Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

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Overview

In the latest novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author J.D. Robb, it is game over for the criminals pursued by NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world, to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king, in his company's latest top-secret project, Fantastical.

The next morning, he is found in the same ...

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Fantasy in Death (In Death Series #30)

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Overview

In the latest novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author J.D. Robb, it is game over for the criminals pursued by NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world, to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king, in his company's latest top-secret project, Fantastical.

The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game. . . .

NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim's girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a prob­lem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks-as Eve's husband, Roarke, one of U- Play's competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one.

Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lt. Eve Dallas, a top homicide cop for the New York Police and Security Department (the law enforcement agency for a mid 21st-century New York City), faces one of the more challenging cases of her career in bestseller Robb's exciting 31st “in death” novel (after Kindred in Death). When someone cuts off the head of Bart Minnock, the genius founder of the computer gaming company U-Play, apparently while he was role-playing against an imaginary opponent in a prototype of a fantasy adventure that could rock the industry, Eve investigates. Security logs show no one entered Minnock's building around the time of his murder, presenting a futuristic variation on the classic locked-room mystery. Aided by her husband, Roarke, who was a potential business rival of the victim, Dallas focuses on who would benefit from Minnock's death. Robb is the pseudonym of romantic suspense author Nora Roberts. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594134043
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Series: In Death Series , #30
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 558
  • Sales rank: 1,049,077
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times-bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including High Noon, Angels Fall, Blue Smoke, and Northern Lights. She is also the author of the bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J. D. Robb. There are more than 280 million copies of her books in print.

Biography

Not only has Nora Roberts written more bestsellers than anyone else in the world (according to Publishers Weekly), she’s also created a hybrid genre of her own: the futuristic detective romance. And that’s on top of mastering every subgenre in the romance pie: the family saga, the historical, the suspense novel. But this most prolific and versatile of authors might never have tapped into her native talent if it hadn't been for one fateful snowstorm.

As her fans well know, in 1979 a blizzard trapped Roberts at home for a week with two bored little kids and a dwindling supply of chocolate. To maintain her sanity, Roberts started scribbling a story -- a romance novel like the Harlequin paperbacks she'd recently begun reading. The resulting manuscript was rejected by Harlequin, but that didn't matter to Roberts. She was hooked on writing. Several rejected manuscripts later, her first book was accepted for publication by Silhouette.

For several years, Roberts wrote category romances for Silhouette -- short books written to the publisher's specifications for length, subject matter and style, and marketed as part of a series of similar books. Roberts has said she never found the form restrictive. "If you write in category, you write knowing there's a framework, there are reader expectations," she explained. "If this doesn't suit you, you shouldn't write it. I don't believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn't read for pleasure."

Roberts never violated the reader's expectations, but she did show a gift for bringing something fresh to the romance formula. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred (1981), had as its heroine a strong-willed horse groom, in contrast to the fluttering young nurses and secretaries who populated most romances at the time. But Roberts's books didn't make significant waves until 1985, when she published Playing the Odds, which introduced the MacGregor clan. It was the first bestseller of many.

Roberts soon made a name for herself as a writer of spellbinding multigenerational sagas, creating families like the Scottish MacGregors, the Irish Donovans and the Ukrainian Stanislaskis. She also began working on romantic suspense novels, in which the love story unfolds beneath a looming threat of violence or disaster. She grew so prolific that she outstripped her publishers' ability to print and market Nora Roberts books, so she created an alter ego, J.D. Robb. Under the pseudonym, she began writing romantic detective novels set in the future. By then, millions of readers had discovered what Publishers Weekly called her "immeasurable diversity and talent."

Although the style and substance of her books has grown, Roberts remains loyal to the genre that launched her career. As she says, "The romance novel at its core celebrates that rush of emotions you have when you are falling in love, and it's a lovely thing to relive those feelings through a book."

Good To Know

Roberts still lives in the same Maryland house she occupied when she first started writing -- though her carpenter husband has built on some additions. She and her husband also own Turn the Page Bookstore Café in Boonsboro, Maryland. When Roberts isn't busy writing, she likes to drop by the store, which specializes in Civil War titles as well as autographed copies of her own books.

Roberts sued fellow writer Janet Dailey in 1997, accusing her of plagiarizing numerous passages of her work over a period of years. Dailey paid a settlement and publicly apologized, blaming stress and a psychological disorder for her misconduct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      J. D. Robb; Sarah Hardesty; Jill March; Eleanor Marie Robertson (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Keedysville, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Silver Spring, Maryland

Read an Excerpt

While swords of lightning slashed and stabbed murderously across the scarred shield of sky, Bart Minnock whistled his way home for the last time. Despite the battering rain, Bart’s mood bounced along with his cheerful tune as he shot his doorman a snappy salute.

“Howzit going, Mr. Minnock?”

“It’s going up, Jackie. Going way uptown.”

