Fiction: “Conspiracy in Death” by J.D. Robb

Conspiracy in Death picks up slightly after the end of Holiday in Death. Lt. Eve Dallas is called to the scene of a homicide: a harmless homeless man has been murdered by having his heart removed. As in, he was anesthetized and then his heart was surgically removed. As Eve digs deeper into the case (and another couple of like homicides begin to stack up), she finds ties to medical centers and important doctors across the globe.

Throwing another wrinkle into her case is an altercation between herself and a subordinate from another precinct, Officer Ellen Bowers. Bowers remembers Eve from their days at the police academy (and unfortunately, it’s nothing like the Steve Guttenberg movies), and her memory is horrible. She assumes (wrongly) that Eve ascended up the ladder so quickly due to putting out and sexing up, which is so far from the truth it’s almost laughable. But Bowers is quick to file complaints (especially when Eve insults her admittedly awful crime scene perservation), so Eve gets dragged into an I.A. investigation.

When Officer Bowers ends up dead, Eve’s superiors have no choice but to suspend her. And this is the meat of the novel. Eve has spent her entire life working towards being a cop, and that’s how she primarily identifies herself. The suspension, however temporary and/or unfounded, almost destroys her. Her husband, Roarke, supports her through the ordeal, both emotionally and professionally. Once Eve snaps out of it, she uses his illegal computers to solve the case and feed information to her friends who have taken it over.

As the series continues, I’m struck and impressed by the relationships that Eve has developed. In the first book, she met Roarke and had a friend named Mavis. Now, her circle has grown to include a psychiatrist for a friend; Peabody, her aide; Mavis’s long-time boyfriend, Leonardo; Roarke’s butler, Summerset (although she hates him just to be spiteful, sometimes); and Nadine Furst, a reporter. Where the first couple of books in the series were all about the violence and the procedure and the hard-boiled cop detective (which is, again, why I picked this up as opposed to anything else on my shelves: keep the violence coming!), J.D. Robb has truly given Eve a world of people to interact with, and it makes her characterization and her interactions that much richer.

For instance, even while in the midst of a murder investigation and a suspension, Eve and Roarke are still able to function as a married couple:

“Man, I would self-terminate before I lived in a place like this. I bet all their furniture matches, and they’ve got cute little cows or something sitting around the kitchen.”

“Kittens. Fifty says it’s kittens.”

“Bet. Cows are sillier. It’s going to be cows.”  […]

[Eve] glanced over, lifted a brow as Roarke strolled in carrying a tray loaded with cups, plates. Coffee and cookies, she mused, then struggled with a scowl as she noticed the cream pitcher in the shape of a cheerful white kitten.

The man never lost a damn bet. [276, 282]

And here’s something that I truly identified with, and let me explain how. I’ve described myself in my “real job” as being low-level management for a local-yet-internationally-known retailer. Well, this past week, my major responsibility has been to complete the year-end appraisals for my directly-reporting employees — all eighteen of them. And while I love my company and the people I work with, there are some issues that occur every day that makes me want to pull my hair out.

Like, for instance: we’re still running Office 2000. REALLY? ARE YOU SERIOUS? WE’RE A BILLION-DOLLAR COMPANY (oh crap, that narrows the field of possible employers down to, like, three) AND WE CAN’T EVEN UPGRADE TO OFFICE 2003? REALLY. YOU’RE KILLING ME, YOU GUYS.

So imagine my frustration when, in the middle of a very involved year-end, we have a power surge. And then it takes twenty minutes for the computer to a) turn back on and b) be fast enough for me to work at it comfortably.

Hence, this passage seemed like it was written just for me:

“When you’re done with this, I want you to go find a hammer.”

Peabody had taken out her memo book, nearly plugged in the order, when she stopped, frowned at Eve. “Sir? A hammer?”

“That’s right. A really big, heavy hammer. Then you take it into my office and beat that fucking useless excuse for a data spitter on my desk to dust.”

“Ah. […] As an alternative to that action, Lieutenant, I could call maintenance.”

“Fine, you do that, and you tell them that at the very first opportunity, I’m coming down there and killing all of them. Mass murder. And after they’re all dead, I’m going to kick the bodies around, dance on top of them, and sing a happy song. No jury will convict me.” [30]

I already have a spork in a glass case on my desk, for use in case of emergency. I don’t think my bosses want me to carry around a sledgehammer, too. And this is why, when I win the lottery, after paying off my debts, the debts of my parents, buying a house, and maybe investing some for travel or something, I’m donating a large portion to both the University of Southern Maine and my employer. The money for USM will be wrapped up so tightly in codicils that they can ONLY spend the money on books for the library, because I’ll be damned if I can find a single book in that monstrosity that was published after 1984. And the money for my employer will be to UPGRADE THE SYSTEMS.

Grade for Conspiracy in Death: 2.5 stars

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