Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb
Series: In Death #30
Also in this series: Creation in Death, Strangers in Death, Suite 606, Salvation in Death, Kindred In Death, Naked in Death, Glory in Death, The Lost, Rapture in Death, Immortal in Death, New York to Dallas, Celebrity in Death, Brotherhood in Death
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: February 23rd 2010
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Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world—to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king—in his company’s latest top-secret project, Fantastical.
The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game...
NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim's girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks—as Eve's husband, Roarke, one of U-Play's competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one.
Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death...
The last few In Death books have kind of been off for me. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy them, it’s just that I didn’t enjoy them as much as I expected to given the previous
5 billion books in the series. I went into this book with some trepidation because of that.
I really enjoyed Eve’s case. A young entrepreneur is found decapitated inside his locked holo room. Security indicates he was the only one inside the room, and in fact his whole apartment. Investigation shows the weapon to be a broadsword. Eve knows it takes two to murder..one to do the killing and one to die. Since he didn’t cut his own head off, there hasn’t be a missing factor.
Some cases are better developed than others, and some are just more interesting to me personally. I’m not sure if this falls into the former, but it definitely falls into the latter. I was truly interested in seeing Eve puzzle her way through the case. It wasn’t long before I figured out who the killer was – it generally doesn’t take me long – but that wasn’t the appeal of this case anyway. It wasn’t the who, but the why and, more intriguing, the how.
As for Eve and Roarke’s relationship, I wasn’t as impressed. After taking a minute to reflect on the overall relationship arc, I’ve decided that’s to be expected. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy about it, but I am going to work on being more forgiving. They had a couple arguments, but they seemed kind of contrived.
The focus in this book was more on the case than the personal relationships, but most of our favorites made appearances or were mentioned. There is quite a bit of humor in this book. Eve is still battling it out with the Candy Thief, which always cracks me up. But Roarke is what killed me in this scene:
She took a tool from her desk, then squatted in front of her recycler. After a few twists, she removed the facing and pulled an evidence bag from the back.
“Your guile and wit contest causes you to keep candy in the recycler, with the trash?”
“It’s sealed.” She broke the seal with a little pop and whoosh to prove it, then took out one of the three chocolate bars. She tossed it to him, then bagged the remaining two with a fresh seal before hiding them again. She glanced back to see him studying the candy.
“If you’re going to be so dainty give it back.”
“There was a time I rooted through alley garbage for food, without a thought. Things change.” He unwrapped the candy, took a bite. “But apparently not that much.”
Not only is this particular quote hilarious, but the scene it comes from shows some vulnerability in Roarke, and Eve’s way of taking care of him. Relationships and how they work is one of the underlying themes of the book. Eve puzzles over the various relationships in her life throughout.
Another example is Eve’s relationship with Peabody. Peabody and McNab have to go to a gaming conference and Peabody brings a gift back for Eve. It just illustrates how well they know each other (and offered the added bonus of amusing me):
“What is it?”
“It’s a toy gun. A derringer – like cardshaprs and saloon girls carry in western vids. It’s like a clutch piece.”
“And check it.” Peabody cocked it, and a sultry female voice purred out of the barrel. Put those hands where I can see them, cowboy.
“It has all sorts of audio streams- male, female. I figured you’d want the female. Plus -”
She aimed it at Eve, pulled the trigger even as Eve said: “Hey!”
The little gun let out a brave little bang. Next one goes lower, and you won’t be poking a woman with that stick of yours for the rest of your miserable life.
“Isn’t it cute? You could play saloon girl and Roarke could be high-stakes gambler, then…and that’s entirely none of my nevermind.” Peabody offered a big smile.
“Yeah, it’s cute, no, it’s none of your nevermind.” Eve took the derringer, recocked it. You’d better hightail it before that tail’s sporting another hole.
“It could use better dialogue, but it’s apt enough. Hightail it.”
Eve studied the gun, shook her head. Unable to resist, she shot her computer, her AutoChef, amused by the lame insults that followed.
That was another thing about partners, she decided. They knew what would make you laugh, often before you did.
And just because I love Peabody’s crush on Roarke (this comes from later in the book):
“Roarke might be late. He’s working on something for me.”
“Wouldn’t mind if he worked on something for me.”
“Hmm? Oh, just talking to myself,” Peabody sang. “You know how it is.”
Eve strolled over, clipped the back of Peabody’s head with the flat of her hand.
“Oh, sorry, just an involuntary reflex. You know how it is.”
There is an inconsistency I found. Eve is telling Roarke about the first time she took a life as a police officer, as it segued into how she murdered her father. She’s talking about how she felt when she killed him (her father) and she says:
She let out a breath. “I’m the one who aimed and fired. Fifteen years between. It took me that long to be sure, absolutely sure, I wouldn’t feel that excitement, or that guilt, or that hardening when I had to take another life.”
But until Eve met Roarke, she didn’t remember having killed her father. So this didn’t ring true for me. There was also some inconsistency in the language. Some of the things sounded more modern-day and weren’t in keeping with the time period and the way Robb has written prior books. For example:
[…] She pushed in, slamming her fist in his face. Blood erupted from his nose.
“That’s how we do it in New York!”
Although a good line, this isn’t how Eve normally talks. It kind of pulled me out of the story, because I can’t imagine her saying it.
Still, I enjoyed the book. As Casee noted awhile back it seems like some books focus on the personal relationships and some focus on the cases. This book falls into the latter category.
3.75 out of 5
See a full list of the series here.
This book is available from Putnam. You can buy it here or here in e-format.