Contrarius's Reviews > The Neon Rain

The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke
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's review
Dec 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery-thriller

Mmmm mmmmm, I do love me some James Lee Burke. I'm a huge fan of beautiful prose, and Burke provides that here in large helpings. If you want tons of atmosphere, lots of poetic phrasing, and a loving sense of place, you can't do much better. And then there's the characters with their regionally flavored dialogue and, in audio format, accents to enjoy. IMHO Burke's books are especially enjoyable in audio, because of all the regional flavors and the natural cadences inherent in his writing. It's a pleasure to listen to his words spoken out loud. Fortunately, the two major narrators of the Robicheaux novels -- Will Patton and Mark Hammer -- both do great jobs at bringing Burke's words to life. I personally prefer Hammer's vocal timbre and style for Robicheaux -- he has a rough, world-weary sound that fits Dave perfectly -- but Patton is very good as well, and he also has the advantage of being a native Southerner.

But enough about narrators and prose. This book is very violent and even gory in spots -- I don't like to post spoilers in reviews, but I will say that entrails and pigs are involved at one point -- yet there is never any sensationalism or sense of glorifying the violence. In fact, these books usually seem restrained and thoughtful to me even in the midst of the violent episodes. These qualities are reflected in the character of Dave Robicheaux himself. Dave is a battle-scarred war veteran and recovering alcoholic who kills two people during the story and physically attacks several others, but we never see him raging or fuming or boasting or revelling in what he's doing. This is a guy who simply sees his goal and then does what needs to be done in order to get there. Dave is the kind of person who quotes Robert Frost and reads E.M. Forster, then takes his girlfriend out to the races and falls in love, all while his life is falling apart around him. I always get the sense that there's a lot more going on in Dave's head than he tells us about, or maybe more than he knows about himself -- but that really just increases the fascination for me. I'd love to see a few chapters from someone else's POV some time, because I suspect that Dave looks much different to others than he does to himself.

As for the plot -- well, yes, there is a plot. Others may disagree, but I feel as though the overall plotline is not really the point in Burke's books. The Robicheaux novels really seem to be mostly about what Dave goes through and how he reacts to his experiences, with less emphasis on how all the pieces fit together into the Big Picture. It may just be me, especially since I'm a total sucker for character in addition to my love for good prose, but that is my persistent impression. So if you like to read books with really strong plots, that may be a weakness for you.

Well, this review has turned out to be longer than I expected, so I'll wrap it up. Over all, this is my kinda writing. And I'm not alone in appreciating it. Burke has won two Edgar awards for novels plus the Edgar Grand Master award, as well as one Gold Dagger, and one of his novels was even nominated for the Pulitzer. I can't wait to see what Burke does with Dave over the course of the series, and I'll definitely be reading several more of these books. And, lucky me, Burke has also written two other series, as well as several standalone novels. I won't be running out of his books any time soon. :)
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Reading Progress

20.0% "This is much more violent than Black Cherry Blues, kinda surprising. But I'm lovin' it. Burke is a really fine writer, even in this first book."
04/14/2016 marked as: read

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