“This rain could do the same, if you ask me.”

“What rain?” With a laugh, Bart sloshed his way in soaked skids to the elevator.

Thunder exploded across the island of Manhattan, midday commuters sulked under overpriced umbrellas bought from enterprising sidewalk hawkers and maxibuses spewed up walls of wet. But in Bart’s world the sun beamed in golden rays.

He had a hot date with the sexy CeeCee, which in itself was nothing to sneeze at for a self-proclaimed nerd who’d been a virgin until the somewhat embarrassing age of twenty-four.

Five years later, and largely because of the success of U-Play, he could have his pick from a bevy of eager women—even if the eager was mostly due to the money and media his company generated.

He didn’t mind.

He knew he wasn’t especially good-looking and accepted his own awkwardness in romantic situations. (Except for sexy CeeCee.) He didn’t know art or literature, didn’t know a good vintage from a bottle of home brew. What he knew were computers and games and the seduction of technology.

Still, CeeCee was different, he thought as he turned off the locks and security on his trilevel apartment with its four-star view of downtown. She liked gaming, and didn’t care about vintage wine or art galleries.

But even the evening with the sweet and sexy CeeCee wasn’t the reason for the whistling or the big, bright grin on his face as he reset the door locks.

He had the latest version of Fantastical in his briefcase, and until he tested it, played it, approved it, it was all his.

His in-house intercom greeted him with a cheery Welcome home, Bart, and his server droid—custom-made to replicate Princess Leia, classic Star Wars, slave-girl mode (he was a nerd, but he was still a guy)—strolled out to offer him his favorite orange fizzy with crushed ice.

“You’re home early today.”

“I’ve got some work to do in the holo-room.”

"Don’t work too hard. You need to leave in two hours and twelve minutes to arrive at CeeCee’s apartment on time. You’re scheduled to pick up flowers on the way. Will you be staying the night?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Enjoy. Your shoes are very wet. Would you like me to get you a fresh pair?”

“No, that’s okay. I’ll grab some on the way up.”

“Don’t forget,” she said with the quick Leia smirk that always tickled him. “Should I give you a reminder about your date closer to departure time?”

He set his briefcase aside, shook back the light brown hair that forever fell into his eyes. “That’s okay. I’ll set up a buzz in holo. You can just shut down for the night.”

“All right. I’m here if you need me.”

Normally, he’d have used his personal Leia for some conversational practice, might have had her keep him company while he unwound from the day and talked about current projects. There was nothing like a droid as far as Bart was concerned. They never judged, unless you programmed them to.

But Fantastical called him. He opened his briefcase, took out the disc, gave it a friendly kiss as he started up the stairs.

He’d decorated his spaces to his own whim and taste, so toys abounded. Props, weapons, costumes, and art from vids and games served as decor and amusement with every room on every level outfitted with various game systems, vid systems, screens, and comps.

It was, for Bart, a dream realized. He lived, as he worked, in a big e-playroom.

His second-floor office was a to-scale reproduction of the bridge of the galactic warship The Valiant, from the vid of the same name. His work on the gaming discs for the vid had given his fledgling U-Play its true start.

He forgot about changing his shoes, or changing his wet shirt, and went straight to the third floor.

Security on the holo-room required his thumbprint, voiceprint, and a retinal scan. Overkill, he knew, but it was more fun that way, and fun was always the name of the game. He might have opened up the space regularly for friends and guests, but he liked having the superspy aspects in place.

He reactivated them on entering, then shut down all outside coms. For the hour—okay maybe ninety minutes—he intended to play, he wanted no interruptions.

The whole point of gaming, to Bart’s mind, was the immersion of self in the fantasy, or the competition, or just the fun. And Fantastical would take that immersion of self several steps beyond what was on the market in mid-2060.

If the latest adjustments and enhancements worked, the businessman inside the gamer reminded him.

“They’ll work. It’ll be mag to the nth,” he muttered as he inserted the disc and ran through the startup. Once again he used his voiceprint, then his password. The new version was totally top secret. He and his partners hadn’t built U-Play on geek alone. He understood, very well, the cutthroat business in the gaming field, and actually found the corporate espionage kind of a rush.

He was a player, he thought. Not just in games but in the business of games. U-Play’s success provided everything he and his friends, his partner, had talked about, dreamed about, worked for.

With Fantastical, they’d be kicking it all up—and—fingers crossed—become major players.

He’d already decided on the scenario, a favorite, and the level. He’d practiced, studied, refined, and reworked this fantasy, the elements of it countless times during development, and now set for the game he code-named K2BK. He’d take the role of the battered and cynical hero, battling the evil forces of the beleaguered kingdom of Juno on the endangered planet of Gort.

The mirrored walls of the holo-room reflected him as the light began to swirl and dim, as his damp and wrinkled khakis and Captain Zee’s T-shirt, his wet skids transformed into the scarred battle gear and boots of the warrior king.

