She sulked over her eggs. Even bacon lost some appeal with the prospect of wrangling with Summerset.

‘Isn’t it bad enough I have to face hours of swarming decorators, then end that small nightmare by having Trina pour gunk all over me? Now I have to face the smirking disapproval of our resident corpse?’

‘You run an entire division of murder cops firmly, cleverly, and efficiently. You’d step in front of a stunner to save an innocent bystander. You would, and have, faced off with vicious murderers. I think you can handle Summerset, decorators, and a hair-and-skin-consultant.’ He topped off her coffee… ‘Buck up Lieutenant.’

‘Bite me.’

‘I’ll schedule that in.’

–Eve Dallas and Roarke; Festive in Death (2014), pp 194–5



Lieutenant Eve Dallas isn’t happy. It’s Christmas. Everyone’s cheerful. There’s present buying to be done for the ever-growing group of friends she’s somehow picked up in the last couple of years. And, if that’s not enough, there’s Roarke’s elaborate annual bash to deal with, which everybody on and off planet’s looking forward to – apart from, that is, Dallas, Roarke’s wife.

Festive-in-DeathUKcoverThe Lieutenant is facing the festive season with gritted teeth and a fully loaded gun – only the prospect of a good murder can cheer her up. She is head of NYPD’s homicide division, after all.

So, when personal trainer Trey Ziegler lands up good and dead, stabbed through his extremely buff chest, one would think Dallas would be ecstatic. But she’s not.

First of all there’s the problem of the women who discover the body: the victim’s doormat ex- and her friend Trina, also Dallas’s arch nemesis and the only person who can make the Lieutenant quake with fear. And then, of course, there’s the victim himself.

Vain, selfish, amoral and a master manipulator of women, Ziegler was, in life, a ruthless predator, a man with no moral compass. It’s a huge headache for Dallas who is forced to acknowledge that the ‘victim’ for whom she is currently seeking justice is exactly like the men who she usually happily puts behind bars. There’s also the fact that the deeper Dallas and stalwart Peabody dig into the crime, the more suspects crawl out of the woodwork, all seemingly with very valid grounds for committing Ziegler’s murder.

The murder investigation is set against the backdrop of Roarke’s annual party and the problems, for Dallas, at least, that come with having a growing ‘family’, made up mostly of her own and Roarke’s colleagues and friends. This plot strand provides humour and comic relief from the killing and also allows us to see the warmer, less abrasive side of the Lieutenant as she interacts with Roarke. Herein perhaps lies the greatest difference between this book and previous JD Robb ‘In Death’ titles – for the most part, the Dallas of Festive in Death is infinitely more mellow than we’ve seen her before, softened perhaps by the love of (and for) a good man (and cat) and also secure in the knowledge that she has a large support system of people who like and admire her.

This Dallas is half in love with Dr Mira’s adorable, bumbling husband, submits to being blackmailed into helping with the party preparations by Summerset, gives Peabody the present of her dreams and is rather sweetly embarrassed at slow dancing with her own husband in public. As such, this Dallas is also a far cry from the edgy, prickly, steely eyed cop of Naked in Death, who faced off a misogynistic serial killer and brought down a child-abusing US senator at the risk of her own career. I have to admit I am rather fond of that incarnation, the Eve who first captured Roarke’s heart.

Perhaps to match this softer, slightly more contemplative Dallas comes a much more evenly paced plot. Festive in Death doesn’t have that ticking-clock tension of earlier novels like Delusion in Death (2012), in which Dallas races to find the cause of a mysterious virus causing people to literally tear each other to pieces, or, indeed, the abject horror of the earlier New York to Dallas (2011), in which Dallas has to face her past in the form of the serial killer and sex offender who made her career and the mother who abused and abandoned her. Yes, Festive has a predator or two, despicable enough to retain the reader’s and engage the Lieutenant’s interest – and yes, Robb poses the challenging question of whether every victim deserves for justice to be served, regardless of his or her past actions or deeds – yet the book is also, without doubt, much slower paced than anything we’ve experienced from Robb (or Nora Roberts) in a long time.

I do wonder if this may put off some diehard JD Robb fans, more used to the darkness that pervades the earlier novels certainly, fast-paced action and expecting the plots twists and turns that alternatively shock and amuse. Personally, I find it a relief – one doesn’t always want to experience relentless horror or violence and there’s arguably just enough of both in this book to capture the reader’s attention. That said, crime apart, I do feel one of this book’s main purposes is to allow us to catch up with the vast hinterland of supporting characters, those people who have inhabited, enriched and informed previous novels and who have more than earned a place in the Lieutenant’s world. The device of the annual party allows Robb to do this smoothly and fluidly and also to introduce new people of interest and bring previously peripheral characters to our attention, people who may possibly have a starring role in future Dallas–Roarke books.

In sum, Festive in Death is not the most action-packed or crime-laden of the many Dallas–Roarke titles, but it is an extremely enjoyable, very steady and easy read. And there is part of me that wonders if this book is the quiet before the storm – if Robb is intentionally lulling her readers into a false sense of security until the next novel, when we’ll be shocked back to ‘reality’ with the murder, beating or rape of someone we’ve come to care about – as has happened in the past.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Personally, I can’t wait.


FestiveindeathUS20821249JD Robb’s Festive in Death is published on 9 and 11 September 2014 in the United States (cover, right) and United Kingdom respectively.

JD Robb is the author of the acclaimed futuristic ‘In Death’ series of books, featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke. Robb is the pseudonym of best-selling, acclaimed American author Nora Roberts.












Also of interest:Nora Roberts’ The Collector – Falling into a pair of same arms’ (review; 2014).










Photographs/images in article: Festive in Death (UK cover, Piatkus, 2014 and US cover, Putnam, 2014, respectively). The Collector (UK cover, Piatkus, 2014).


Notice: Please note the above images and quotations are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

This review is ©The Literary Shed, 2014. All opinions expressed are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments so please do contact us or fill in the form below. If you wish to reproduce the review, please credit us fully. Thank you.





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