Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can’t wait to lose himself in an imaginary world, to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king, in his company’s latest top-secret project, Fantastical. The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game. . . . NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim’s girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks-as Eve’s husband, Roarke, one of U- Play’s competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one. Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death. . . . [From B&N]
The thirtieth installment in Robb’s In Death series crawled along at an atypically sluggish pace for the first half of the novel. The murder of an up and coming gaming company exec thrusts Eve into the complicated world of e-speak and e-geeks; she finds the minutiae of technology and gaming tedious and, unfortunately, so did I. For the first time while reading an In Death novel, I felt like the plot wasn’t going anywhere. And another first, I put it down several times and had to remind myself that I really needed to pick it back up. As soon as Eve waded through the tech-speak and settled on a primary suspect the pace picked up and didn’t slow down until the novel’s end. That kind of non-stop, headlong rush to find and stop the killer is what I’ve come to expect from this fantastic series, and the latter half of the novel showed that Robb/Roberts was still writing the In Death books in fine form.
Still, I suppose every once and a while, especially in a series of this length, it’s necessary to shake things up a bit. Sure, past books in the series have dealt with technology, but this one focuses almost exclusively on the ins and outs of game programming. It was a great way to pull the EDD department more fully into the plot and to showcase Roarke’s skill, and yet, somehow, it never fully does. Feeney, McNab, and Roarke have been used more effectively with technology plot threads before. So *shrug* I don’t know. It didn’t really work for me.
An introspective Eve also hasn’t been a hallmark of this series; she’s far too uncomfortable with feelings and emotions to spend much time contemplating them. But that changed slightly in this novel. The case required her to consider friendships, partnerships, but so have other plots. Having her do so now, I guess, shows how far she’s come, and that she’s becoming more open to allowing people in.
One thing that hasn’t changed: How wonderful Eve and Roarke’s relationship is. There were several moments in this book that I just loved, quiet moments, honest moments. Their relationship continues to develop beautifully and, if for that alone, I will always read these books, no matter how many there come to be.
All things considered, Fantasy In Death was not a favorite, nor would it rank close to the top ten, but it was still good. I haven’t, in fact, read a bad book in this series yet.