Encore in Death by J. D. Robb #JDRobb @StMartinsPress

the setup…
Broadway and Hollywood megastars Eliza Lane & Brant Fitzhugh are hosting a party, celebrating the occasion of her return to Broadway in the revival of the play the launched her career. Everyone who’s important in the theater and film community are there to commemorate the event with rehearsals beginning the next day and Brant leaving to begin a new vid project. As Eliza and her co-star breakout into an impromptu duet, Brant raises a toast to her and then collapses, dying seconds later of apparent poisoning. It’s a scene of chaos that Lieutenant Eve Dallas and partner Detective Delia Peabody enter into with the monumental task of determining who’s lying and who’s telling the truth among a sea of skilled actors.

the heart of the story…
I chuckled when Eve was handed this case as it had to be one of her worst nightmares…a high profile investigation that promised lots of media attention with her at center “stage.” This was a tough one because from the inside and out, Eliza & Brant had a perfect marriage and relationship. And, it wasn’t totally clear who was the target as that poisoned drink was intended for her. There were a host of suspects and I latched onto one, never letting go until I was forced to admit defeat. There’s nothing easy about this one, which made it even more delectable.

the bottom line…
I loved the background for this case, full of talented professionals who were good at presenting faces that may not be their authentic selves. They were all so good that even Eve’s internal meter wasn’t reliable. It wasn’t all about the case as the updates on Peabody and Mavis’s home renovation project was fun and interesting. Of course, the normal dose of Eve & Roarke time was “icy,” too. The reveal of the killer and motive seriously caught me by surprise and that doesn’t happen often with these cases. This series is still holding up despite it now approaching almost 30 years since the first book, continuing to be one of my auto reads.

Book Info

  • Release Date: February 7, 2023
  • Series: In Death #56
  • Page Numbers: 375
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press



Chapter One

Death, unexpected and tragic, threw open the door to opportunity. At the tender age of eighteen, Eliza Lane walked through the door, entering stage left. And brought down the house.

Tears for a lost friend, for a member of her theatrical family, she wrote in her memoir, had to wait. The show must, and did, go on, and she dedicated her opening night performance in Upstage, and all that followed, to Leah Rose.

Leah Rose, dead at the tender age of eighteen from a deadly combination of pills and vodka, hours before her opening on Broadway.

And so Eliza—Angie, swing, understudy to Ms. Rose—stepped into the spotlight as Marcie Bright in Cabot and Lowe’s Upstage, September 22, 2036. Curtain at eight.

She’d held that spotlight for twenty-five years, through talent, discipline, hard work, a dedication to her craft, and a keen instinct for the right part at the right time.

There had been downs as well as ups. A broken ankle during rehearsals that had cost her a plum role in a film musical—for which her replacement won a Golden Globe. A shattered love affair in her twenties and the snickering media that followed. The deaths of her parents in a fatal car crash. The divorce in her thirties that cost her dearly, emotionally and financially.

But Eliza believed in staring the downs in the face and working for the ups. Her pride in and her love of her art demanded she give no less than her best each time, every time she stepped onstage or in front of a camera.

The fact she demanded the same of anyone who worked with her gave her the reputation as a bitch in some circles. She accepted that, even prized it.

She had acquaintances by the score, but only a few she considered true friends. Her rivals were many, and she assumed a few of that number rose to the level of enemy.”
That was show business, after all.

And still, she’d never have believed anyone who knew her—or thought they did—wanted to kill her.

Twenty-five years after her star-making performance, she opened her grand and glorious New York home to the cast and crew, the friends and frenemies, to select media and critics. She and her husband of nine years threw the party in the window between the revival of Upstage coming out of workshop and going into rehearsals.

In the revival, she would play Lily Bright, the headliner, the mother—and relentless stage mother—of Marcie. Marcie might have given her career its solid roots, but Eliza saw the part of Lily as the big, gorgeous bloom of it.

She’d make them laugh as she chewed up the scenery, bring them to tears with her voice and its heartbreak in “Lily’s Lament.” She’d dance until her feet bled, work her ass off to inhabit Lily Bright as no one had before.

And by God, she’d bag her fifth Tony.

