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Book Review: Treachery In Death

First up, an academic exercise for the reader.  Can anyone here imagine the reaction if an author presented black character as sub-intelligent, vicious, drug using, and looking to rape all them white women (I do miss Cleavon)?  Can you imagine the reaction if the author said this was how all black people were and did so seriously as opposed to making a point about said bigotry (see the link)? 

The author in question would be immediately and justifiably ripped to shreds (figuratively) and quite likely to have some literal consequences of note.  This ignorant stereotype is rightly ridiculed and condemned and no one with half a brain would attempt to apply it as representative of ANY race or occupational group.  There is, however, a reason I ask and I now ask you to bear with me for a bit.

One of my guilty pleasures in life is a series of murder mysteries by J.D. Robb, known by her real name as Nora Roberts.  The books are lite, but fun.  I have really enjoyed reading them, both for the mystery/law enforcement aspects, as well as for the tinge of science fiction and the exploration of some interesting social aspects.  A real pleasure has been the character development shown, as people do as they will in real life:  they change, they grow, the become something other than what they were at the start.  Some for good, and some, well, not. 

An read that I usually enjoy quite a bit.  So much so, that I gave up some needed things of late and instead bought the latest in the series, Treachery In Death.  Nope, no link to Amazon for buying the book.  Why in a moment. 

The book is a solid entry in the series, and builds on the foundation already laid down in the previous 31 books.  There is growth, there is a satisfying resolution with the bad guy, and, and,

Well, I almost didn't read it all the way through.  In fact, it came close to hitting the wall with all the strength I could have mustered.  I finished it more to see if there was a twist that dealt with a major issue (for me),that would have resolved it.  There wasn't.

Imagine a book that had a character who was black, and because they were black, were incapable of higher thought, that they would be extremely devoted to a leader because of that and because they had been raised/trained to follow blindly.  That they were violent, in some part if not large part, because of that lack of intelligence, and because they were black and this way they would kill or otherwise commit violence without thought, consideration, or regret.  Imagine if there was even a hint of implication that this character may also have been trafficking or using -- even mildly -- drugs. 

Well, if you change Black to soldier, you have the character of Police Detective Bix in Treachery in Death.  You see, he was military, and therefore a killer and willing to kill without hesitation, thought or reason and are physically strong and trained to be great killers with bare hands (yep, every troop and vet I know is big, strong, fast, and lethal with their hands).  He followed loyally and blindly his commander, a Police Lieutenant (because all military members have to have a leader to follow, don't you know).  He's part of a corrupt unit that is dealing drugs, at least some of the members of which are using some of the products they sell, and has no reservations about killing other cops, dealers, users, or anyone else his LT tells him to kill. 

So, tell me, why is this bit of ignorant bigotry any different from my hypothetical? 

The fact is, I've seen hints of this before, but could ignore it or consider that it was just a trait given to a particular small character.  In this case, I can't ignore it, or the fact that every major character in the book accepts without question that members of the military are stone cold killers who will blindly follow their "commander."  That speaks volumes to the author, not the characters. 

Yes, I picked an example to shock and elicit a strong response.  I also used it because if you take apart the elements, the only difference between the two (and it has been used on almost every race extant) is the target.  In this case, instead of blacks, it is the occupational group of the military.  Semantically, philosophically, and ethically, they are identical.  In my book, they are both equally despicable.

Well, there is one major difference.  No person of any intellect would use that in racial terms; however, such ignorant bigotry (for that is indeed what it is) in regards those in the military is de rigueur in certain pseudo-intellectual/social circles. 

So, no mainstream author would dream of using such a stereotype against any ethnic minority.  Why then should they get a free pass for using it against an occupational group?  Would it have anything to do with the bigoted belief that people join the military only because they are too stupid to do anything else or have no other choice (halp us Jon Carry! ) or are simply ravening murderers looking for a legal outlet for same (Hello Hollywood!)? 

For all that Nora Robers has talked (as J.D. Robb) about chain of command, leadership, and poked at bigots in the books, she clearly shows no knowledge of how the first two apply to the military, and what I have to see as a major blind spot in her own character on the latter. 

I can't recommend the book, and now have trouble recommending any of the series.  It is much the way I regard Mel Gibson and his work after his bigotry was exposed (and currently to a lesser extent Charlie Sheen).  Ignorant Bigotry is Ignorant Bigotry.  Given this character, and how readily every major positive character (and even the minor and/or bad characters) accepted this stereotype as accurate, I can only presume that she feels that way.  I will also say that she would have to do a lot of serious work to convince me otherwise at this point. 

Right now, I am considering doing her as I did another author, and selling my collection of her books for enough to go buy a new book by an author I both like and respect.  My respect for Nora Roberts is now effectively zero.  I sincerely hope she is not the bigot she presents as, or if she is that it is a matter of ignorance of the military and its members.  Ignorance can be cured, but you can't fix stupid.  Only time will tell which it is, but I don't plan to be spending any of my money on her books to find out. 


NOTE:  Updated to provide links to J.D. Robb's site and Nora Roberts' site, still am not going to put a link to Amazon for the book.