It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.
When a senator’s daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she’d been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washing-ton politics and society.
Further complicating matters is Eve’s growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome… and the leading suspect in the investigation.
Trigger Warning: There is a lot of sexual and overt violence. Some of it is described from within the villain’s head. Some of it is almost made to be sexy, until it’s suddenly not. There is also sexual violence recalled against children. Sometimes spoken memories, sometimes dreams. This will come up many times in this series, so if the remembrance of sexual violence against a child is an especial problem don’t read this.
Full Disclosure: I’ve read this book a handful of times. And every time I come to similar conclusions. Eve is too something, Roarke is too something else, and there’s there patina lying over the whole book that probably will never look pretty because of the aging of tropes in this genre. Yet, I can’t fully separate myself from this series just yet. There’s something here that’s incredibly well done and enthralling. This is the absolute last time though. If I burn out somewhere in this re-try, I’m done.
I had Naked in Death on my bookshelf (literally, a true paperback copy) for years; I think I bought it sometime around the release of the 5th or 6th book, maybe. However, I didn’t end up starting it for the first time until book 33 – holy shit – was coming out. And then I binged through the first 12.5 books. Some of the stories were great, others were not, but it was my compounding problems that began to be the real issue.
Here, in Naked in Death, there’s only the barest hint of these problems to come. And I’m hoping that they’ll hit me a bit different and hopefully a little less dramatically. Hopefully, I get to see how JDR/NR has grown in this series from the ’90s tropes to more current times. Letting the characters grow beyond their stereotypes and letting the times move a bit beyond even the imagined hope of the near future that we had in the ’90s, to the more vibrant hopes and battles we’re fighting for change now. I can see the speculation for change in this book, and it’s good – just not good enough for what I now want. So it creates this weird push-pull in me when I think about it.
There’s the liberation of banned guns, and legalized (and regulated/taxed) prostitution. Contrasted with the fact that there’s a lack of racial diversity, and subversive sexism still thrives. We have Eve, a ranking, highly-respected Lietenient on the New York Police and Security Division (NYPSD) that doesn’t seem to suffer from any overt sexism in her daily job-life. But we also still have men who feel they can take charge of a woman’s life – and it’s fairly widely accepted, even by Eve.
J.D. Robb, also known as Nora Roberts, has always excelled at characters. Despite some of my complaints that some of her characters start to feel a little same-same in her trilogies, her characters still feel real, in a way that many authors struggle to do even in a single book. Eve, and Roarke, have a depth here that can’t be denied. It’s intriguing – and though we get more answers to Eve’s history here than I’d recalled – not all of the mysteries are solved right away. There’s enough layers there to dig back on. There’s some bare basis given to some side characters, who aren’t very developed in this first book, but I recall them getting much more page time in the future books. They’re pretty stock-cardboard characters right now, but I can see where NR can take them.
I can’t remember now if I guessed the mystery the first time, and I can’t be sure that I wasn’t simply remembering it on this re-read (though I doubted myself enough), but it didn’t surprise or shock me. What I enjoyed about the mystery was the methodical and logical way that Eve went about solving it. With her emotions highly involved, with the case hitting a bit too close to home in some moments, and with her beginning to fall for a suspect (that she’d cleared in her mind), it makes a tight rope for Eve to walk. She does it, and I love watching just how she does it. I actually love Eve in this book (disclaimer: I have significant issues with her in later books, if I recall correctly).
What was a problem for me here, more so than I ever recall, was Roarke. *hides from pitchforks*
I’ve always had some vague, and in the coming books more defined, reasons to have issue with Roarke. I get that he’s the guy for most JDR/NR readers. And about the time this book was written and published ,his behaviors were pretty much the norm. Roarke makes decisions for Eve, invades her space (literally breaking into her apartment and giving her orders), has extreme moments of temper, and pretty much has textbook abusive tendencies. And even while this shit pissed me off, I was still rooting for Roarke and Eve. Because Eve falls for him. And she does it, mostly, on her terms. She pushes back and doesn’t let him walk all over her. Here’s my gross-out moment for Roarke. I hate the smoking. It detracts from him greatly.
I think the reason that I can root for it is because Eve doesn’t let it pass without challenge (usually). Also, because NR/JDR has always used this omniscent third-person POV that allows us to be primarily in one person’s head, but have at least occasional glimpses into everyone else’s. What that means is that we experience this story mostly with Eve. In her thoughts, actions, and daily activities. But sometimes we get others – usually Roarke, sometimes the villain, sometimes a vague other. It’s these glimpses into Roarke’s head, combined with the reader’s overt knowledge of Eve and what she wants/feels/agrees with, that makes it something less than that. We get to know these two characters. Understand their motivations, and the relationship between them is developed realistically enough to believe that they begin to understand each other and know where the lines are. I can believe in it just enough.
The jump from interest/insta-lust to love was a bit much, and I would have preferred to see that development taking it’s time in coming out. But, again, the book is a subject of it’s time. Where now these type of long-running series, with slowly (and much more realistically) developing romances are fairly normal, it wasn’t when this was published. And NR (despite writing under JDR) was, and is, a Romance Author. People (publishers and readers, I expect) had expectations. So I can forgive that as well. Because, if I recall correctly, the relationship goes through a nice development in the coming books.
Something to keep in mind, I recently saw on Twitter that despite the fact that there are no 40+ books in this series, Eve and Roarke have only been together for something like 3 years in-story-time.
I read this book in paperback, kindle, and now I’ve listened to the audio. I’m a big fan of the audio. It was the perfect escape from my commute. It also allowed for something that I may not have simply read in the text, and I wonder if it’ll affect my feelings in the future books. I’m looking forward to finding out.