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Swan Peak (Dave Robicheaux #17)

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,726 Ratings  ·  394 Reviews
"James Lee Burke's new novel, Swan Peak, finds Detective Robicheaux far from his New Iberia roots, attempting to relax in the untouched wilderness of rural Montana. He, his wife, and his buddy Clete Purcell have retreated to stay at an old friend's ranch, hoping to spend their days fishing and enjoying their distance from the harsh, gritty landscape of Louisiana post-Katri ...more
Paperback, 476 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Phoenix (first published July 8th 2008)
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Nov 24, 2008 cliff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The latest Dave Robicheaux mystery. If you enjoy novels about middle-aged, reformed alcoholic, Catholic guilt-plagued, Cajun detectives who live with more ghosts than you can count and who periodically relive their Viet Nam nightmares - and whose PI (i.e. private investigator AND politically incorrect) best friend is even more troubled - and trouble - then this is for you.
Doris A.
Aug 07, 2009 Doris A. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading Dave Roubicheaux books by James Lee Burke since he began writing them (and other Burke books, too), but this one left me uncharacteristically cold. Set in and around Missoula (including my own Idaho Panhandle town, which he managed to misspell), Swan Peak felt like a book written around an idea. For anyone who misses it in the intervening 395 pages, he spells it out: "... if there is a greater lesson ... it's probably the simple fact that the real gladiators of the world are so ...more
George Polley
Sep 30, 2013 George Polley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living inside a maelstrom haunted by ghosts. James Lee Burke is one of my favorite writers. His prose is eloquent, quotable, and graphic. He views the world from the perspective of the marginalized and maimed and forgotten, some of whom struggle to escape an ugly karma and live lives that are happy and relatively tranquil. Some of them make it, some of them don't, and some of them are left with questions that are never really answered.

In this book, and in many others he has written, the protagon
Apr 02, 2015 Col rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, b
A few spoilers below!

Blurb........Detective Dave Robicheaux returns in another adventure. Only this time, he travels from New Iberia Parish to the wilds of Montana. Swan Peak is the sequel to Black Cherry Blues, the third title in the Robicheaux series. In it, Clete Purcel has to confront ghosts from his past, namely the fact he poured sand in the fuel tanks of an airplane owned by Sally Dio, resulting supposedly in Dio's death. The story also deals with Jimmy Dale Greenwood, an escaped convict
"Swan Peak" is a novel that displays James Lee Burke's rich character portrayals, detailed descriptions of the natural surroundings in western Montana and the author's ability to write a suspenseful story.

Dave Robicheaux, wife Molly, and friend Clete Purcel are vacationing in Montana after going through the devastation of hurricanes Rita and Katrina in New Orleans.

When two double murders take place, the local sheriff is overwhelmed and Dave and Clete offer their services.

Ridley Wellstone, a weal
Dec 03, 2008 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: crime
I have been a JLB fan since Black Cherry Blues in the 80s. I haven't been keeping up in the last few years, but picked this up. It was like running into an old friend after quite a few years. Burke has aged like fine wine, and this love poem to the west is a perfect example of why people can't get enough of Burke's writing. Style: poetic, smooth, like riding a horse with a sweet rocking-chair gait through country both known and new. Content: a rip-snorting story, complete with more than enough r ...more
Wasn't my fave..
And it's late in the series
(Wish the person who gave it to me told me that... It's book 16!!!!)
June Ahern
Mar 19, 2015 June Ahern rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wonder how, behind the mind's eye, James Lee Burke envisions the beautiful, suspenseful and horrific murders and killers without falling into madness. His writing brings the reader to right into the scene in all sensory ways. In fact so much so I have to stop at times to take it all in before continuing to the next big scene. I am a fan of the Dave Robinsheaux police detective mysteries.

