There’s a need inside all of us to witness happy endings. It is perhaps the most human and honest part of who we are that revels in the victory of the good guy. It is also why we’re always left feeling bereft after witnessing a grand happy ending at the end of a story, be it in film or literature, because however happy that ending may have been it is an ending nevertheless. We never see what follows and therein lies the true problem.
It is a recurring pattern in literature, where we accompany the characters through tumultuous times and tragedy, grief and trying events and witness their many defeats, before finally tasting the sweet glory of the happy ending they truly deserve. The purpose of a good book is to pull you in to that depth. If you are not invested in the character’s life, future and eventual outcome or if you do not find reasons to love said characters or hate them, a book has not achieved its true purpose. That is why we sometimes need our characters to have that happy ending, more than they might need it themselves even. It is a culmination of everything we hope for as human beings: for things to make sense in the end, for the pieces to finally fit together and for the entire puzzle to be revealed to us.
Books that merely finish with a happy ending—while still giving us what we wanted to some extent—leave a very gaping hole behind, unfulfilled with never knowing what happens after the happy ending. Take any book that you have ever loved, or even just passingly enjoyed, and you’ll remember one common theme between all of them, be it Harry Potter or a Mills and Boon novel. After the crescendo of that grand happy ending you are suddenly left with a feeling of abandonment from a story and characters in which you invested so much.
The “in Death” series by J.D. Robb is precisely one of my favorite series of all time for that reason—albeit there are many more reasons to love it. It is one of the longest running series I know of, beginning in 1995 with two books released every year, they’re written by Nora Roberts under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Beginning in the year 2058, these series depict New York in the future and a world that seems still a little out of our technological reach. What Robb has done is a feat only accomplished by writers with unbelievable imagination: create a new universe that is entirely too believable.
The series revolves around the homicidal cases of a NYPD female cop, who also happens to be the single most strong and complex female protagonist about whom I have ever read. Eve Dallas had a dark upbringing and has seen even darker things in her life, but she remarkably turns that into being so brilliant and passionate at what she does that it will have you reevaluating every demeaning joke or cliche made at the expense of cops. The cases of murder and mayhem that are depicted in every book are ones of such brilliant morbidity and suspenseful intellect that they rival the kings of the thriller genre, such as James Patterson, John Grisham and Michael Connelly.
The protagonist and the other major characters of the series—all interesting and all very easy to become fans of—eventually find their happy endings, in one form or another, but the series does not end with that. While the lives of these characters are a major factor of these series, they are always ongoing and concurrent to the events that happen within those lives. The series therefore is not about a crescendo that builds towards a grand finale and reveals to you an ending that you have been breathlessly awaiting. Instead, it is about the lives of characters that never fail to amuse or amaze, intermingled with a story or case spanning each book that actually fulfills that need for drama and climax.
The first book, “Naked in Death,” is our introduction to this futuristic New York and some of the main characters and it is not a gentle one. You are dropped in the middle of Dallas’ violent nightmares reminiscent of her past, a serial killer on the loose targeting women and leaving behind notes of a larger agenda and her first meeting with the second most brilliant character of this series, Roarke. Sappy terms aside, what Eve and Roarke find with each other, despite having one of the most violent pasts individually, is one of literature’s most heartfelt relationships.
With the 50th book in the series just published this past September, the series shows no signs of ending—barring Robb meeting a tragic end, but fingers crossed—anytime soon. From international terrorist organizations to doctors running an illegal cloning institution for decades to a mass murderer who cuts out his victims eyes to violent murders through holographic games and a little girl on a murdering rampage, this series is raw, brutal and something you’ll never regret getting addicted to.