had it coming.
All this happens during the Christmas holidays, when she and Roarke host a huge bash with hundreds of guests, loads of gifts to buy and wrap and decorations, food and drink to be finalized. And here, I suppose, is where one of my rating stars bit the dust. No, Eve never fully gets enthused about her forced involvement in all the planning - the bulk of those tasks fall to the uber-capable Roarke and Summerset, the man who runs their mansion's household. That said, she seems to have lost her edge; in this book, she comes across as a softer, gentler Eve - and I'm not sure I like her that way. She's becoming more tolerant of all the things she used to abhor, and her relationship with Roarke is far less volatile and downright cuddly in spots. She even goes somewhat soft on Summerset, whom she's always had a contentious relationship.
As a result, there's a noticeable lack of tension and action - with lots of pages devoted to the party planning and repeated discussions of the nasty personalities and behavior of the victim and the prime suspect, in particular. With previous books in the series, I was always a bit worried that something awful would happen to Eve, Roarke and/or one of the main characters. Here, at no time did I envision such a threat; in retrospect, the whole thing seemed more of a caper than a serious investigation.
Festive in Death by J.D. Robb (Putnam Adult, September 2014); 390 pp.