In his hand he felt the hilt, and the weight of the broadsword. And that rush, yes, that new rush of his embodiment of the hero, and the battle to come.

Excellent, he thought. Excellente primo. He could smell as well as see the smoke of battle, and the blood already spilled. He reached up, felt the bulge of biceps, the pucker of an old scar.

Twinges and aches throughout his body spoke of wounds barely healed, a lifetime of combat.

Best, he felt strong, bold, brave, fierce. He became the courageous warrior king about to lead his exhausted, wounded, and unnumbered people into battle.

He let out a war cry—because he could—and heard the power of his voice shake the air.

It rocked completely.

A scruff of beard covered his face, and a tangle of hair tickled his neck and shoulders.

He was Tor, the warrior, the protector and rightly King of Juno. He mounted his warhorse—on the second try, which wasn’t bad—and charged into battle. He heard the cries of friend and foe as swords clashed and fire lances spewed death. His beloved Juno burned so he hacked his way through the lines while blood splattered and sweat streamed down his skin.

At his partner Benny’s suggestion they’d added an optional love interest. In order to reach his woman, a brave and beautiful warrior courageously defending the castle walls, he had to fight his way to the front and engage in the ultimate battle—mano a mano with the evil Lord Manx.

He’d reached this level countless times during development, had gone beyond it only a handful as he programmed the challenge to the top of the scale. It took skill, timing, agility to fight through, to dodge the flames from lance and arrow, to deflect the slash of sword—or what was the point?

Any hit would lower his score, potentially send him into humiliating retreat, or a valiant death. This time he wasn’t looking just to beat the level, but to hit a new record.

His horse screamed in challenge as they galloped through the stink of smoke, leaped over bodies of the fallen. He braced and clung when the horse reared, and still was nearly unseated.

Every time that happened, he met Manx on foot, and every time he met Manx on foot, he lost Juno, the woman, and the game.

Not this time, he swore, and gave another booming cry as he broke through the smoke.

And there, the walls of home where the brave fought those who tried to destroy it. And there, the dark, fearful visage of Lord Manx, sword red with the blood of innocents. He felt a pang—for loss, for the happier times of his childhood before murder and deceit had sullied it.

“Your trap failed,” Bart called out.

“I would have been disappointed otherwise.” Manx grinned, his black eyes shining with death. “It was always my wish to meet you here, to end you and your line on this ground.”

“It will end here, and with your blood.”

The men charged; swords met. A snap of lightning Bart had added for drama spurted and sizzled from the cross of the blades.

Bart felt the impact race up his arm, and the bolt of pain in his shoulder had him making a mental note to lower the levels on the default. Realism was important, but he didn’t want gamers bitching because they’d programmed it too hot.

He turned into the next strike, blocking it, and he felt a wrenching pop in his shoulder. He nearly called for a pause in the program, but was too busy dodging a swipe.

What the hell, he thought as he struck out and nearly got by Manx’s guard, winning wasn’t winning until you worked for it.

“Your woman will be mine before nightfall,” Manx snarled.

“She’ll dance on your—hey!” His sword slipped, and his enemy’s blade sliced his arm. Instead of the quick jolt to mark the hit, the pain seared. “What the hell. Pause—”

But for Bart, it was game over.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas badged the shell-shocked doorman and breezed by. The sun and sultry heat left over from the night’s storms boosted her mood. At her side, her partner, Peabody, wilted.

“A couple months ago all you did was bitch about the cold. Now you bitch about the heat. Never satisfied.”

Peabody, her dark hair pulled back in a stubby tail, continued to bitch. “Why can’t they regulate the temperature?”

“Who are they?”

“The weather people. We must have the technology. Why not give us at least a couple weeks of steady mid-seventies? It’s not too much to ask. You could get Roarke to work on it.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll tell him to get on that, right after he buys up the last ten percent of the universe.” Eve rocked back on her heels as they took the elevator up, and thought of her husband of almost two years.

Actually, he probably could figure something. “If you want regulated temps, get a job where you work inside with climate control.”

“June’s supposed to be daisies and wafty breezes.” Peabody waved a hand in the air. “Instead we’re getting thunder boomers and humiture to kill."

“I like the boomers.”

Peabody’s dark eyes narrowed as she studied Eve’s angular face. “You probably had lots of sex last night. You’re almost perky.”

“Shut up. I’m never perky.”

“Almost. You’re verging on perk.”

“You’re verging on a boot up the ass.”

“That’s better anyway.”

Amused despite herself, Eve straightened her long, lean frame, then strode out the elevator when the doors whisked open.

The uniforms in the hallway came to attention. “Lieutenant.”

“Officer. What have we got?”

“Victim’s Bart Minnock, the U-Play guy.”

“You play what?”

