Review: 50 books in, J.D. Robb crime series still has it

The 50th book in J

“Golden in Death,” by J.D. Robb, St. Martin’s Press

Lt. Eve Dallas, New York City’s finest homicide cop, is back again in the 50th book in the long-running “In Death” series, futuristic police procedurals set in the mid-21st century. The prolific Nora Roberts, writing the series under the pen name J.D. Robb, pulls off the page-turning trifecta again: an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery sprinkled with a storybook romance and a team of cops you can’t help rooting for.

“Golden in Death” explores the deadly side of grudges. The first victim is beloved pediatrician Kent Abner, who only wanted to take advantage of a beautiful spring day: going for a run in the park, picking up some of his husband’s favorite foods at the market and having a romantic evening at home. But then a peculiar packaged arrived: a cheap wooden box with a golden egg tucked inside. Moments after prying the egg open, Abner’s throat closed, his eyes burned and he collapsed on the floor. A toxic vapor seeped out of the egg and killed him within minutes.

Eve’s investigation into Abner’s death keeps leading to dead ends, and then another person is killed by the same toxic golden-egg package. Both victims are connected to a private high school, and Eve and her team go on a twisty adventure that feels like the best possible crossover between “Law & Order” and a CW drama. The novel often feels like a throwback to the kind of drama that plays out in high school.

As in the previous 49 books, Roberts sprinkles a heavy dose of romance into the police investigation. Eve’s husband, Roarke, is the future’s McDreamy. A former criminal who ran schemes during his bad-boy days in Ireland, Roarke is now one of the richest men in the world, and won Eve over early in the series with his allure and some really good coffee.

Their partnership, which includes teaming up on police investigations (Roarke contributes superb tech skills), is a love story for the ages and part of what keeps the series so strong.

Roberts began writing the “In Death” series in 1995, and some familiar and complicated characters are woven into all the books, including “Golden in Death.” Her intricate character development and powerful storytelling give both longtime fans and newcomers the ability to drop into the series at any point and escape into Eve’s world.

And the 50th book proves this series truly is the gold standard.