Usually the crimes and solving takes place in Louisiana but "Swan Peak" is in Montana (I've been in both sta
Sep 03, 2008 Bluedaizy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Bluedaizy by: favorite author
Shelves: fiction, new-orleans
James Lee Burke is a KING! Most authors tend to get a bit tired after six or seven novels, but not Burke. He knocked this one out of the ball park! I read it waaaaay too fast and now I'm afraid I'm going to have to wait another year for the next one. heavy, heavy, getting depressed, sigh....
Jul 23, 2011 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-modern
c 2008. My first thoughts when recapping this book is that it contains far more philosophy than usual. There are also a few POVs which I don't recall having been so aware of in other books in the series. Happily, none of Robicheaux's family members are in trouble this time. The descriptions are hauntingly beautiful although bits of the book are way more depressing than normal. This is far more than just another who dunit and although, uniquely, the culprits are more self evident than in previous ...more
Aug 02, 2008 Vernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark novel peopled with characters of torment, each carrying some kind of horrific past event or time as a defining point to their persona. A novel of folks that drink too much, philosophize grandly, are sometimes violent, and—not surprisingly—at times seem to feel sorry for themselves. Or stop just short of feeling sorry for themselves, with the very fallible good guys managing to overcome both great external and internal odds to successfully deal with the very very fallible bad guys, who whi ...more
Mar 22, 2009 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It would be rude to suggest that Burke wanted to write off a trip to Montana on his taxes so based this story there - but there doesn't seem to be any other explanation - unless this is the Robicheaux swan song.

The characters were out of place, the story rambled and I skipped entire chapters without missing a thing. The premise is actually a good one and I liked many of the characters but book didn't hold together. There were too many side trips into each character's psyche. Burke used a lot of
Susan Mangigian
Sep 02, 2008 Susan Mangigian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Lee Burke is one of my all time favorites. His books are hardly light, though. They do make me smile occasionally, but they show a darker side of life and a much rougher existence. This books starts out with this paragraph: Clete Purcel had heard of people who sleep without dreaming, but either because of the era and neighborhood in which he had grown up, or the later experiences that had come to define his life, he could not think of sleep as anything other than an uncontrolled descent in ...more
Kent Lundgren
Money aside, I wish I could write like Burke. Any good author can sketch a scene you can see (and Burke can do it better than most, with tremendously evocative descriptions) - but he can also take you into someone's mind with a few words.

Witness this opening paragraph about a primary character in this series:
"Clete Purcell had heard of people who sleep without dreaming, but . . . he could not think of sleep as anything other than an uncontrolled descent in a basement where gargoyles turned some
Feb 26, 2011 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery
3.75 stars. It's always pleasant to listen to Will Patton's Southern accents, and he does a bang up job with Clete. Can you believe this one had a happy ending? Burke is a good writer, but this one went over the top a little with its descriptions of rape and mayhem. And maybe I'm getting a little tired of the formula. There's another wealthy family for Dave to hate, plenty of beautiful female victims, tons of rage from Dave, who still hasn't lost his desire to drink after all these years. Poor f ...more
Dec 27, 2014 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haveacopy
I really do think that these books in a series should be read in order. Or at least the first few should be. It detracted when I didn't know things that the author assumed that I knew. I also didn't like it when things were repeated over and over. Constantly saying that one character had a whiskey and a beer back. Why say it that precise way EVERY DAMN time the guy had a drink? Those are the types of things that just ruin a book for me. And the guy who ended up being kind of the good guy in the ...more
John Machata
Dec 02, 2015 John Machata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid. Classic. Burke. Too much violence, philosophizing, and moralizing, but wonderful lyrical passages and human attributes penciled so well as to make the soul squirm!
Mar 16, 2015 Jim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This novel finds Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, the two detective anti-heroes of James Lee Burke’s imagination, in Montana, trying to find some peace of mind and quiet respite from the submerged streets of New Orleans that they normally inhabit. Peace and quiet? If these novels were set in Harrogate, then Betty’s Tea Rooms would be full of hookers, pimps, drug crazed biker gangs, ex-Mafia contract killers, crooked FBI agents and a paedophile priest who had a pet Doberman trained to attack you ...more
Judith Shadford
After reading Feast of Fools, I had that little frisson of guilt-touched joy as I bought Swan Peak,second-hand. (Guilt, because, really, another book?)
I know better than to read Burke before drifting off to sleep, so snatching afternoon time extends both the length of time to complete and the length of time to think about what I've just read.
I love his cinematizing of his novels' settings. And yes, forest fires in the mountains more than flashes "Big Violent Climax Coming". Burke has his own r
Michael Sump
Nov 06, 2014 Michael Sump rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Lee Burke is old school, and his main characters—Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcel are old school detectives. They are hard men and not without their own flaws. Dave is literally wrecked with old school Catholic guilt, memories of Vietnam, and the guilt that comes from alcoholism and his constant desire for a drink. And Dave is a model citizen compared to the walking trainwreck that is the life of Clete Purcel, his unusually inappropriate friend, his former NOPD partner, and now a private ...more
Alan Mills
Wow. A fantastic entry into the Dave/Clete series, this entry set on Montana, where several books (and apparently a decade in real time) Clete was working for, and may have helped kill) a mobster. On what is supposed to be a nice fly fishing vacation, dead bodies abound, and Clete gets hassled by mob connected hired help for fishing in the wrong stream. The usual mayhem ensues, and the good guys (if there are any) win. But it isn't about the end's all about the ride. And as always, Ja ...more
Moved right away from this sort of book, after doing too many of them, at some point. Wondered early on if I should have trusted that distance, but glad I didn't. Burke manages to make a happy ending so bleak that it remains moving. And I totally forgive how long it took him to get to the chase.