“U-Play, sir, it’s the comp and holo-game company. The girlfriend found him this morning. He stood her up last night, she says, and she came to read him the riot act. House droid let her in, and when she got here he was locked in his holo-room, got the droid to open it up.” The uniform paused. “I think you’re going to want to see for yourself.”

“Where’s the girlfriend?”

“CeeCee Rove. We’ve got her inside, and an officer’s with her. Got the droid on hold.”

“We’ll take the scene first.” She stepped inside, scanned. What she could see of the first level struck her as a clubhouse for a very rich, very indulgent adolescent boy.

Bright, primary colors with more cushion than structure, walls of screens, games, and more games, toys—heavy on the war toys. Not a living area so much as a big playroom. She supposed, given his profession, it fit.

“Third floor, LT. There’s an elevator.”

“We’ll take the stairs.”

“It’s like a personal fun park,” Peabody commented as they started up. “McNab would weep with joy and envy,” she added, thinking of her main man. “I’ve got to say, it’s pretty frosty.”

“He might live like a kid, but he had very grown-up security on the door.” She detoured on the second level long enough to determine the master bedroom was another playground, the guest rooms equipped for plenty of entertainment. He kept a home office that reminded her of a small version of Roarke’s home computer lab, but with more fanciful touches.

“Serious about his work,” she murmured. “Lived his work.” She backtracked to the stairs and up to the officer on the door of the holo-room.

“This door was secured?”

“The girlfriend states it was, sir, and the coms shut down. The droid confirms. It had emergency bypass clearance. The log shows the victim entering, then securing the room at sixteen thirty-three. No other entry or attempted entry until nine-eighteen this morning.”

“Okay.” Both Eve and Peabody opened their field kits, sealed up.

“Record on,” she said and stepped to the doorway.

She wasn’t often surprised. She’d been a cop nearly a dozen years, and though she knew she hadn’t seen it all—you never did—she’d seen plenty.

But her long brown eyes widened briefly as she took in the scene.

“Now, this is something you don’t see every day.”

“Man. Oh, man.” Peabody sucked in a sharp breath.

“Don’t even think about booting.”

“Have to think about it.” Peabody swallowed hard. “Won’t do it.”

The body lay sprawled, arms and legs splayed in the bloody pool that spread over the floor. The head sat several feet away, the filmed eyes wide, the mouth in a gaping O.

“It must be said the victim lost his head, which is a pretty good guess for cause of death. Alone in a secured holo-room, no weapons. Interesting. Well, let’s have a look.”

She heard Peabody swallow again.

“Take the play board, see what he programmed,” she ordered. “And I want all security discs and logs, building and for this unit.”

“On that,” Peabody said, grateful for the reprieve as Eve crossed to the body.

For the record, Eve verified the fingerprints. “Victim is identified as Bart Minnock of this address, age twenty-nine.” She pulled out a pair of microgoggles. “From the on-scene exam, it appears the head was severed with a single, powerful blow. No signs of sawing or hacking.” She ignored the discreet gagging sound from Peabody’s direction. “In addition, the victim incurred a six-inch gash on his left forearm. There’s some bruising, but none of those wounds would’ve been fatal. ME to confirm. Morris is going to love this one,” she added, then rose to examine the head.

“Had to be a hell of a blade—big, sharp bastard, to decapitate this clean. A lot of force behind it. The secondary gash could’ve come from the same weapon. Glancing blow sort of thing. Defensive wound. The bruising’s pretty minor.”

She sat back on her heels, the head at her feet. “There’s nothing in here that could’ve caused these wounds. No way he could’ve cut his own head off, deliberately or by accident with what he had to work with.”

“I can’t get it to run,” Peabody told her. “The program. The disc won’t even eject without the proper security sequence. All I’ve got is the log-in time and program end time. It ran for just over thirty minutes, and ended at seventeen-eleven.”

“So he came home, came up here almost directly, programmed the game. It looks like it, and he, ran for the thirty minutes. We need an e-team and the sweepers in here. I want the ME to red-flag the tox screen. Maybe somebody slipped him something, influenced him to bypass his own security, somehow keep it off the logs. Set it up, then take the droid. I’ll take the girlfriend.”

Eve found CeeCee in the media room on the first level. A pretty blond with an explosion of curls, she sat in one of the roomy chairs. It dwarfed her, even with her legs tucked up, and her hands clasped in her lap. Her eyes—big, bright, and blue—were red-rimmed, puffy, and still carried the glassiness of shock.

Eve dismissed the officer with a nod, then crossed over to sit.

“Ms. Rove?”

“Yes. I’m supposed to stay here. Somebody took my ’link. I should tag somebody, shouldn’t I? Somebody.”

“We’ll get that back to you. I’m Lieutenant Dallas. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“I told somebody.” CeeCee looked around vaguely. “The other police. I’ve been thinking. Is Bart playing a joke? He does that sometimes. Plays jokes. He likes to pretend. Is this all pretend?”

