Feb 23 2013 12:00pm

First Look: J.D. Robb’s Calculated in Death (February 26, 2013)

Calculated in Death by J.D. RobbJ. D. Robb
Calculated in Death
Putnam / February 26, 2013 / $27.95 print, $14.99 digital

On Manhattan's Upper East Side a woman lies dead at the bottom of the stairs, stripped of all her valuables. Most cops might call it a mugging gone wrong, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows better.

A well-off accountant and a beloved wife and mother, Marta Dickenson doesn't seem the type to be on anyone's hit list. But when Eve and her partner, Peabody, find blood inside the building, the lieutenant knows Marta's murder was the work of a killer who's trained, but not professional or smart enough to remove all the evidence.

But when someone steals the files out of Marta's office, Eve must immerse herself in her billionaire husband Roarke's world of big business to figure out who's cruel and callous enough to hire a hit on an innocent woman. And as the killer's violent streak begins to escalate, Eve knows she has to draw him out, even if it means using herself as bait.

As 2060 is coming to an end in J.D. Robb's Calculated in Death, the holidays are around the corner and the city is gearing up for the premier of The Icove Agenda, but none of that is enough to stop murder. Lt. Eve Dallas has worked over a decade as a police officer and has more than her fair share of senseless killing. During her years in Homicide, she has outmaneuvered and outwitted many murders in the past, but how can you outthink a murderer whose actions just don’t make sense?

Marta Dickenson, wife and mother of two, is found dead at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck in a neighborhood she had no business being in. All of her jewelry is taken and so is her coat, but not her expensive boots. She is supposed to look like the victim of fall during a botched robbery, but her injuries aren’t consistent with a fall, and why bother to take her coat, but leave the boots? It just does not make sense and the set-up wouldn’t fool a rookie.

It doesn’t take long for Dallas to track Marta back to her office as a financial auditor and learn that Marta has just been assigned several new files to audit just that morning. Even Eve's husband, Roarke, her own personal master of numbers, wouldn’t be able to find something hinky enough worth killing over with only a brief glance at the file, so what did someone think that Marta found that required her to be silenced permanently?

“They’d have known she had nothing to speak of, and there was no reason to kill her.  Arrange to mug her and take the briefcase, the handbag in case she took files home.  Then, it’s not that difficult to access a locked office after hours, corrupt files on her comp.  Easier, cleaner than murder.”

What kind of killer is desperate enough to kill a quiet wife and mother who wouldn’t have fought back for her family’s sake? A woman who wouldn’t yet have known anything? A killer who kills with the quick efficiency of a hired killer but who leaves the sloppy crime scene of an amateur?  Worse, the kind of killer who keeps making illogical decisions—like making a try for Dallas and Peabody. 

“Get rid of me, and Peabody, and brush your hands off.  Which is stupid again, for the same reason killing Dickenson was stupid.  Somebody else just picks up the ball and runs with it.”

“It buys time.”  

“That’s true, but kill a cop?  Two cops? Wrath of God hits about even with the Wrath of the entire NYPSD.  And neither of those hits the level of the Wrath of Roarke.”

The problem grows when she has too many suspects.  In this world of big business and even bigger money, where Roarke is at home, there are just too many who are fueled by greed and the desire to take more, no matter who they have to trample on their way to the top. 

“I like him.”

“Did you?”

“I mean I like him for it because I didn’t like him otherwise.  And that’s part of the problem.  They all give me a buzz, one way or the other.”  

“Very possibly you get a buzz because your instincts tell you none of them are thoroughly clean.  They’ve all got pockets where they tuck some dirty little secret.”

With too many suspects and a murderer who isn’t thinking logically, maybe the only way Dallas can find this killer is to choose the next illogical candidate.


Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.

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Carmen Pinzon
1. bungluna
I can't wait to get my hands on this book. I love this series mostly for the characters we've come to know and love.
2. Rose In RoseBear
My copy is on its way (durn late UPS man!) ... if I finish my work and am very very good, I can start reading it tonight!
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
I got it finally. It downloaded at about 4:00 a.m Central time. I finished and really enjoyed visiting with Dallas and co.
5. Pat2
I have just finished Calculated in Death and, although it was another well-plotted story and the gorgeous Roarke was as tasty as ever, I thought it was a pity the development of their relationship was not moved a little more. Certainly Eve is more at peace with herself now, but the tension in their relationship which was so fascinating previously, seems to have disappeared.
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