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By Norah Roberts writing as J.D. Robb

G.P. Putnam's, 2006 ($24.95)

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Eve Dallas has faced up to horrors of all kinds in her job as a homicide detective in New York City, calmly dealing with the aftermath of violent, messy crimes and taking down the criminals who committed them. She meets her match, however, when her best friend Mavis recruits her and her husband Roarke, captain of a mighty industrial empire, to act as labor coaches for the impending delivery of her first child. They are barely able to watch the graphic films of childbirth, even consider fleeing the city, or if need be the planet, to avoid fulfilling their duties. Still, friendship is stronger than nausea, and they do their best to meet their obligations. Eve even agrees to host a baby shower for Mavis, a task she has no clue about carrying out. Luckily, her partner Peabody does know what has to be done, and with a blank check from Eve she plans a party fit for a pop princess, which Mavis is.

Eve's difficulty in coping with this happy event provides comic relief for the very dark crime she tackles in this story. One of Mavis' buddies from childbirth class, Tandy Willowby, disappears under very suspicious circumstances. Eve soon learns that she is not the first pregnant, unmarried mother to disappear. The bodies of other young women turn up, mutilated, with no sign of the babies they were carrying. Some of the powers that be want to write off Tandy's disappearance as a runaway, but Peabody knows different, and begs Eve to help her find her missing friend. Even though she knows she should turn the case over to Missing Persons, and even though she is busy trying to solve the murder of two employees of a prestigious accounting firm, Eve agrees to find out what happened to Tandy. It is soon evident that the crimes are interrelated, and involve people in very high places preying on the most vulnerable victims.

There is much to enjoy in each Eve Dallas story: the description of police procedures in the near future world of 2060, the interactions of Eve with her friends and colleagues, the still torrid romance between Eve and Roarke, the well-plotted mystery, and the fine writing. This is my favorite in the series. So far.

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