“No, it’s not.” Eve took the chair facing so her gaze would be level with CeeCee’s. “You were supposed to meet him last night?”

“At my place. At eight. I made dinner. We were going to have dinner at my place because I like to cook. Well, sometimes. But he didn’t come.”

“What did you do?”

“He can be late. It’s okay. He gets caught up. Sometimes I’m late, so it’s okay. But he didn’t come, and he didn’t answer the ’link. I tried his office, too, but Benny said he left a little after four to work at home for a bit.”

“Benny?”

“Benny Leman. He works with Bart, and he was still there. They work late, a lot. They like to.”

“Did you come over here to find out what he was doing?”

“No. I almost did. I got pretty steamed because I went to a lot of trouble, you know? I mean I cooked, and I got wine and candles, everything.” She drew in a breath that hitched and stuttered. “And he didn’t come or let me know he’d be late. He forgets, and that’s okay, but he always answers his ’link, or remembers before it’s really late. He sets reminders. But I was pretty steamed, and it was storming. I thought, ‘I’m not going out in this.’ So I drank some wine and I ate dinner, and I went to bed. Screw it.”

She covered her face, keening a little, rocking herself while Eve stayed silent. “I just said screw it, screw you, Bart, because I’d made a really nice dinner. But this morning, I was really, really steamed because he never came or tried to reach me, and I didn’t have to be to work till ten, so I came by. I thought, okay, that’s okay, we’re going to have our first big fight because that’s no way to treat somebody. Is it?”

“No. How long have you been seeing each other?”

“Almost six months.”

“And this would’ve been your first big fight? Seriously?”

CeeCee smiled a little even as tears continued to drip. “I got a little bit steamed once in a while, but you can’t stay mad at Bart. He’s such a sweetie. But this time, I was laying it down. Leia let me in.”

“Who’s Leia?”

“Oh, his house droid. He had her designed to look like the Star Wars character. From Return of the Jedi.”

“Okay.”

“Anyway, she said he was in the holo-room, fully secured, and had the coms down. DO NOT DISTURB. That according to her morning log, he’d been in there since about four-thirty or something the day before. So I got worried. Like maybe he’d gotten sick in there, or passed out, and I convinced her to bypass.”

“You convinced a droid?”

“Bart programmed her to listen to me after we’d been tight for a few months. Plus he’d been in over his twelve-hour limit. Then she opened the room, and . . .”

Her lips trembled; her eyes welled anew. “How can it be real? First I thought it was, and I screamed. Then I thought it was a joke, or a droid, and I almost got steamed again. Then I saw it was Bart. It was Bart. And it was horrible.”

“What did you do?”

“I think I kind of fainted. But, like, on my feet. I don’t know, for a second or a minute everything went black and swirly, and when it wasn’t, I ran.” Tears streamed down her cheeks even as she flushed. “I ran downstairs. I almost fell, but I got downstairs and I called nine-one-one. Leia made me sit down, and she made me tea. She said there’d been an accident and we had to wait for the police. That would be in her programming, I guess. But it can’t be an accident. How can it be an accident? But it has to be.”

“Do you know anyone who’d want to hurt Bart?”

“How could anyone want to hurt Bart? He’s just a big kid. A really smart big kid.”

“How about family?”

“His parents live in North Carolina. He bought them a house on the beach because they always wanted one, once U-Play took off. Oh God, oh God, his parents! Somebody has to tell them.”

“I’ll take care of that.”

“Okay, okay.” She shut her eyes tight. “Good. Because I don’t think I could. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to do any of this.”

“What about you? Old boyfriends?”

Her eyes popped open. “Oh God, no. I mean, yes, I had boyfriends before Bart, but nobody who’d . . . I never had the kind of breakup that would . . . I wasn’t seeing anybody special or regular before I hooked up with Bart.”

“How about at his business? Did he have to let anyone go recently, or reprimand anyone?”

“I don’t think so.” She swiped at her cheeks now as her brow furrowed in thought. “He never said anything to me, and he would’ve. I think. He hated confrontations, except in a game. He’d have told me if he’d had trouble with anyone at work, I really think. He’s a happy guy, you know? He makes other people happy, too. How could it happen? I don’t know how this could happen. Do you?”

“Not yet.”

She had CeeCee escorted home, then began her own room-by-room. Plenty of them, she thought, and each designed so the occupants could play in comfort. Roomy chairs, oversized sofas shouted out in their bright colors. Nothing dull for Bart. The menus of the AutoChefs and Friggies ran to those adolescent tastes again—pizza, burgers, dogs, chips, candy. Fizzies and soft drinks outnumbered wine and beer and liquor.

She found no illegals, and only the mildest of over-the-counter chemical aids.

She’d nearly completed her initial search of the master bedroom when Peabody came in.