So tonight was for celebration, and she’d dressed for it in a bold red cocktail dress by Leonardo that showed off her dancer’s legs. It fit her slim, disciplined body to perfection,

following the curves like a lover before the skirt flared, highlighting strong shoulders and toned arms with slim straps.

With it she wore the ten-carat, square-cut Burmese sapphire on a chain that sparkled with diamonds. A fortieth birthday gift from her husband that had made the start of a new decade go down a little easier.

She’d had her hair, a deep, honeyed blond, styled in a severe blunt bob just to her jaw with a long, spiky fringe over her arctic blue eyes.

When her husband walked into their bedroom, he looked at her, shook his head.

“I think my heart just stopped. Eliza, how do you manage to get more beautiful every day?”

She turned to check her back and butt in the mirror, then sent him a flirtatious look over her shoulder. “I have to try to keep pace with you.”

And he was gorgeous, she thought as he walked over to tip her chin up in that way he had and kiss her. A golden god of stage and screen, that was Brant Fitzhugh. And those sea-green eyes still made her heart sigh, even after a decade.

He was built like a god, too, to her mind, and so known for his physically demanding roles. The sword-wielding rebel who could ride a horse or a woman with equal skill, the bare- fisted brawler, ready to fight for a just cause. The man who climbed mountains, swam the seas, saved the world, and seduced the ladies with equal fervor.

“You’re not dressed for the party.”

“We’ve more than an hour yet, and it won’t take me long.” He gave her an absent kiss before he walked to, then into his closet. “And I know my girl. You’re going down to make sure everything is perfect when it’s already perfect because it wouldn’t dare be otherwise. It’s an Eliza Lane affair.”

“A Lane/Fitzhugh affair.” She walked over, hugged him from behind. “And it will be perfect. The caterer has two new people on the party, so—”

“Which they wouldn’t if the new people couldn’t handle it. They value you, Eliza.”

“I know, I know. Still.” She laughed, hugged him harder. “I can’t help it.”

“Don’t I know it. And I know you get nervous before a party—never understood it, but
know it. So I’ll be down in time for us to have a good-luck-to-us toast before the first guest arrives.”

“Which will be—”

“Marjorie and Pilar,” they said together, and made her laugh again.

Now she pressed her face into his shoulder. “Oh, what am I going to do without you for
six months!”

“It won’t be six months. I’ll fly back every few weeks.”

“I know you’ll try.”

“I’ll do more than try, and no matter what, I’ll be there for opening night.” “You’d better.”

“Wouldn’t, couldn’t miss it. It’s the part of a lifetime, Eliza. I knew as soon as I read the script.”

“It could’ve been written for you, but . . . Why the hell do you have to shoot on location on the other side of the world—and I know the answer.” She waved her hand in the air as she stepped back. “You need the landscape, the weather, the realism.”

“It’s as important as character, because it is another character.” He kissed her again. “I really see it as the first global blockbuster for the production company.”

She put a smile back on her face. “I just wish I could go with you. Such bad timing, that’s all. I have to be here, you have to be there—thousands of miles away. Why the hell are we in this business, Brant?”

“Because we’re wildly talented narcissists?”

She tilted her head, nodded. “That could be it. I love you anyway—you remember that when your leading lady puts the moves on you. I know she’s a good choice for the role, but—”

“Natalie’s a bright light, but she can’t hold a candle to my wife.”

“She’s ten years younger than your wife.” Eliza rolled her eyes. “Okay, fourteen. And I know why you pushed for her for the part. She’s damn good. And you’re right, I’m working myself up to nervous. I’m going down so I can drive everybody as crazy as I am, and have Dolby approve my ensemble.”

“Didn’t I do that already?”

“You did, but you’re biased. Come down soon, lover, and we’ll have that good-luck drink.”

** *

It was perfect, of course, the food, the drinks, the music, the flowers all carefully selected. She kept the terrace doors open so guests spilled in and out at will, and New York served as a glittering backdrop.

The living area with its white baby grand and candle-filled fireplace spread out, inviting conversational groups, sing-alongs, dancing. Servers in severe black passed food and drink to any who didn’t want to break away long enough to hit one of the bars or buffets.

