Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My favorite flavor of mind candy

Yesterday when we dropped off our kids for soccer practice, my friend Amy handed off the latest J.D. Robb to me. This one is entitled Strangers in Death. Despite chauffeuring duties (lighter this week, because the kids are on spring break) and children and animals needing to be fed, I spent much of the afternoon reading it and had it all read by the time I had to leave for symphony rehearsal.

I have loved this series since Amy passed off the first ones to me, and there are now 26 of them. They're murder mysteries (hence the "death" titles), but they take place in a New York City of the future, described like this in the very first book (Naked in Death): "Street, pedestrian, and sky traffic were miserable, choking the air with bodies and vehicles....Even at this hour there was steam rising from the stationary and portable food stands that offered everything from rice noodles to soydogs for the teeming crowds." When the main character, Eve, sees the murder victim, she also is shown the murder weapon: " 'Thirty-eight caliber,' he told her. 'First one I've seen outside of a museum. This one's a Smith & Wesson, Model Ten, blue steel.' He looked at it with some affection. 'Real classic piece, used to be standard police issue up until the latter part of the twentieth. They stopped making them in about twenty-two, twenty-three, when the gun ban was passed.' "

The series has details about the future and also about Eve's life and the lives of her circle of friends and fellow cops, so it's the kind of series you need to start reading at the beginning (like Elizabeth George's Lynley mysteries or Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan mysteries). You find out that jobs of the future include "Licensed Companion," (a respectable prostitute, kind of like Inara in Firefly) and "Professional Mother" (one who gets paid by the government for doing a good job!). And you get Eve's cop-thinking about what motivates people: "Marriage is a promise....If you break one part of the promise, it's going to crack other parts." When the crime-fighting characters find out that an abused woman has been part of a murder plot, one of them tries to convince Eve to go easy with her: "There's a difference between weak and evil." Eve's reply is "Yeah, but there's sure a lot of overlap."

Each book has been just as good as the last, despite the growing narrative problem of Eve's life and the lives of all her friends becoming increasingly happy and settled. I like the way Eve can fly off to another planet or a tropical beach after she solves each mystery.

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