"No illegals that I’ve come across,” Eve began. “No sex toys either, though he’s got some porn on vid and on game discs. Most of the comps throughout are passcoded, and those that aren’t are game-only. No data, no com.”

“The droid confirms the girlfriend’s statement to the first-on-scene,” Peabody told her. “The vic told her to shut down for the night after he got home, and her log confirms she did. She has an auto-wake for nine, which activated as the vic didn’t start her up prior. She’s a little spooky.”

“How?”

“Efficient. Plus she doesn’t look like a droid. She doesn’t have any of the tells, like the occasional stuttering, the blank stare while it processes data. Definitely cutting-edge there. I know she didn’t actually feel shock and grief, but it seemed like she did. It did. She asked me if someone would contact his parents. That’s active thinking. It’s not droidlike.”

“Or it’s careful and thorough programming. Let’s find out more about U-Play. You don’t get a trilevel in this neighborhood for chump change. Let’s find out who gets the money, and who’s lined up to take over the company. We need to know what he was working on. And who was as good as he was.”

She paused, looked around the room again. “Somebody got in here, got past the droid, got into that holo-room without leaving a discernable trace.”

She only knew one person who’d be able to pull that off—and she was married to him. Maybe Roarke would know another.

Priority is to get that disc out of the holo-room unit, run it.”

“E-team’s on the way, and so are the sweepers. One of the uniforms got all security discs for the last twenty-four.”

“You keep on the room-by-room. I’m going to notify next of kin via’ link. We’ll see what EDD can do for us, then we’ll pay a visit to U-Play.”

She took a few moments after the notification to let it all settle. She’d just crushed the lives of two people she hadn’t known existed less than an hour before, Eve thought as she sat on the side of Bart Minnock’s bed. They would never really be the same, nothing would ever be as it had been for them.

Murder did that. Took lives, crushed others, changed still others forever.

So why had someone needed or wanted to end Bart Minnock’s existence? And why had they chosen the method used?

Money. Jealousy. Revenge. Secrets. Passion.

From all appearances, he had money, she thought, and ran a quick, standard financial. Okay, he had money, and U-Play was a strong, young company. Her first instinct was to take CeeCee at her word. No jealous exes. But money often generated jealousy. Revenge might come through a competitor, or an employee who felt shafted or underappreciated.

Secrets, everyone had a few. Passion? Gaming had certainly been the victim’s.

Method . . . Murder during game play. Kind of poetic in a sick way. Decapitation. Sever the head—the brain—and the body falls. Minnock was the brains of U-Play it seemed from her quick run. Would the body fall without him? Or was someone ready and waiting to slip in and take over?

Whatever the answers, the method had been bold, purposeful, and complex. God knew there were easier ways to kill. It was very likely the killer was just as serious and devoted to gaming as his victim.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 473 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 475 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    strong futuristic police procedural

    Four partners founded the computer-gaming firm U-Play. One of them Bart Minnock is the glue that holds the group together. He comes home one day, locks his door, enters his inner sanction and begins to play the new cutting -edge word-wielding warrior game Fantastical, the firm's newest which is cutting edge and not yet released to the public.. He is shocked when his hologram is hit and he feels the pain.

    The next day NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned the locked room murder of Bart Minnock, who was found lying on his blood soaked floor. Eve struggles with figuring out how the victim was killed before she can focus on who the culprit is. Until the police entered, the door was locked with no evidence of any tampering yet someone entered and left leaving in spite of a security droid who it says no one was there. However her investigation forces the killer to target the persistent cop and her wealthy spouse and "technical consultant" Roarke.

    J.D. Robb consistently writes a strong futuristic police procedural with a deep romantic subplot enhancing the mysteries; now at an incredible thirty tales. Eve is a strong stubborn individual who refuses to quit though progress in terms of resolving opportunity is lacking. Recurring characters make appearances, which provide a feel of continuity to long term fans. Filled with action, Fantasy in Death is a terrific five decades in the future locked door whodunit.

    Harriet Klausner

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    EXCITING!

    Fantasy in Death follows the murder of Bart Minnock one of the co-owners of U-Play, a company in the midst of creating a new game that would change the gaming world. Bart is murdered inside a locked room with no murder weapon or person present. Eve's introspection on friendship, partnership and love is an interesting feature. She's really starting to get the hang of being married and is lovable, sweet and funny. Enjoyed the investigative journey to find the murderer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantasy In Death Review (J.D. Robb)

    Synopsis:
    Refreshed from her previous caseload, the ever-ready Lt. Eve Dallas isn't quite so ready for the scene she finds at gaming guru Bart Minnock's supped up apartment.

    Apparently the late Bart Minnock, co-founder and face of up and coming gaming company U-Play, was on the verge of finishing up and marketing a game that would catapult his company to tops of the gaming industry and would have been considered "to die for," and he did, when someone decided to take a chop at him. Now, the strong and sexy Eve Dallas must use all of her wits and resources to track a killer that, by all rights, doesn't exist.

