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By Norah Roberts writing as J.D. Robb

Putnam, 2006 ($24.95) Hardcover
ISBN: 0-399-15328-4

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

New York City, December 2059.In the 22nd "in death" series, Eve Dallas is having a lousy Christmas season.She has to deal with a potted and splatted "sidewalk Santa," a purse-snatcher, and other unpleasant chores, but that's all in a day's work for the NYC detective.Her hard-won calm is threatened, however, when a pleasant middle-aged woman walks into her office and opens up a box of childhood memories she's spent decades suppressing.Trudy Lombard was one of many foster mothers Eve was foisted off on in her early years.Perhaps she was one of the worst. Her abuse of the traumatized child was not physical, but mental.The authorities never suspected what went on in the family home behind closed doors: Trudy was a master of deceit and cunning.

Eve finally made her escape and hoped never to see the woman again.Now, two decades later, the monster with the face of a normal human being shows up in Eve's office, acting like she was a loving, caring mother, happy at long last to find her dearest foster daughter.Eve doesn't buy the act and sends Trudy packing, but when the door closes behind her, all the memories of being starved and locked in a barren, dark room day after endless day comes flooding back.Eve shoves aside her worried partner Peabody and rushes home to have a total meltdown.It takes all of her husband's resources to comfort her and calm her down. Soon her own strong survival skills kick in and her anguish turns to anger.

It takes her awhile to realize the true reason for Trudy's re-appearance in her life -- her husband is a very, very rich man. Roarke is one step ahead of her, and when Trudy shows up on his turf bent on blackmail, he has no trouble convincing her to stay out of Eve's life.His methods do not include murder, much as he might want to permanently remove Trudy from the world.

When her bruised and battered body is found in her hotel room, it is obvious Eve and Roarke were not the only ones with reason to hate her.

Eve takes on the case, first because it's her job, and second to help Trudy's son Bobby.He had shown kindness to Eve when they were children, braving his mother's wrath to sneak food into Eve's prison.He and his new wife Zana, a babe-in-the-woods Texas country girl, seem genuinely stunned by the murder.

Bobby knew what his mother did to the girls in her care was wrong, but he had no idea how evil Trudy truly was.Eve's investigations turn up several young women who'd been in Trudy's care over the years.All have reason to hate her, although some, like Eve, have managed to overcome the damage she did. Eve uncovers other possible motives for murder as she digs through the layers of Trudy's past.

As always, Robb gives the reader a good, solid mystery with chills, spills, and fun.

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