James Lee Burke’s most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in this gritty, atmospheric mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana.
DAVE ROBICHEAUX IS A HAUNTED MAN.
Between his recurrent nightmares about Vietnam, his battle with alcoholism, and the sudden loss of his beloved wife, Molly, his thoughts drift from one irreconcilable memory to the next. Images of ghosts at Spanish Lake live on the edge of his vision.
During a murder investigation, Dave Robicheaux discovers he may have committed the homicide he’s investigating, one which involved the death of the man who took the life of Dave’s beloved wife. As he works to clear his name and make sense of the murder, Robicheaux encounters a cast of characters and a resurgence of dark social forces that threaten to destroy all of those whom he loves. What emerges is not only a propulsive and thrilling novel, but a harrowing study of America: this nation’s abiding conflict between a sense of past grandeur and a legacy of shame, its easy seduction by demagogues and wealth, and its predilection for violence and revenge. James Lee Burke has returned with one of America’s favorite characters, in his most searing, most prescient novel to date.
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 a BA and MA from the latter. He has worked at a wide variety of jobs over the years, including working in the oil industry, as a reporter, and as a social worker. He was Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, succeeding his good friend and posthumous Pulitzer Prize winner John Kennedy Toole, and preceding Ernest Gaines in the position. Shortly before his move to Montana, he taught for several years in the Creative Writing program at Wichita State University in the 1980s.
Burke and his wife, Pearl, split their time between Lolo, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana. Their daughter, Alafair Burke, is also a mystery novelist.
The book that has influenced his life the most is the 1929 family tragedy "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: James Lee Burke is one of the finest fiction and mystery writers of our time. Ever since I read my first Burke novel in the late 1980s, I have been an enormous fan, and he continues to leave me in awe with his ability to create some of the most vivid, memorable characters I've ever read about (every time one of them appears in his books, I can immediately recall details about each), along with tremendously evocative, almost poetic imagery.
He is one of my favorite authors of all time, and having met him at a book signing, he's a warm, gracious, and friendly guy, too. Simply put, I'm a fan.
My favorite of Burke's characters is Dave Robicheaux, the Louisiana police detective. He is fiercely loyal, sensitive, and immensely flawed, which makes him one of the most fascinating (and at times depressing) characters to read about. In Robicheaux, Burke's 21st novel featuring his most popular character, Dave is struggling with the death of his wife Molly in a car accident. Her sudden loss has ratcheted up his alcoholic cravings, his nightmares of his time in Vietnam, and his visions of Confederate soldiers.
"Why should an old man thrice widowed dwell on things that are not demonstrable and have nothing to do with a reasonable view of the world? Because only yesterday, on a broken sidewalk in a shabby neighborhood at the bottom of St. Claude Avenue, in the Lower Ninth Ward of St. Bernard Parish, under a colonnade that was still twisted out of shape by Katrina, across from a liquor store with barred windows that stood under a live oak probably two hundred years old, I saw a platoon of Confederate infantry march out of a field to the tune of 'Darling Nelly Gray' and disappear through the wall of a gutted building and not exit on the other side."
When the crushing sadness wrecks his prized sobriety, suddenly Dave becomes more of a danger to himself and others, as his anger at his wife's death threatens to overwhelm him. Then, in the midst of a murder investigation, he discovers that he may have been the one who killed the victim, the man who was responsible for Molly's death. As his boss and former partner, Sheriff Helen Soileau, fights to figure out whether to pity Dave or fire him, Dave and his best friend, the irascible Clete Purcel, try to figure out Dave's whereabouts during the murder, and whether his melancholy was strong enough to turn to violence.
