Apprentice in Death
By J.D. Robb
Release Date: September 6, 2016
The opening scene of this latest installment in the In Death series is chilling, with a father drawing his child into his plans to kill people he feels have wronged him. Three people die on a skating rink in Central Park, and Lt. Eve Dallas must figure out whether all the deaths are random or at least one was a specific target. Either way, a long-distance serial killer is unlikely to stop with one hit. She and her team race against the clock to find and catch the killers before more New Yorkers die.
Of the usual characters, Roarke (of course), Mira, and Peabody feature most prominently, but Berenski in the lab gets new depth in his character, Lowenbaum of the SWAT team (last seen in 2012’s Delusion in Death) returns, and Somerset steps to the fore in an unexpected way. Each of Eve’s squad, along with Feeney and McNab, also contributes to the increasingly tense investigation.
The exchange between Eve and Peabody about Lowenbaum nicely illustrates the difference in their two characters while giving him a very nice introduction:
“Lowenbaum. He’s so cute.” At Eve’s steely stare Peabody hunched her shoulders. “I’m with McNab through and through, but I can see cuteness through my eyes and my Cute-O-Meter. You have to admit, he ranks high on the Cute-O-Meter.”
“Cute’s for kids and puppies—if you’re into kids and puppies. I’ll give you he’s frosty enough.”
He’s also a very good cop, willing to follow the investigative trail wherever it leads, even when he finds it personally disturbing.
Later in the book, we get a look at Eve and Summerset through Roarke’s eyes. He and Eve quarrel over her need to take a statement from Summerset. When Summerset intervenes, Roarke snaps at him, too. Roarke stalks off, leaving Summerset with Eve.
“I frightened him,” Summerset told Eve when they were alone. “It’s difficult to see weakness in the one who raised you.”
“And you worry him. You look, Lieutenant, as brutally tired and heavy as I feel. And what can he do for us, he asks himself when one he loves above all else must use one he cares for as a child for a parent? Why, snarl at them both, of course.”
The team uncovers the identities of the killers fairly early in the book, but the difficulty in actually finding them, especially after a second hit, ramps up the tension as the story progresses. The race against time has an urgency that makes the book difficult to put down.
As is often the case in this series, the investigation causes both Eve and Roarke to ponder fathers and children and the importance of roads not taken. The role of mentor also comes in for some discussion, and there’s a little comic relief near the end, as Eve and Roarke attend the first birthday party for Mavis and Leonardo’s Bella.
One of the killers is twisted but pathetic, while the other is twisted and evil. As the story progresses, additional motivations emerge, and the expectations of one are thwarted by the plans of the other. The targets are also well drawn, with distinct personalities despite having very little time on the page.
The action scenes, packed with danger, move fast but are clearly choreographed and easy to follow.
Apprentice in Death has a tight plot, engaging character interaction, and a smooth pace. It also introduces new characters and sheds new light on familiar ones.