From Barbarized to Disneyfied: Viewing 1990s New York City Through Eve Dallas, J.D. Robb’s Futuristic Homicide Detective

Jayashree Kamble (City University of New York: LaGuardia Community College)

Abstract

In 2058 New York, police detective Eve Dallas, the protagonist of J.D. Robb’s futuristic murder mystery series In Death, is actually a throwback. In the first book, Naked in Death, Dallas’s character is established largely as a personification of 1980s New York—a battered, but indomitable city struggling to curb crime, one haunted by a dark past. But the gritty world she represents comes face to face with a powerful capitalist New York when she encounters her eventual romantic partner, Roarke, the billionaire head of a multi-national corporation. In placing these vastly disparate New Yorks into the same narrative, Robb’s novel challenges the “spiritual renewal” story that Mayor Giuliani and others had created to explain the sudden drop in New York’s crime wave after 1993. Unlike that diachronic story—a fallen city redeemed by its leaders’ adoption of corporate management practices—Robb insists on a tale of two cities, where New York’s “barbaric” pre-1993 past and Disneyfied post-1993 future both exist in the same moment and defy any claim that New York was saved by corporate capitalism.

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