As with any Robicheaux novel, Dave and Clete find themselves entangled in a web of unsavory characters, each one with a grudge against Dave and/or Clete, and each one burdened with their own baggage. From Mafia enforcer and aspiring film producer Fat Tony Nemo and his enforcers, novelist Levon Broussard and his troubled wife Rowena, to the enigmatic and possibly dangerous local boy-made-good (or did he) Jimmy Nightingale, who aspires to political power, Dave and Clete need to figure out just exactly how far each is willing to defend themselves from those who appear to be encroaching on what they believe to be theirs. Throw in a dangerous contract killer and a police detective with his own issues, and you have a mess of epic proportions, which the infamous "Bobbsey Twins from Homicide" will be lucky to survive.
Burke does an excellent job of depicting characters whose good qualities are often outweighed by their flaws, but he doesn't immediately condemn everyone. Dave struggles with questions of morality, mortality, and loyalty, and while he is sworn to uphold the law, if those he cares about are harmed, he isn't above enacting his own code of justice. While it seems as if everyone out there has an axe to grind with Dave and Clete, issues which often get visited upon those the two care about, their first thoughts are always protecting those they love and the city they care about.
"Like most of us who subscribe to the egalitarian traditions of Jefferson and Lincoln, I did not want to believe that a basically likable man could, with indifference and without provocation, commit deeds that were not only wicked but destroyed the lives of defenseless people."
While I've enjoyed nearly everything that Burke has written, I love his books featuring Dave Robicheaux the most. These characters have come to feel like family through the years, and reading about them again and again is so pleasurable. And not a book goes by without Burke's imagery taking my breath away. When I first visited New Orleans years after I started reading his books, it felt so real, so accurate to the portraits he has painted through the years.
Robicheaux isn't a quick-moving caper packed with action and thrills. While there is some terrific suspense and a little bit of gruesome violence, this is a book that makes you think and makes you feel rather than raises your pulse. None of Burke's characters are perfect, but they are so complex, so thought-provoking, it doesn't matter that you may be troubled by some of their actions.
Once again, it is an immense pleasure to read a book by James Lee Burke. While at times he switches between the different series he has created, I hope another Robicheaux book is imminent, but I'll be happy to read whatever the master delivers next.
NetGalley and Simon & Schuster provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
James Lee Burke is a giant in the field of literary crime fiction, a writer whose Dave Robicheaux series I adore completely. This is his 21st book in the series, and it is still as compelling as the first. This speaks of Burke's unsurpassed gifts in storytelling, characterisation and in his social and political commentary on the US and Louisiana, a southern state still fighting the ghosts of the Civil War with its ugly racism. Louisiana is described as a place where demagoguery is a given, a mental asylum run by ExxonMobil, where misogamy, misogyny, racism, and homophobia have become religious virtues and self congratulatory ignorance is a source of pride. Now a semi-retired detective, Dave is tired, weary and alone, battling his need for alcohol. His wife, Molly, died in a accident that he has yet to get over and the ghosts of the past and the present refuse to leave him. Clete Purcel, an indomitable spirit in the fight for good, has racked up debts that threaten to destroy him, his livelihood and home.
Dave tries to help Clete by turning to Jimmy Nightingale, an ambitious personable populist politician with a shady past. Jimmy asks to meet with the reclusive writer, Levon Broussard and his troubled wife, Rowena, which Dave sets up. Later, Rowena makes rape allegations, a crime for which judicial justice is often a pipe dream. Both Jimmy and the dying gangster, Fat Tony, want to be in the movie business by bringing Levon's books to the big screen, and Alafair is writing the screenplay. Rumours abound of Jimmy's involvement in the unsolved killings of 8 women in the Jeff Davis parish. The murder of Dartez, who was responsible for Molly's death appears to implicate Dave, who having succumbed to the demon drink, cannot vouch for himself. Spade Labiche, suspected of being a dirty cop, seems determined to tie Dave to the murder. As there is a sharp rise in murders, we become acquainted with Smiley, a doughy assassin resembling Elmer Fudd, who loves children and rights wrongs through killing. Clete finds himself protecting a young boy, Homer. With ruthless forces at play, the Bobbsey Twins are stretched in several directions.
