I love this series. Although this first book isn't the best one, I strongly recommend you read them in order. A handful of books fall a bit below the high expectations, but 1/4 are truly outstanding, and at least 3/4 are extremely good. The others are also good, no stinkers in the set.
Even the few that fell below expectations were well worth reading because every book advances the evolution or history of at least two recurring characters. That's a fascinating element -- projecting how the characters may develop and then seeing how they change.
Robb was smart to set the series in the future. It allows characters' backstory to exist outside of "real" history and avoids anachronisms that would surely arise from the slow progression of "In Death" time. (The series, written over 15 years, covers only 2 1/2 years so far.) This is not meant to be deep, thoughtful sci-fi. The future setting is simply a useful device.
Frankly, neither of the main characters is super-compelling in this first book. Intriguing, but a bit annoying. However, as we learn more in the next books about their self-protective barriers -- and (in later books) more details about the life experiences that led to those barriers -- the reader comes to understand them and, increasingly, to root for them to grow, thrive, love, and work together.
Kudo's to the narrator. I had never read any of the series, so I had no prior visualization of the characters to conflict with Susan Erickson's phenomenal vocal interpretation. I honestly forget that one person is reading. Her characterizations are so distinct that I immediately can identify the speaker without attribution. In one book, she was apparently pushed to alter the voices, but thankfully that was immediately corrected in future books.
Some may like more sex, others less, but I think the balance of mystery, crime-solving, sex, romance and character development is just about perfect. I could deal with less profanity, but it is consistent with context.
Normally I love Nora Roberts' work, but there's boatloads I dislike about this book. I rarely write a review unless I really love or really can't stand a book, but when I do, I go into detail. I'm trying not to give away major plot twists below.
First, I REALLY hate it when the copyrights listed on Audible read "2014" for author and audio publisher, but in reality the book has a 1990 publication date. Audible/Amazon, let's have some truth in labelling and note when it's really a reissue of an old book.
Second. a good editor would have cut out at least one-third of this book. The first 30-40% DRAGS to the extent that I'd zone out for several minutes - something I very rarely do when listening to ANY book - and worse, when I'd rewind I'd find that I didn't miss anything I hadn't heard before. After the first couple zone-outs, I didn't care enough to rewind to catch what I'd missed! That almost NEVER is the case.
Third, if I wanted to read an ode to rock, drugs, other drugs, more drugs, drug abuse, overdoses (I'm not sure I've come across so many different references to drugs in any other fiction book), capricious sex, semi-incestuous sex, AIDS, child abuse, physical abuse, murder, attempted murder, long-term betrayal, etc., etc. I'd read a biography of a 60's/70's rock icon. It seems the author was living out her teenage fantasies about British/Irish rockers. I suspect that a good number of those highly positive reviews are written by folks who either came of age in the 60's or have deep nostalgia or identification with the era. If you don't already love the 60's, I doubt you'll love this book.
Fourth, I'd have rated the book higher if the central mystery had been engaging. Nope. Even most of the primary characters seem to have lost interest in finding out "whodunnit" after a couple years Few additional clues were dropped over time. And worse, my immediate suspects turned out (many) hours later to be the primary culprits. Yawn. If this crime was not a purely random act, who else had any motive?
Fifth, at one point, the original primary detective showed out-of-character stupidity. Then at a critical turning point, the heroine is distressingly stupid. And finally, neither the detectives (nor the other main characters) actually solve the crime. They didn't identify any of the perps who, luckily, were all identified in other ways. Such good luck for our heroine they were so stupid, too. Sigh, it's disappointing when an author can't move the plot forward without resorting to that "let's have someone do something stupid" tactic - but multiple times in a single book? Nora, you're so much better than that - usually!
Sixth, there were so many male characters in this book frequently lumped together in conversation with each other that it was nearly impossible to follow who said what to whom. I think I'd have had a problem keeping the male characters straight without a chart even in written text, but it was very difficult in audio where the various voices were unclear. However, I feel sorry for the narrator who may have been as bored as I was and found it hard to keep the many characters separate in her mind as well. At a later point in the book one character had a serious illness and until more details were given I honestly couldn't remember who he was or why I should care.
The only reason I give 2 stars instead of 1 is for the slightly more interesting last fourth of the book. But even that was a close call.
