Festive In Death might be it for me and Eve Dallas. While we’ve had our ups and downs in the prior 38 books of the series I just don’t like Eve anymore. I’ve had it with her. About halfway through this latest from Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb I realized I’ll be finishing it somewhere around the New Year, if at all. This is my first In Death DNF. The plot is pretty basic – Eve must prepare for the annual holiday party circuit while trying to solve the murder of a body building rapist. Given the victim’s general distastefulness, there are no shortage of suspects for her to wade through. At one point in the hectic balancing of work and pleasure, Eve reflects that her life is now filled with friends. She wonders why so many people want to be in her life. Frankly, so do I. Eve hasn’t grown from a damaged woman into a mature one, she’s become a spoiled child. The book is full of Eve resenting every moment that is taken away from her work life while mouthing her gratitude and appreciation. Show it, sister.
Eve is revealed by Festive In Death to be a narcissist. Friends have to corral her for social time, her staff has to cajole her into cooperating with party planning, her holiday shopping is treated as a tiresome and bewildering chore and her husband dresses her like a toddler. Where is Eve Dallas in this life? Eve does three things; she bitches about everything not work related, gets laid, and works. If you’re not sleeping with her or dead, she’s too busy to care. It’s time for Eve to grow the hell up and realize she’s not the center of the room. I’m so grateful Roberts has kept Eve child free. It’s not just gratitude that a child free couple is presented as desirable, it’s that Eve would make a truly terrible parent. Every aspect of Eve’s life is structured around her needs and hers alone.
Take a scene where Rourke instructs Eve to take a gift / bribe to the lab tech she calls Dickhead. First Eve reveals she’s never bothered to explore her own home. Granted, it may be the size of the Spelling estate but it’s her home. She should at least have made a mental map of it’s contents. The fact that she doesn’t care to speaks volumes. After discovering Rourke has a gift room she selects a bottle and heads out. Berenski (Dickhead) is touched and flattered that Eve, who has always shown him such disdain, has presented him with an actual gift. The scene is momentarily touching and I wanted Eve to recognize that he’s more than a stumbling block in her investigations. Instead she quickly reminds him that he only operates on the bribery system and she is paying up front. When a secondary character calls him Richard, Eve is relieved to discover it’s not out of affection but as a less direct form of bribery – emotional manipulation. Yes, Richard Berenski has been portrayed as a distasteful and difficult co-worker, but it’s starting to look like a chicken and egg situation. Berenski is living up to the contempt of those around him.
Extend this to the rest of Eve’s life. When do we see her putting anything near the amount of effort into supporting Rourke that he puts into her job? He is on continual call for her while she complains about every moment not directed at her needs. She offers things like traveling to his family because she feels she should, she’s concerned she’s not being socially appropriate, then expresses relief when the offers are declined. She allows others to entertain her friends. Her friends praise her for the lavish and hospitable nature of her events, which Eve greets with surprise. She should. She resents the events and puts no personal effort into them. That she will do so in Festive In Death is solely because she doesn’t want to wrap the gifts she hurriedly bought. If the books are true to form, every recipient will adore her personalized choices and claim it really shows how Eve understands them. In actuality, Eve desperately chooses the exact same thing for each of them with only color and style variations. Eve is continually rewarded for doing the emotional least. Told that she’s had 90 minutes scheduled with Trina, her friend and stylist, Eve is horrified. She doesn’t see it as a chance to catch up (outside the murder she’s investigating) she only sees that she will have to submit to beauty treatments to please Rourke. Eve is always ultimately satisfied with Trina’s work yet is incapable of remembering that. As a grown ass woman, Eve needs to make conscious choices and own them instead of pouting her way through her day.
Eve is given a gift by her former mentor that deeply touches her, a replica of a major professional award. It’s fitting that Eve becomes emotional over this because she seems only to value her work. She values the company, comfort and assistance her husband provides (in support of her work) and she values the competence of her partner. Eve rarely reaches out to former friends, such as Mavis, seeing them only when work puts her in their path or Rourke arranges socializations. In past books Eve has been shown as emotionally engaged but distrustful of social norms and unaware of social conventions. As time moves on the emotional engagement has diminished and the aggravation has increased. Eve resents her life pulling her away from her job, not the reverse. Since I doubt Festive In Death will end with Eve’s circle collectively calling her out, I’m tabling it for now. Eve’s horror at having to select tokens of appreciation for those closest to her got on my last nerve. I used to really like that girl, but I’m tired of her hangdog ways.
Final Assessment: Boring murder and bitching Eve made this my first In Death DNF.
Source: Library copy