There are a few authors who transcend the genre they write in - Alan Furst, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connolly, Henning Mankell, John Le Carre to name aThere are a few authors who transcend the genre they write in - Alan Furst, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connolly, Henning Mankell, John Le Carre to name a few. What they have in common is an ability to go beyond the usual and expose the reader to a greater truth. James Lee Burke is one of these.
Burke's major protagonist, Dave Robicheaux is a deeply flawed lawman who continues to try to do the right thing in the face of his own demons, like alcohol, and a society that rewards those who cut corners. Robicheaux's ex-partner and closest friend, Clete Purcell, seems to be be falling even deeper into alcoholism and irrational anger at a world where the underdogs get trampled.
In this story, Robicheaux, who is recovering from a gunshot wound, becomes obsessed with finding a missing singer, Tee Jolie Melton. In the process he runs into two very evil men Alexis and Pierre Dupree. all of this against the background of the Gulf oil spill and its effects on the people of Louisiana. When Tee Jolie's young sister is pulled from a bayou in a partially melted block of ice, Robicheaux becomes even more dedicated to finding Tee Jolie alive and her sister's killers.
While it's clear from the start who the main villains are, the plot gets trickier and trickier as other elements come into play - his family, his boss, a racist, misogynistic retired deputy, Clete's long lost daughter, Gretchen, oil company executives, a beautiful but duplicitous woman and others. How Burke weaves all of this together is what makes reading his books so rewarding. In addition, the ability of Burke to make his characters, both good and evil, so interesting and multi-layered is what keeps me reading until long after I should be sleeping.
I highly recommend this book whether or not you've read any of the others in the series. If you do read it I guarantee you'll be hooked....more
A Burke tour de force. I found it almost impossible to put down.
Dave Robicheaux and his former partner Clete Purcell, wife Molly, daughter Alafair anA Burke tour de force. I found it almost impossible to put down.
Dave Robicheaux and his former partner Clete Purcell, wife Molly, daughter Alafair and later Purcell's daughter Gretchen Horowitz are vacationing at friend Albert Hollister's ranch outside of Missoula, Montana, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. The story opens when Alafair is grazed by an arrow while jogging and a message is left on the wall of a cave on Hollister's property. It reads, "I was here but you did not know me. Before there was an alpha and omega I was here. I am the one before whom every knee shall bend."
Dave and Alafair soon suspect that the message was left by serial killer and pedophile, Asa Surette, who has been declared dead in a highway disaster and whom Alafair angered when she interviewed him in prison. Additional characters show up as the story unfolds, oil tycoon, Love Younger and his son Caspian and daughter in law Felicity Louviere. One of Burke's more incredible inventions, Wyatt Dixon, a rodeo cowboy who had a chemical lobotomy in a prison hospital and sees things others don't, is targeted as a suspect in a murder.
The plot is anything but simple as each character is explored and their weaknesses and strengths are exposed. As in all of Burke's work, the atavistic excesses of those who would do evil are explored in detail. It's not even always clear as to who are the good folks and who are the bad folks. The major difference is who they take their frustrations out on.
The idea of a Southern Gothic tale taking place in Montana may be hard to accept but the beauty of the environment, as described by Burke through Robicheaux, illustrates that evil can show up anywhere. The place and it's people are as necessary to the story as any of the characters.
Burke uses Robicheaux as a first person narrator but describes what is happening to the other characters in the third person. He does it seamlessly and it works. My only criticism is that there are a number of coincidences that are a little tough to accept but that's only in retrospect not in the flow of the story.
The plot unfolds and then folds back in on itself which leads to a conclusion in where each thread is finished in a blaze of violence and gunfire.
I ask myself why did it take me so long to get to this volume in the Robicheaux series while I was spending time reading lesser authors? Burke is someone who transcends the genre he's chosen to write in raising it to the level of fine literature and deserves immediate attention any time something he's written is published. ...more