People were raving about this book in reviews at Audible, and I usually like Lisa Jackson, so I was looking forward to it. This is one of the most disappointing books ever. First, in print, perhaps it wouldn't be as confusing, but in audio the vast cast of characters is largely indistinguishable. You'll need a chart to keep track of everyone - is he a brother, half-brother, cousin, friend, hired help? Is she a cousin, old friend, daughter of the housekeeper or nurse or therapist . . . After I while I stopping trying to place who was who because almost everyone was obnoxious and crazy regardless.
Second, a lot of people's actions just doesn't make any sense. I liked the main character. But, like every other character, her actions/inactions don't make much sense given her supposed motivations. The author tries to explain this as resulting from confusion, fear, drugging, control of finances, but that's harder to buy over time. However, the main character is a paragon of reason and consistency compared to the other wackos that reside in her apparently massive mansion. I found it impossible to buy the basic story -- if these people were so motivated to pursue their goals that they'd be willing to do the things attributed to them in this book (trying to avoid spoilers), there were much simpler and safer ways to achieve their goals. How many dozen people living in that house had to be either complicit or an idiot? And why, pray tell, would the husband decide to bring a new employee into this situation?
Third, even if you buy the plot and storyline, the book is about 50% longer than it should be to tell that story. Needlessly repetitive, extraneous minor characters whose only apparent purpose is to provide red herrings or cause confusion or drop one relevant "clue," I was so bored by the first third of the book that I barely soldiered on . . . but I usually like Lisa Jackson, so I persevered. Wish I hadn't.
Patience. This is, without doubt, the most repetitive book I've read, including cookbooks. I dare you to take a sip of wine every time "the boy" is mentioned in the latter half of this book and try to finish a chapter before passing out. Truly, this story (don't confuse it with history) could have been told in one-third the length.
Nearly every one of Elizabeth's thoughts, and her conversations with Maggie, with Henry, with Margaret, with her mother (notice a pattern?), are repeated almost verbatim and/or paraphrased multiple times -- some ad nauseam. Entire chapters consist of repetitions, with only one new minor point plot offered. Describing being drawn and quartered once in excruciating detail will suffice, thanks. Just write "drawn and quartered" after that, we're smart enough to know what you mean. We don't need to be lectured in almost identical detail twice, and partially a third time . . . maybe more. I confess I drifted off a number of times, but I doubt I missed anything I hadn't heard previously several times.
If I hadn't liked The White Queen so much, I wouldn't have persevered to finish, hoping for more and better. It's hard to swallow the premise that the calm, poised, wise-beyond-her-years Elizabeth of The White Queen would develop a grand passion for her uncle, who betrayed a promise to her father, imprisoned and potentially murdered her dear brothers. Cultivating his interest for strategic reasons to protect the Woodvilles may make have made sense. The main characters are static over a near 15-year time span, never growing or learning from their mistakes. If Henry VII was as incapable, cowardly, sniveling, and mother-dominated as depicted here, his uncle would have made a deal with the Yorks to knock him off as soon as there was an heir and a spare, putting the York-Tudor hybrid Arthur on the throne. In reality, history suggests Henry VII had no mistress after marriage to Elizabeth, that Elizabeth and Henry had a successful perhaps loving marriage, that Margaret Beaufort was not an ogre, that Henry's reign was more successful, etc.
What a disappointment!
Writing bleary-eyed after pushing off work and staying up half the night listening to this amazing book. Rarely write reviews, but all I can say is - if you're even considering this book, stop and use that credit right now!
Rarely do romance books address the dreadful reality that faced (faces) abducted women. This one does -- and in so doing provides a surprising but completely reasonable answer to the only plot element that I found to be unrealistic in Book 1 in the series (won't give a spoiler, so I'll only say it has to do with the fate of heroine near the end of that book).
What a story, what a narrator. If this quality is maintained, this series will easily be one of my all-time favorites. Can't wait for the next book.
One of the most intriguing heroines of a romance novel I've come across in a long time. Well-drawn characters and compelling story of deception, misunderstanding, and deep emotions. Scottish clans were notorious for their rivalries and enduring feuds, which makes the depth of animosity believable. And fantastic narration. If this series can maintain this standard, it will be one for the record books.
Confusing. Frustrating. Anticlimactic.
Yes, but please, please, please -- don't make this the first book you read of the In Death series. I'm afraid that if you read this one first, it could discourage you from taking the great ride of reading this series from start to finish.