You either like Burke, in which case this will be to your taste, or you don't. To me he's like Connelly with class. Somebody will be offended by that. Sorry.
Dec 02, 2008 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this while in Seattle for the holidays. Good read with plenty of horrific situations and characters, some who benefit from harsh times, some who have to do the "dirty boogie" and go to the wall. Any Robicheaux novel that has Clete Purcell in it has prime written all over it and Montana comes pretty close to Louisiana when Burke is telling the tale. This is a good one...but you knew that.
Jan 16, 2016 Franny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read Burke's previous Robicheaux mysteries and, even though "hard-boiled" is not my favorite genre, I've found them well-written. In this one, Burke has fallen victim to the lately-prevalent writer's disease of trying to make the story fit his politics/beliefs and the book, predictably, falls flat. The amazing thing is that there is not a single "normal" likeable character in the entire story - protagonists included. Everyone is damaged and damaging and Burke would have us believe that all ...more
Wes Baker
Jan 01, 2016 Wes Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-for-fun, fiction
Many others who are fans (or critics) of James Lee Burke have written hundreds of reviews for this book, so I won't attempt to add to that list. I have not read any of the other books in the Dave Robicheaux series and latched onto this one because I picked up a Playaway digital player version of the audio book at a Friends of the Library sale. So, let me add a comment to the many reviews of this book that focuses upon Will Patton's reading of it. He made the book's characters come alive with a v ...more
Mary Ann
Apr 08, 2015 Mary Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another visually rich tale to enjoy and savor by a truly talented author. I listened to my first James Lee Burke novel a few months ago. An email I regularly receive had Tin Roof Blow Down listed as a great book on tape to listen to. So I thought, why not try it out and I bought it. Now I'm hooked. This is about my fourth Dave & Cletus novel. When the story began in Montana and not the usual New Orleans setting I wasn't so sure I liked it. Then it grew on me, the Dave Robicheaux series is gr ...more
3.5. Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel in Montana, which was fine but I miss New Iberia ard New Orleans. As always I love Lames Lee Burke. I will read every Robicheaux book that comes out :).
I am a fan of James Lee Burke, coupled with the fantastic reader, Will Patton. I'm not sure how many Dave Robicheaux novels, I've read, but I never fail to be wowed by his complex characters, usually struggling with personal demons like alcohol, PTS, abuse. He also does something with details of place that are breathtaking, usually prefiguring or acting as counterpoint to violence. Here it is beautiful rural Montana instead of Louisiana, but the gritty realism of crime fiction is all there. I wa ...more
Lynn Kearney
3.5 + I always seem to forget what a good writer J.L. Burke is and how gripping are the stories he tells. Robicheaux is a very well drawn character.
Joseph (Sonny)
Can't wait for another Robicheaux, I swear that every time I read one I can smell the bayou. Burke is a master.
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James Lee Burke is an American author best known for his mysteries, particularly the Dave Robicheaux series. He has twice received the Edgar Award for Best Novel, for Black Cherry Blues in 1990 and Cimarron Rose in 1998.

Burke was born in Houston, Texas, but grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Missouri, receiving
More about James Lee Burke...

Other Books in the Series

Dave Robicheaux (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Neon Rain (Dave Robicheaux, #1)
  • Heaven's Prisoners (Dave Robicheaux, #2)
  • Black Cherry Blues (Dave Robicheaux, #3)
  • A Morning for Flamingos (Dave Robicheaux, #4)
  • A Stained White Radiance (Dave Robicheaux, #5)
  • In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead (Dave Robicheaux, #6)
  • Dixie City Jam (Dave Robicheaux, #7)
  • Burning Angel (Dave Robicheaux, #8)
  • Cadillac Jukebox (Dave Robicheaux, #9)
  • Sunset Limited

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“How do you explain to yourself the casual manner in which you threw your life away?” 21 likes
“Why do I always feel like you're trying to staple my umbilical cord to the corner of your desk?” 9 likes
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