Interesting to me that whenever Robb gives us more police procedural than romance in this series, we cry for more romance. More of Eve and Roarke, their marriage, their love. And when she gives us an installment nearly dedicated to that romance, leaving the police investigation as background noise, we damn near come out of our skin. Indisputable testament to the power Robb has created in these two characters. Every single thing that happens to them is personal to us. And in this case, gut wrenching.
Eve’s hurt was as real to me as any of my own. It was well founded and portrayed with truth. It was not a matter of perception. It was not the result of immature or blind insecurity. There was justified fear there and I felt it as deeply as she did.
Roarke’s failure to comprehend that fear was honest. It was not contrived to further the story. It was not out of character. I did not see it as an attempt to humanize him. He is human and we’ve all witnessed his fear, humor, temper and joy. Furthermore, we already know he is vulnerable. Robb hasn’t kept that from us either.
In short, there was nothing over the top in this episode. Robb didn’t spike the punch, so to speak. She didn’t even shake the foundation much, IMO. What she did do was share—intimately—the pain and fear that accompanies a great love. And she did so flawlessly, refusing to mar it with Eve’s expected immaturity or Roarke’s reputed omniscience. If we are coming out of our skin, it is because we were gripped by the same fear and panic. Not because one or both of these characters behaved or felt inappropriately.
That’s my gut reaction, filtered through the buzz surrounding this book. Reaching for more objectivity, I come back to the word flawless. No, fucking flawless. I loved how Robb juxtaposed the powerlessness Eve felt at home with a murder investigation she appeared powerless to solve. A case where she felt none of the hardness, none of the menace that typically surrounds a victim. In other words, her case did not provide a place or alternative target to vent her frustration.
Then, after Eve has spent the better part of the book under an emotional microscope—expected by friends and readers alike to falter--her case ratchets up to an emotionally taut and mind-numbing conclusion. A conclusion she reaches before anyone else. A conclusion that casts more doubt on her emotional maturity and her coping mechanisms. Robb is subtle but effective with these parallels. Eve’s and Roarke’s mutual innocence beneath their misunderstanding. The victim’s innocence and his killer’s unfathomable lack of innocence. The truth in both outcomes—heart twisting. Just fucking flawless.
I also enjoyed all of the references to previous books. Their fight cum jungle sex in Judgment In Death, contrasted hotly against Eve’s own jealous reaction. And her taking a full stun for Sommerset in the parlor in yet another title. God, when he thinks back to that moment and knows that what he is about to say will hurt her even more than that….well, I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to spare her as much as he did. There were also plenty of references to old cases. We really are getting to that point beyond standalone. We have a history now—reader and characters. No going back.
I also enjoyed Eve’s totally unexpected physical response to the final provocation. I was dutifully stunned then perfectly humored. It was absolutely hilarious and just the right exclamation point on the final “they’re back”. These are Robb’s characters and no one, NO ONE, knows them better than she does. Sigh. Fucking. Flawless.