    With a victim everyone seemed to love, a very short short list, no witnesses or physical evidence and another member of U-Play's founding team in the ICU, Eve is racing the clock to catch a killer who just may be better at the game than she; but can she do it without losing her head?

    Review:
    This was a great read, as are all of the In Death books. If you have read all the books in the series and have become familiar with the twists and turns and thought process of Lieutenant Eve Dallas, the book may become a little predictable towards the middle and continue on to the end.

    I was not very impressed with the way the book ended and have come to expect more of a shock value from J.D. Robb's writing. While the book is still as good as any another installment of the In Death legacy, with this succeeding Promises In Death (which was phenomenal), I was expecting a bit more of a challenge.

    The vivid imagery and ideological technology the plot surrounds gives the book a very nice edge that geeks everywhere will appreciate; myself included. While the ideas of the future presented in each In Death installment are always interesting and thought-provoking-especially beginning with Divided In Death where more technological focus was brought in-this book centers on it!

    Being a geek doesn't mean you have to love flying cars. While I'm not a huge fan of what many peoples ideas or thoughts of the future are, I have always enjoyed that J.D. Robb does not focus on that element, but makes it blissfully apparent what the environment will be like-to her mind or simply for this series-in 2059-2060. You don't have to be afraid of being inundated with "sci-fi" when you read these books. She (J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts) pours it on with the skill of a pastry chef! Just enough to keep your sweet tooth from aching from the onslaught of sugar.

    Speaking of sugar, I have always respected the love scenes in the In Death books between Roarke and Eve. Scenes filled with love and passion and, at times, fun and lust. But not filth. The love scenes neither diminish the books themselves nor the plots therein. They have a way of sucking you in and making you feel the emotions between them.

    Conclusion:
    Even if you're not satisfied 100% with the way the book ends, you'll love it. J.D. Robb delivers again. Whatever the book may be lacking in certain areas, it makes up for in others. And it gives us hope for the next! Check it out for yourself. A DEFINITE recommend!! Enjoy!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Another Winner(a 4 3/4 star review)

    While a lot of readers have complained how the series has run into a rut, I believe "Fantasy In Death" proves that there are still plenty of things to write about in 2060 New York City. I tried to pace myself,I really did! This particular story has is much more of a "thinker's" story,and is packed with more E-info than normal. Eve, Peabody, Feeney and the EDD Division geeks(as well as Roarke, my favorite "expert consultant, civilian") are are wrapped up in a classic Christie style locked room mystery. It's fascinating to see how the grand dame's plot of the early 20th century finds itself in mid 21st century New York. A headless corpse,no weapon, a locked secure room...Read very carefully! A quick cameo by Nadine, Mavis, Leonardo and Belle is just enough without taking away from the story's pace. My only complaint is how the story seems to completely wrap up exactly by the last chapter,and the whole thing seemed rushed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Another Hit by J.D. Robb

    I have read all of J.D. Robbs' In Death series, she continues to amaze me with her quick wit, exquisitely consistant characterisation, and truly devious plots. And this book Fantasy in Death, was another #1 in my opinion example of her writing.

    If you haven't read any of her prior books, you don't need to because she does an excellent job, given the readers enough information without being boring or wordy to introduce her characters. I find that ability a huge plus and it does help get the reader back into her series, even though you haven't read one of the other books in a while.

    As for this book specifically, and no I don't do spoilers, I will have to say -- this was an incredibly clever plot that left me guessing who had done it until she revealed the 'whom' in the book.

    Well written, lots of fun, and a very enjoyable read.

    Enjoy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    Implausible

    I'm a big fan of the In Death series, and of Nora Roberts/J. D. Robb's writing in general. And I have to respect anyone with guts enough to juggle THREE different genres at once: romance, police procedural, and science fiction. Roberts long ago retired the trophy for romance writing, and as J. D. Robb her police procedure is as good as any I've seen. But when she steps into the sci-fi world, she stumbles. All too often, she refers to some "futuristic" component of her world that is actually way out of date, such as the ubiquitous use of computer discs. Most major computer manufacturers stopped making computers with floppy drives a decade ago. Most of the time we can overlook this, because the focus is on the characters, the mystery, the who and the why. But in Fantasy in Death, Robb puts the focus on the how, and this is where she drops the ball. I don't want to spoil the book. But the solution to this mystery is, basically, implausible. It's Star Trek science, where mysterious mumbling substitutes for honest science. Yes, the "fiction" in "science fiction" allows great leeway for a writer, but there comes a point where the fiction outweighs the science, and the reader's suspension of disbelief crashes to the ground. Physics simply does not work the way Robb wants it to in this novel. If it did, her future world would be a LOT weirder than it is. When I was reading this book, I started to suspect early on where Robb was taking this story; I said, "No, she knows better than that. She's not going there." But she does. I kept thinking she was fooling us with red herrings and misdirection, but no, she winds up presenting us with an ending that would have gotten a first year physics student sent to the back of the class.
    I'm certainly willing to stretch a point for a writer who has given me so many hours of entertainment. But when I read 270-odd pages with a growing sense of disbelief and disappointment, I have to conclude that this one confused even the author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ROBB CONTINUES THE SAGA

    i enjoyed this book and it was an easy read. I am not sure there are many more plot lines for Robb to get Dallas and Rourke into. In my opinion her story lines are running thin. Eve Dallas is either going to have a baby or find Rourke out of money.
    There are just so many murder plots. This book follows a kind of "cookie cutter plot"