In a narrative with multiple storylines, Burke paints a detailed picture of the corrupt and damaged soul of Louisiana, its towns and backwoods, its poverty and inequality, its haunting history, its shame, Katrina, the Cajun culture, its geography and more. Amidst this are the flawed and damaged Dave and Clete, driven to fight the good fight, doing the best they can in a system, people and politics that work against them. It is good to see another raccoon enter Dave's life after the death of Tripod and the unwavering support of Helen Soileau and Alafair, his daughter. Burke takes us deep into the psyches of Dave and Clete, the horrors from their past that threaten to wreak havoc in their present, desperately in need of the humanity of each other, and other people, to hold themselves together, and to survive. I will read anything Burke writes, I have a particular love for this series, and if you haven't read him, you really are missing out. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for an ARC.
Nobody does it better. James Lee Burke is a natural born storyteller. His words seem to flow effortlessly, meaningfully. His characters are original, multifaceted, complex, and at times it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad. The bad, often have some good in them. In this story there is a killer, a cleaner as he is called, hands out ice cream to underprivileged children. Has a great love, and not in the sexual sense, for the young, and despises those who mistreat them. The good, not all good, some bent cops, others who installed their own form of justice.
It is so nice to one again return to the lives of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel. Dave, who recently had a tragedy in his personal life, who is fighting his old demon alcohol. Clete, just breaks my heart, cannot separate himself from the past, thinks he is worthless but will do anything to protect a young boy. Burke even writes his own daughter into the mix, Alafair Burke, a wonderful novelist in her own right, making her Dave's daughter. Many things are at play in this story, all the bad guys are front and center, people are being killed but who is at the top, ordering the kills?
Louisiana is also a character, the heat, humidity, alligators, varied people, the bayous, and the past, ever present. People firmly rooted in a place, the past, and can't seem to find their place. The bars, the Hangouts and the ever present crime, drugs and alcohol. All this blends together to keep the story moving along and make it impossible to look away.
I would seriously read anything this man writes. Utterly fantastic.
This is the 21st book in the Dave Robicheaux series. This is a gritty atmospheric mystery set in Louisiana. Dave Robicheaux is a recovering alcoholic and he is trying to stay sober and he is struggling. He goes to A.A. meetings. He is having nightmares of Vietnam. He is haunted by ghosts of his past.
His wife Molly died in an accident and he is struggling to get over it. He is a detective and he is investigating the death of the man who caused the death of his wife. He then becomes a suspect of killing him, and he even thinks that he might even of killed him. He was actually drunk the night this man got killed and he doesn't remember anything about that night, because he was in a black out.
He then leans on his friend Clete, and they both try to clear his name, and find out who the true killer is.
I really loved this book. This was the second book I read in the series and it can be read as a standalone but if you are into the devopment of the characters, you will want to start with book 1.
Burke is a great storyteller. He painted pictures in my mind and I could just vision his descriptions so perfectly. They were brilliantly done.
There are lots and lots of characters in this book and it was a challenge for me to keep each character straight. They were done so well. There are lots of evil characters too. There are corrupt law enforcement officers, gangsters, thugs and mafia bosses.
I was hooked straight from the beginning and I had problems of letting go until the very end. The plot thickens and I had to find out what happened next.
I am so happy that this is a series, because now I have 20 more books to read and I am going to start with book one.
Why did I give this book five stars? I gave this book five stars because I thought this was a magnificent work of art. The author was able to paint a picture in my mind and I was using all of my senses reading this. This novel stood out from other authors, because it isn't everyday that you come across an author like this. Burke is a fantastic storyteller.
I want to thank Netgalley, Simon & Schuster, and James Lee Burke for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Lagniappe.......Cajun-French for just a little extra.
And that's exactly what James Lee Burke promises in Robicheaux. Always a step ahead of the others, Burke lines this one with his particular eloquence of shape-shifting words and his big bangin' storylines. "We don't hide the crazy. We parade it down the street."
And to the blaring beat of that same crazy staccato of Zydeco music, Burke marches in the likes of grifters, shylocks, hacks, and hustlers revolving between the dark waters of New Orleans and the deep bayous of St. Bernard Parish. Characters like Tony Nine Ball, Pookie the Possum, and Smiley tip their hats in response.
Dave Robicheaux is now a semi-retired sheriff's detective still living near Spanish Lake. He carries himself through each day surrounded by the weight of ghosts of the past and the often visiting phantoms of the present. Robicheaux has more inner battles than a two-ton steel pot of boiling lobsters. He recently lost his wife, Molly, in a car accident that may not have been an accident at all. To escalate the tension, Robicheaux is fighting the gaze of the relentless demon held captive in a booze bottle. He's on direct dial to the local AA meetings.
The wheels start moving on this one when Robicheaux is contacted by Tony Nine Ball. Tony came across a Civil War sword that belonged to the great grandfather of New York Times author, Levon Broussard. Broussard and his wife, Rowena, live in an ol' plantation home in the area lined with Spanish moss and stately tall pillars. Robicheaux passes along the makings of this deal. The cut of that Civil War sword is going deep once it is out of that scabbard. And there's more than just a line drawn in the sand here.
Dave Robicheaux feels like a big fish in a dirty pond at times. There's plenty of bottom-feeders that come to the surface. Even Robicheaux will be accused of a murder than he may or may not have committted. With Clete Purcel and his daughter, Alafair, by his side, make sure your seatbelt is clicked tight. Gonna be a rough ride, cher.
Robicheaux can be read as a standalone if you are new to this stellar series. The dialogue is clever, crisp, and nail sharp. Burke's "side-bar" explanations and fill-ins are priceless. Leave it to Burke to get beneath the forming scar tissue of this rough surface. James Lee Burke, sincerely, is one of the most talented and inventive authors in American literature. Believe me, after this, you'll be tossin' back more of his novels......gaur-oooon-teeeed!
I received a copy of Robicheaux through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Simon & Schuster and James Lee Burke for the opportunity.
I've been recommended books from this series since I joined Goodreads and I finally got my hands on one of them.
It took me around two weeks to read it. Even I'm not that slow at reading. I just could not find the will power to want to pick it up. I did finish the sucker though so I'm giving it a big old two star. It wasn't the worst book I've ever read but it was not my favorite so we will go with the average...
You have your main character who has recently lost his wife. Battles the alcohol. Has a bestie who might go off the deep end on some bad guys at any point in the story. Then throw in some mob guys, a crooked politician and a weird serial killer.
Wait, that sounds like I'd sell a kidney for a book like that! The thing is? I just never felt into the story. I never gave any craps to what the outcome was going to be or who was going to end up with bullets holes. I do work nights and the last few weeks have me so sleep deprived that I have a new obsession. nah...I'm not excusing it. I can not even work up a good review for this one. I'm just glad I finally finished the sucker.
Detective Dave Robicheaux is one of James Lee Burke's most popular characters. In this 21st book in the 'Dave Robicheaux' series - set in the Cajun environs of south Louisiana - Dave is involved in investigating several killings and an alleged rape. The book can be read as a standalone.
Background info: Dave - an investigator for the Sheriff's Department in New Iberia, Louisiana - has had a rough life.
Dave's mother deserted the family when he was a child and his father was killed in an oil rig explosion. As a young man Dave witnessed unspeakable horrors during the Vietnam War, after which he became a cop in New Orleans - a city rife with mobsters, gambling, prostitution, drugs, loan sharks, money laundering, extortion, murder, and so on.
In his job, Dave met criminals of all kinds, including: street thugs; mobsters; sociopaths; psychopaths.....and rich, entitled 'bluebloods' who would do anything for money and power. Dave rose through the police ranks to become a homicide detective and eventually left New Orleans for New Iberia - where he lives in a modest home adjacent to a bayou.
