4 stars out of 5
Be careful what you wish for. To-wit: Over the course of the last three or four books in this series, I've watched one of my all-time favorite characters - the dashing, talented and filthy rich Roarke, husband of emotionally fragile homicide detective Eve Dallas - transition from loving and supportive to borderline smothering and controlling. To be sure, it's a fine line to cross (especially given Eve's emotional fragility that resulted from an abusive childhood), but I'm not the only one to point this out; other reviewers have noted it as well.
In this latest installment, the difference was notable; this time around, when Roarke crosses that line by initiating changes he believes his wife "needs" without consulting her, Eve fights back - to the point of bruising his sometimes enormous ego. Admittedly, her objections are mitigated as the story progresses and their issues are resolved mostly in Roarke's favor; still, it was rather nice to see Eve stand up for herself in her personal life for a change.
Other than that - and maybe in part because of that, the book seemed to lack the punch of other installments. Yes, I read it as quickly as possible, as usual not wanting to put it down. But overall, I'd have to describe it as a bit bland compared with others I've read. It begins as Dennis Mira, husband of Dr. Charlotte Mira, a friend of Eve's and a police profiler, pays a visit to his late grandfather's brownstone in New York's West Village. Dennis's brother, Edward, who co-inherited the property, is intent on selling it over his brother's objections and supposedly is meeting with a real estate agent on this day.
As Dennis enters, he hears voices and then spots his brother, who's apparently been attacked; almost immediately, Dennis is hit in the head from behind and goes down for the count. When he wakes up, Edward - a former lawyer, judge and senator - has disappeared. Dennis makes the call to Eve to help locate his brother; an investigation reveals that all traces of intruders have vanished, along with the house security tapes. Given Edward's background (and the fact he's clearly not a nice man) mean more than a few people don't like him much - including his brother Dennis. Could it be, then, that someone has decided to get even?
Eve enlists the help of her technologically gifted Irish husband to sort it all out, digging into backgrounds, facts and figures generally unavailable even to police and despite the futuristic setting (sometime in the 2020s, I believe). Along the way, a very sordid story is unearthed - a story that elicits painful memories of Eve's nightmarish childhood (a bit too often, in my opinion). It's also one not for the squeamish, although descriptions of the crimes aren't particularly graphic (also in my opinion). One thing, though, is crystal clear: Payback really is a you-know-what.
Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb (Berkley, February 2016); 389 pp.