Two new series entries play with the procedural format. One brings back a foe from a character’s past to settle a childhood score, while the other raises the tension by tangling related crimes with the secrets being kept by the detectives trying to solve them.
J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas books were intended to be a trilogy but are now approaching 50 in number, a testament to a passionate fan base and incredibly assured author. Shadows in Death opens with a grisly murder brazenly committed in Washington Square Park. Eve wastes no time figuring out the murder for hire plot, but the killer turns out to be international assassin Lorcan Cobbe, sworn enemy of Eve's husband, Roarke, since their early days in Dublin. Bringing Cobbe to justice before he can strike out at her family has the entire force on edge.
Robb plays with the tension in this story to great effect; a lot of time is spent just doing the work of building a case, looking at evidence, interviewing suspects and creating files, but those ingredients accumulate and propel the action. The near future setting (in 2061) is an asset as well, familiar enough to readers but with cool flourishes, like a chase via space shuttle, that keep refreshing the story. Cobbe is a monster with a weakness for the finer things, and his passionate loathing of Roarke compels him to take chances outside the discipline his profession usually requires. Eve and Roarke hunt him together while each fears they may become either Cobbe’s next victim or bait for one of his traps, and Robb occasionally pours gasoline on their high-pressure situation when they’re alone; the sex scenes add to the story nicely and raise the stakes yet again. It’s futuristic and sometimes gory, but this is ultimately a tale of families looking out for their own, whether those connections are blood ties, work relations or spouses who are deeply in love.
Every Kind of Wicked sets its compelling opening scene in a graveyard where a young man’s body has been found. Whether it’s an unfamiliar type of wound or nearly invisible feather particles, Maggie Gardiner follows the forensic evidence and begins to unspool two fraud schemes that dangerously intersect. Lisa Black’s sixth book pairing Maggie and vigilante cop Jack Renner is packed with revelations readers can barely process as the body count increases. It’s a breathless, stay-up-late page turner.
Black knows her characters well enough to have fun at their expense. Maggie and Jack are keeping big secrets from their co-workers; pretending to date would be ideal cover for their frequent private conversations, but they are terrible at the ruse and come across as a super weird couple. Maggie’s ex-husband, Rick, is working a case that looks like a drug overdose but ends up connecting it to the first body that was found; he is also on Jack’s tail, suspicious of his extracurricular activities and investigating on his own time, a pursuit that could blow up in a number of ways. There’s a crisis around every bend, but some of the best scenes find Maggie in the lab, studying the minutiae collected from a victim’s clothing and teasing out the story of their last hours on earth. The attention to detail and desire to see justice done give this gleefully amoral series its heart, and a white-knuckle ending leads to yet another unexpected connection that will leave readers a lot to look forward to in the next installment.