Voices—song, laughter, gossip—lifted into the air, trailed through the rooms on the main floor and up the curve of the staircase.

“You’ve done it again.” Sylvie Bowen, a longtime and true friend, toasted Eliza. “You’ve got a certified bash on your hands.”

“It’s just what I wanted. Once rehearsals start, I won’t have the time or energy for a party. And I do love a good party. Plus, with Brant away . . .”

“I know you’ll miss him. But God knows you’ll both be busy. And when you need some companionship, you just call on your newly single pal.”

“You know I’m sorry about you and Mikhail.” “You never liked him.”

“I never liked that he wasn’t good enough for you, which he proved.”

“Didn’t he just? Cheating Russian bastard. Now I’m a forty-seven-year-old single woman with three divorces under my belt. Two great kids, and that’s more than something. And Jesus, Eliza, I’m a grandmother. A freaking grandmother. And I adore that kid to pieces. But why the hell haven’t I ever found somebody like Brant?”

“Because I grabbed him first.” She looked at her statuesque friend with the fall of chestnut hair, the flashing green eyes. “You’re a beautiful single woman, a talented actor, and an exceptional mother—and friend. And if you’re looking for companionship, there are some very fine specimens of single men at this bash.”

Sylvie shook her head in a definite no. “Not going there for a while, if ever again. Besides, a lot of those single fine specimens are eyeing up the other fine specimens of single men. Or they’re too young.”

“No such thing as too young.” She smiled as Brant crossed over to them, carrying a flute of champagne. Maybe it did scrape a bit, from time to time, that he was four years younger, but she wouldn’t mention that to Sylvie.

“You’re empty-handed, my favorite lady.” He handed Eliza a flute. “Do you need a fresh glass, my second-favorite lady?”

“I’m good, thanks. Couldn’t the Icoves have cloned you?” Sylvie wondered.

“The mad scientists.” Eliza gestured with her glass. “I heard the follow-up’s in pre- production. I should’ve invited the writer—ah, Nadine Furst. And Roarke. We met him a few times, before he married the policewoman.”

“Now, there’s a fine specimen, but alas.” With a sigh, Sylvie drank champagne. “Already taken.”

“As you know, for a lot of people, the taken part doesn’t matter a damn.” She looked stricken as soon as she said it, turned to her friend to lean close, murmur in her ear. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. I should mingle. And you should give us a song.”

“You’re right. Here, Brant, take this and mingle with Sylvie. I’ll grab my stage daughter and browbeat her into a duet. It’s just what the crowd needs—and the media will report on tomorrow.”

She handed him her glass, gave Sylvie’s hand a squeeze.

Brant mingled with Sylvie, though conversations died off once Eliza pulled the young Samantha Keene to the piano.

The girl’s cheeks flushed—nerves and pleasure—and it warmed his heart to see Eliza take her so kindly under her wing. At the opening bars, he lifted his glass in toast.

The voices merged, strong Broadway voices, and the confidence, the irony of the lyrics came through. As he drank, he thought Eliza would have a monster hit on her hands yet again. And the girl? Her life would never be quite the same after opening night.
He felt a quick clutch in his belly, his throat, and deemed it sentiment. But it turned to a kind of pain. He took a step back, then another.

With those merged voices soaring through the room, out into the air, up the curving stairs, the glass crashed to the floor.

And he followed.



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21 thoughts on “Encore in Death by J. D. Robb #JDRobb @StMartinsPress”

    1. Thank you💜 Ooh, Tessa! You’ll love this series! But, you have to read the books in order as the character development is what we all love and appreciate. Just amazing. FYI, each book is approximately one month in the timeline. So, even though almost 30 years have elapsed in our time, in the series, it’s only been about three years.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, to be reading her for the first time again! The Nora Roberts Goodreads group has a list of member favorites that would be a perfect guide (I’m one of the moderators). I particularly love her standalones and you’re free to explore my shelf for ideas. I’ve reviewed everything I read (I think!).


    1. Thanks, Yvo💜 I’ll continue to reiterate that the goal isn’t to catch up but to enjoy the journey. I had so much fun binge reading through this series. I’d love to be doing it for the first time again. Trust me…it’s addictive. I do not reread but read this one three times…back to back.


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