If I had to sum up the essence of the series for myself, it would be that love is complicated and damage is permanent. And that while love may not conquer all, it is still our saving grace. (Mary T. Wagner)
Mary Wagner said that about Bones in her blog a few days ago, and I loved it – it might be my favorite description of the show, ever.
But while reading Devoted in Death, the 41st entry in the In Death series by JD Robb, I kept thinking about how true it is of Eve and Roarke as well. Eve still has nightmares; she still thinks of her mother when confronted with another woman’s contempt for her own child. The damage is permanent – Eve will never not be the eight year old victim in Dallas.
And yet…love has saved her, and allowed her to have a rich, full life, even while she remains dedicated to finding justice for the dead. The nightmares no longer wake her screaming, and instead of being disabled by the memories of her mother, even temporarily, she uses her experiences to gain insight into a killer.
On the surface, this volume in the series felt pretty low-key in a number of ways. There’s no big Eve and Roarke story here; nothing intense going on for Peabody. Instead, the drama is driven by the case, particularly the concern for the kidnapped victims, with subplots involving the more minor characters (Santiago and Carmichael’s adventures as NYPSD West, Trueheart’s detective exam, the visiting Deputy Banner.)
And, yet…and yet.
Eve and Roarke, and their relationship, are actually dead center here.
I think it’s possible, as long time fans of the series, to take their love for granted, because, well, duh. Eve and Roarke. But in this one, all the way through, it serves as a counterpoint and context to the demented, destructive love of Ella-Loo and Darryl.
At one point, Eve notes that Ella-Loo always had the makings of a serial killer inside her, and that, sooner or later, that would have come out. But Darryl unleashed it in her, sooner rather than later.
By contrast, Eve and Roarke bring out the best in each other, something no less true for being a cliche. We see it in every book, of course, but here, it’s the focus. It’s subtle, since we expect to see it, but it makes for a powerful contrast to the killers.
Eve has acknowledged before that without Roarke, she would have burned out on cop work, would have hit a point where she could no longer face the victims and violence, and that, not being able to do what she’s driven to do, would have been the end of her.
But Roarke has done more than simply save her from that – she’s a better cop because of him. He’s a sounding board when she needs to talk through the case and a source of respite when she needs a break from it, even if only for an hour.
Two moments in particular strike me as showing the contrast between the two couples the strongest. The first is this one:
“Would you kill for me?”
“I would, yes, of course.”
“Jesus, don’t say it without even a second’s thought.”
“I don’t need a second’s thought. Consider who we are, Eve. We’re both capable of killing, and have done so. But there’s …criteria. Would I kill to protect you, to save your life, to save you from harm? Without hesitation. Would I kill because you said, Do me a favor, I’d like this person dead? I don’t have to give it a second thought as you’d never say that, want that, ask that.”
“If I did.”
“I think we’d have to have quite a conversation.”
We know even before the conversation starts what he’ll say, that of course he’d kill to protect her. It’s the rest of the conversation, set against the backdrop of Ella-Loo and Darryl, that’s revealing, both in his certainty that she’d never ask him to kill for any lesser reason, and that he trusts her enough not to give a flat no, even when she pushes it. That fascinates me.
The second moment is at the end, when Peabody gives them a bit of time because she knows Eve needs Roarke, needs a moment with him to steady herself. This, knowing how to turn to someone else for strength to face the world’s ugliness, is what love truly is, and I particularly enjoyed that Eve didn’t hesitate. In the past, she’s resisted turning to him when other cops are around, I think out of a fear of being perceived as weak by her men. And now, I think she’s beginning to accept the degree to which she’s a stronger cop, a better cop, because of him.
Part of the focus on Eve and Roarke’s relationship comes through the eyes of the visiting deputy, Banner. I liked him very much, and hope we meet him again at some point. But much of why I enjoyed his story so much is his outsider’s view, not only of Eve and Roarke, but of their world.
Often, other cops we meet are antagonists to some degree – someone who’s opposing Eve, or complicating her investigation, and when they’re not that, they’re nearly always minor characters – cops she reaches out to in other states, before moving on based on whatever they’ve given her. Banner breaks that pattern, in an interesting, creative way. Out in the land of the cows, there are cops just as
obsessed dedicated to the truth as Eve is, and meeting one of them was fun.
My favorite non-Eve and Roarke scene was between Eve and Feeney, when she gives him the gift of the magic coat. The fact that they’re awkward with their deep affection for each other is part of the charm, and that’s never more so than here, when the queen of awkward-gift-giving gives a phenomenal gift to the man who is her father in every true sense of the word. A bonus to the scene was McNab’s for-her-ears only comment about how much the coat would mean to his mentor.
The balance of humor and drama felt spot-on in this one, despite the body count and the torture the victims were experiencing. Eve’s bafflement over time zones, the snarky comments about winter drivers (and drivers in general) …such bits serve as necessary breaks from the horror of the plot.
I started a different book last night, the first in another long running suspense series, and, three chapters into it, I can feel the utter grimness taking a toll on me. There’s not been one even mildly lighter comment, and everyone the main character works with is a source of conflict and tension. I’ll give it a couple of more chapters, but my hope is waning that it might be another go-to series. I get why such stories are popular, with the constant escalation of problems on all fronts, but they exhaust and depress me. I need the lighter moments, the comic relief, which is often the truest reminder of what the characters are fighting for.
Robb has never failed me on that balance of laughter and tears, which is why I’ve already bought the next two entries in the series.
The next In Death story is a novella in the Down the Rabbit Hole anthology due out on Tuesday, September 29th.
A thin snow started to spit out of grumpy gray skies. Which meant, Eve knew, that at least fifty percent of the drivers currently on the road would lose a minimum of one-third of their intelligence quota.
“Why did those map people, or state-naming people go with so many New Wherevers?”
“So speaks the New Yorker.”
“Question still holds. If they were so attached to the Mexico or the Hampshire or the York, why didn’t they just stay there? Anyway, about there, or that part of Texas or Oklahoma. That gets a higher bump from me, and so does the first possibility. Up from southeast Texas, hit Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas. And why is S-A-S pronounced S-A-W? It should be Ar-Kansas. Did Kansas object?”
Oddly enough, Roarke found the question perfectly just. “I can’t tell you.” (Eve and Roarke discuss state names while tracking the possible route of the killers.)
“You are love to me. You are love.” (Eve, to Roarke)
“My one thing I wanted long before I knew to want her.” (Roarke, to Eve)
“Driving in this city’s crazy, and everybody doing it always seems more than a little pissed off.” (Banner, about NYC traffic)
“Peabody knew you could do with a bit of alone with me. Use it.” (Roarke, to Eve, after the arrest)
“Whatever came before, whatever comes after, I know what love is because of you.” (Eve, to Roarke)