I am a big fan of this series and I have rarely been disappointed. In this book, however, the story drags, the central murder just doesn't make much sense (I know, sometime it's just senseless, but it's hard to buy the motivations here), the trajectory of the murderer's storyline doesn't make much sense, and the motivations for many of the others involved are convoluted and incomplete and seem to be disconnected from their lives before this book.
It's a rare thing for Robb, but this murder case seems very contrived to me.
Also, I found it disappointing that potentially great scenes that could have existed around the vid premiere simply never happened. Oh, the embarrassment of Eve we could have witnessed, the groupies hanging on Roarke, Peabody and McNab charming the paparazzi. Mavis breaking into improptu music vid trilling and inciting a riot. Leonardo raptly murmuring, "Isn't she precious?" Sigh. The author has a habit of doing this (anyone wish we'd gotten more about Eve's and Roarke's wedding?!?) but it's infuriating. But, of course, I remain a loyal reader. Maybe I need abuse counseling . . .
Perhaps in print this book flows better, but I found it suprisingly confusing. So many new characters with so many new names questioned more than once, several accountants here, several real estate types there, here's three partners, there's two partners, here's a judge, there's a date, an ex, another ex, another . . . You get the point. Poor Susan, what a narrating challenge. Who can differentiate that many people in a coherent manner? By the time Roarke finally named the person he suspected, I swear I honestly had no idea who that was. I'd totally lost track. An accountant? An investor? Who? Which one? Why?
Let me emphasize. THIS IS AN EXCEPTION. Even with these issues, it's a good book. It's just not up to the normal high standard of this series.
Fantastic as always. For the recurring characters, it takes literally one word and you can identify who is speaking. She is tremendous!
A scene near the beginning involving notification of death and one near the end with Dallas and Roarke.
The recent books have been so good . . . maybe that's part of why this one seems disappointing in comparison.
With most series, it doesn't affect the enjoyment of the books much if you read them in order or not. With the In Death series, it does. Although you certainly can read any book as a stand-alone, you usually get more out of any specific book if you've read several of the previous books in the series. More than most, this series intertwines and builds in significant ways over the course of the books.
For this book, I'd suggest reading "New York to Dallas" at the very least -- or that book won't be as enjoyable if you read it later. (Possibly also Reunion in Death first, before New York to Dallas, but before you read Reunion . . . ). I strongly recommend reading this series in order. Most books are great and even the few that fall a bit short of the normal standard of excellence invariably advance character development.
Ericksen is amazing as the narrator of this series. More than 15 often-recurring characters (plus another set of occasional ones) are clearly delineated. I am constantly astounded at how I can recognize which character is speaking within one or two words. The consistency across this volume of books is incredible. I don't know what salary you're making, Susan, but you're worth it. Ask for a raise!
Not necessarily better, but certainly no worse either.
The intro grabbed my attention and the relationship between the 4 sisters of circumstance held promise that was fulfilled in this book and, I trust, in 3 more focusing on the remaining "sisters." And the male lead was pretty much irresistible.
I enjoyed her interpretations and characterizations.
Honor Before Blood
It was pretty unbelievable than family members could be so oblivious and ignorant to blame the lead character for the sins of the father. Willful blindness only goes so far. Many of these interactions in the book just didn't ring as true as Garwood's writing normally does.
The two lead detective's characters are well-drawn. I want to know more about them and another couple, which is a good sign. What I didn't like was, first, that excessive description at places had me drifting off as the murderer rhapsodized about unnecessary and distracting details. Second, it is annoying that you have to buy the sequel to finish the story that was the purported primary focus of the book. (Having not read the sequel, I can't be sure the story finishes there either, but you get the point.) I'm fine with series and trilogies, but this approach is pretty deceptive.
This is in the vein of Karen Rose or Karin Slaughter, but not quite up to that standard.
A female narrator, given that it seemed most of the dialogue was women. Of course, perhaps I dozed through parts . . .
So Many Killers, Such a Small Town, Who'd Have Thought?
True fans of the series. I've found the series OK, but not as compelling as Stuart's other books.
Um. From dissipated jerk to noble suitor in record-breaking speed.
Cutting isn't the issue -- what's needed is addition. Like justification. Evolution of character.
I don't think this chapter (that's about how long it is) would be worth half the price.
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