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Dallas and Rourke capture the reader again.

    Having read all of the Eve Dallas "Death" series books, I have yet to be disappointed. As the lead characters grow as individuals and as the best crime-stopper team in literature, we learn to love and respect them more and more. This latest edition continues to show the Eve/Rourke struggle with their "perfect love" and the evolution of a fascinating "cop crew" of supporting characters.
    This edition mingles the present-day love we have for all things gaming with the futuristic possibility of turn a fun experience into a deadly game of betrayal. Each book leaves me wanting more and this one was no exception.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    A great read!

    As always, Nora Roberts comes through with the newest of her In Death series. Entertaining, fast past and with enjoyable characters. The only issue I have is that I sometimes wonder how Roarke can run a multi-billion dollar business when he spends so much time as an "civilian expert". But that aside, it is a great kickback and relax read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantasy in Death is a True Fantasy

    This is the latest strong Eve Dallas book and stands up to the series' reputation of being fast-paced, strong, and a good balanced mix of romance and thriller. Lead character Eve Dallas explores yet another facet of her own personality, her relationship with her husband Roarke, and her relationships with her friends and partners as she works to solve a puzzling and frustrating case. Her theory about cause of death is a fascinating change from her usual seeing is believing attitude and makes for an interesting scene when she has to sell it to the kind of people most likely to have thought of it in the first place but who are reluctant to consider it--probably because they didn't think of it first! There isn't a lot of such favorite characters as Mavis and Nadine in this book, but plenty of Peabody and McNab to make up for it!

    I initially bought the audio version of this book and since I have listened to it twice since I bought it, I plan to purchase it for my nook as well. I highly recommend this book, and the entire series, for any reader of mystery, thriller, or romance...no matter what format you prefer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    love J.D. Robb!

    I thought this book did a great job of making the characters seem alive once more. This is the first book in awhile of hers that I read cover to cover without putting down. The plot line is interesting and the characters are smart and funny. I love Eve and Roarke and think that any person reading this and looking for a little romance will love them too. If you regularly read the in Death series by J.D. Robb you may have not liked the last couple books, but this book will make you enjoy them once again. I would highly recommend this book to not only regular readers but for any person looking for a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of fun!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    Another fantastic Installment for JD Robb

    I have been reading Nora Roberts/JD Robb for over 25 years (sometimes I find that hard to believe too) I started back when she was writing romances for different romance lines. I have never not bought her books since my first purchase. I have them all. I was so delighted when she came out with the In Death series (which I didn't know about until book 4 - I had to go to the book store and order the first 3). I NEVER read the back or inside of the book when it has either of her names on it - I just buy it because I know the quality of her work and it is tremendous. I look forward to each and every one of them and as soon as I buy them I have to read the whole thing - can't put it down. My love of my family and friends are the only thing above my love of reading and escaping into a world that this author creates - I'm either laughing, crying, or scared depending on the circumstance. Thank you Nora/JD, and please keep them coming.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2014

    Long and drawn out

    First time in the series I got bored with the story. Took me forever to get through this book. Not very exciting or interesting like the books usually are

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2014

    Boring

    One book I could not bother to finish A complete waste of money

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 14, 2014

    Oustanding - Definitely Recommend

    That book was absolutely fantastic! I enjoyed it from beginning to the very end!!! That was a hard one to come to the realization of who the guilty person was in the story line. It is absolutely a MUST READ BOOK, especially for mystery lovers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    yada, yada, yada. There are thirty-some titles in this series

    yada, yada, yada.



    There are thirty-some titles in this series, all around $8.00. You can save yourself some time and money by reading the 1st couple, the last couple, and skip all the in-betweens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    Cheap in every way

    Boring, predictable and annoying. I started skipping paragraphs when the "hip" vocabulary like 'link appeared in every sentence. Obvious suspects and even the action scenes were boring. No wonder this book is being sold brand new at the Dollar Tree where I found it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Highly Recommend. J.D.Robb is the best!

    J.D. ROBB books are fantastic. I love her style of writing. You will thoroughly enjoy reading them.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    did not buy it!

    don’t know, I never bought this

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    awesome

    Anothet great jd robb book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 475 Customer Reviews

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