Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called in to a murder scene, one unlike anything she has seen before. Three seemingly random people skating in Central Park; a young skater, a Doctor and a Teacher. No apparent connection between them other than the fact that they were shot to death with a laser rifle, by a sniper who has unbelievable skill, likely having taken the shots from miles away.
Eve and her team strip back the lives of the three victims, convinced that one of them was targeted, the others used as cover, but none of them seems to have done anything which would make put a target on their back. As Eve starts to investigate further, her husband Roarke, tries to narrow the field of possible locations designing a tech program which allows them to pinpoint possible nests to a few dozen locations. While checking out a potential location, Eve happens upon a potential witness who has incredible recall and some startling revelations about the sniper. That it is not one person but two: an older man and his young apprentice.
As the witness works with the police to create an image of the suspects, Eve receives the call she was dreading. The snipers have struck again and the identity of one of the victims in this shooting brings a far more personal edge to the investigation for the team. Worst of all, the snipers seems to kill indiscriminately, and Eve knows that no one in the City will be safe until they are caught.
When the older sniper’s likeness produces a match in the police system, the link between two of the victims becomes clear, and Eve and the team face a race against time to secure all of the snipers’ potential targets before they have a chance to claim even more innocent lives.
‘Apprentice in Death’ is the 43rd book in the long running ‘In Death’ series by J.D. Robb. Set in latter half of the 21st century, if you are new to the series, then some of the terminology and technology being discussed, may throw you for a while, but it does not take long to settle into the setting, or to get to know the already established characters. While there is some reference to events which happened in previous stories, it is not exclusionary and could be read as a standalone. The characterisations and descriptions in this future New York set novel are strong enough to allow anyone to pick this up and run with it.
The story itself, while not necessarily new in terms of plot = long range sniper taking out people at random is all too common a part of modern life, never mind fiction – it is well paced and intriguing. There is definitely a new twist on the typical killer with a grudge angle, and a not often seen psychopathic serial killer which taps into a key question. Is a killer born or are they created? Is it nature or nurture which give someone the desire and need to kill. There is perhaps a not so simple answer to the question in relation to this particular killer, but Robb doesn’t attempt to over simplify the debate at all with a one size fits all explanation.
The characters in the story are very compelling. From Eve Dallas, a powerful and intuitive Detective shaped a little by her past (as all good Detectives must be), to her partner, the slightly more quirky but no less proficient Peabody, all of the key players are well defined, unique in their own way, and very likeable. Even the way in which the two killers are portrayed, from one blinded by loss and the need for revenge to the other who lacks any kind of moral code, makes them intrigiuing.
The power of the relationship between Eve and Roarke is also very compelling and the way in which he supports, protects and loves her is refreshing. He assists but does not try to dominate and theirs is a love which is simple, passionate and true. He is seemingly quite the perfect man – handsome, rich, genius level intelligence and a slightly murky past to boot. What’s not to like?
As I said before, the pacing is just about perfect. From the considered assessment of the original crime scene, to the more frantic pace of trying to contain the other scenes where the sniper may still be on site, the potential for further victims great, Robb does let up. The take down scenes are dramatic, almost claustrophobic at times, and you live every moment with Eve as she battles to stop the snipers in their tracks. And as a reader I shared the satisfaction of knowing that the killer was played at their own game, that their overwhelming cockiness and lack of remorse would be their ultimate undoing.
A very thrilling 5 stars.
My thanks to Netgalley and publishers Little, Brown Book Group UK for the advance copy of ‘Apprentice In Death’ by J.D. Robb in exchange for my review.
‘Apprentice in Death’ is available from 6th September and can be ordered here: