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Promises in Death
By J. D. Robb

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Promises in Death

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Promises in Death
Large Print Edition
By J. D. Robb
Wheeler Publishing, 2009, 541 pages
ISBN: 978-1-6075-1712-2
Genre: Mystery, Science Fiction


Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 6, 2009

Nora Roberts writes love stories under her own name and police mysteries with the pseudonym J. D. Robb. Promises in Death is one of more than 150 of her novels. It is the twenty-eighth in her futuristic In Death series, set in New York in 2060. Publishers Weekly highlights Nora Roberts' popularity: three of the ten best-selling mass-market paperbacks that were sold in 2008 were her books. She published her first book in 1981. She writes quickly, taking an average of a month and a half to finish a novel.

In Promises in Death an attractive well-liked female detective transfers from Atlanta to New York. She begins a romance with the New York Chief Medical examiner, a friend of the book's heroine, Lieutenant Eve Dallas. She is murdered under unusual circumstances. She is widely known as a good and careful detective who focuses on details. Yet, despite her training and years of experience fighting crime, there is no evidence that she tried to defend herself against her assailant.

The murder raises many questions. Why did the victim leave Atlanta? Was she as expert a detective as she appeared to be? Was she somehow involved with crime or criminals? Why was she killed just outside her apartment? Why was her badge taken? Why was she killed with her own stun gun? Is the murder somehow an attack on Eve Dallas and her husband Roarke?

J. D. Robb's style is to tell her tale through dialogue. She also describes actions. This enlivens her tales. Some of these descriptions and some of the reactions between the sexes might remind the reader of Robert's other books, her romance novels, because of the way the characters think and act. An example is when Roarke "cupped her (his wife's) neck, and leaning to her took her mouth in a kiss that made her swear she could see little red hearts dancing over her head." Later, he turns to his wife and "shot her a look with those blue laser eyes." Love is involved and explored, such as the love between Eve and Roarke, and other loves, including that of the murder victim.

Unlike science fiction novels, this tale of murder in 2060 does not belabor futuristic gadgets. Some of those that are mentioned add a sense of humor and wonder. Computer and other electrical machinery police are called the E Geek Squad. People have mechanical cats that purr but need no liter box. Cars can go "vertical"; that is, leap over a vehicle or other object in front of them. Cars do not eject balloons in accidents, but gels that surround the occupants. Lingerie shops use a hologram of customers to see how apparels fit. No one needs to carry a computer phone or wear it in a belt; it is part of a "wrist unit." Computers analyze case facts and calculate the statistical possibility of such matters as: did the killer and victim know each other and was the victim the target of the murder or was it a random killing? Phones called 'links' - have face screens. Police and criminals use stun guns. Interestingly, some blacks still speak with the black patois in 2060.

The principal characters, Eve and Roarke, are nicely drawn. Both of their parents were violent people. Eve is a dedicated police officer giving more time, effort and emotion to her case than the average officer. Her general dedication and her specific need to solve this case causes Eve to work at a frenetic pace, and this, in turn, gives the novel a fast pace thrust.

Eve's husband was a criminal before their marriage and abandoned crime when he married Eve. This history creates some strain between the couple, almost fully resolved after two years of marriage, but still there. Her marriage to a criminal, even though it is a matter of the past, affects her status in the force, making it unlikely that despite her obvious dedication and successes she will ever be promoted.

Some mystery novels have the book's protagonists being involved in two or three cases. Promises in Death has a single case. This offers an opportunity for greater development, horizontally in depicting events, and vertically in the delving into the depth of characters.

The book's title is based on three dreams that Eve has when she promises the murder victim that she would catch her killer. J.D. Robb tells the tale of the murder and what follows very well.


Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century rational philosopher, and is the co-author of a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com.


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