Book: Naked In Death by J.D. Robb

First, it’s obvious that it’s written by a romance writer (“J.D. Robb” is a pen-name of Nora Roberts)– the sex scenes are written with as much detail as the murder scenes. Since it’s the first book in a series, you’re hit over the head with the main character’s background story, which of course ties into the murder. Robb also likes to flip the point-of-view into other people’s heads with no warning. I have mixed feelings about that, because it added a lot when she went into the head of the murderer, but she showed things from the male romantic lead’s point-of-view before he was fully cleared as a suspect, and it was jarring. Despite this, I stayed up until 2am to finish the book, and I’ll be begging C to lend me the rest of the series, because the murder mystery part was just that well done.

There’s really only a couple of ways to write a mystery. The first is the classic manner, employed by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and probably dozens of others that I don’t even want to pick up and try because I hate the method: string the reader along until the very end and then pluck the murderer out of thin air with virtually no clues given earlier. I threw up my hands in disgust and swore off Ms. Christie afterTen Little Indians (which is now And Then There Were None in the US), in which the final reveal is done by a letter from the murderer confessing, and there was no possible way for anyone to pick up on any clues whatsoever.

The second method is to give the reader all the clues that the detective in the novel has, and let them solve the crime alongside the book’s main character. This is a balancing act, because some readers are smart and some aren’t. If your reader is yelling at the main character to figure it out already, you’ve lost them. Most readers are willing to go back a bit and go “Oh, yeeeaaaaah, I see it now” once you’ve handed them the answer, but if you don’t give them enough, you start becoming a “virtually no clues” first-method author. It’s easy to go either way.

With Naked In Death, I *knew* in my gut who did it by halfway through the book, only it didn’t make sense. I convinced myself that I was wrong, that it couldn’t be him, that he was just a red herring. So did Eve, the book’s detective. She went through a series of possibilities, and I went right along with her. In the end? It was the guy my gut said, and the pieces that didn’t make sense fell into place thanks to Eve’s (and by extension, my own) investigations. That makes for a very satisfying ending.