Dave's first wife Annie was murdered and his second wife Bootsie - with whom he adopted an El Salvadoran daughter named Alafair - died from lupus. These hardships exacerbated Dave's depression, nightmares, and alcoholism. Even when he's not drinking, Dave sees ghosts of Civil War soldiers who died near his home.
Dave's best friend is Clete Purcel, a fellow Vietnam vet who was Dave's partner in the New Orleans Police Department.
Clete's inability to follow rules got him kicked off the police force, and he became a private investigator/bail bondsman. Clete works for gangsters; eats to excess; drinks too much; falls for the wrong women; and uses violence (and worse) against his enemies. Clete is close to Dave's family and would give his life for them.
The book has a complicated plot with numerous characters, but I'll try to provide a nutshell overview.
As the story opens Dave's third wife Molly has recently been killed in a car crash and the detective is furious at the man who collided with her, a blue-collar Cajun called T.J. Dartez. Dave doesn't know exactly what happened, but he drives up to Dartez's house and harshly accuses the Cajun of reckless driving - in front of the man's frightened wife.
Consumed by grief, Dave - a recovering alcoholic - is drawn back to the bottle, and sometimes gets blackout drunk.
While dealing with his sorrow, Dave is drawn into a contentious local situation. The detective is friendly with nearby author Levon Broussard, who writes Civil War novels.
As it happens, two powerful men want to produce a movie based on one of Broussard's books.
One Hollywood wannabee is an obese, sickly gangster named Tony Nemo - who's involved in porn, drugs, and politics.
The other is a wealthy right-wing political hopeful named Jimmy Nightingale - who spends his time on his yacht, playing polo, performing in aerial shows - and (according to an informant) using prostitutes and drugs.
When Dave is (wrongly) perceived as favoring Jimmy, the mobster becomes furious, and threatens the detective.
Soon afterward, reckless driver T.J. Dartez is found brutally beaten to death beside his truck, and Dave becomes a suspect in the murder. Unfortunately the detective was dead drunk at the time of the killing, and can't remember a thing. As far as Dave knows, he might be guilty.
Dave's boss, Sheriff Helen Soileau, gives the Dartez case to Detective Spade Labiche, a nasty misogynist who resents Dave and is probably a dirty cop.
Labiche finds Dave's fingerprints at the scene of the crime, which just might be a set up. But by who? In any case, there's not enough evidence for an arrest.....yet.
In the meantime, Helen puts Dave in charge of a different investigation. Levon Broussard's wife, Rowena - an artist from Australia - has accused Jimmy Nightingale of rape.
Rowena happened to meet Jimmy at a bar one night, and - after getting drunk- accompanied the handsome bigshot back to his boat. Afterward, Rowena cried rape while Jimmy claimed nothing happened.
Dave (inexplicably) likes Nightingale, and doesn't want the would-be senator to be guilty. However, the detective is a righteous cop, determined to make a thorough inquiry. This isn't easy because Rowena showered after the alleged incident and destroyed most of the (potential) evidence.
As if all this isn't enough, Dave has other crimes on his mind. Eight Louisiana sex workers were murdered a few years ago, and the case was never solved. Dave suspects that thuggish Kevin Penny - a lowlife who viciously beat his son Homer - might be implicated in the prostitutes' deaths, but there's no proof.
It so happens that Penny was just bailed out of jail and is slated to get his son back. This irks Clete Purcel, who's acquainted with Homer's social worker. Since Clete can never let things go he 'has a talk' with Penny (beats him up and shoves his head in the toilet) - as a warning not to abuse Homer. In fact Clete - who's never been domestic - goes out of his way to help the child. (So yay Clete!)
To add to southern Louisiana's murder toll, a very peculiar hitman called Smiley - with cherry red lips and a pronounced lisp - has flown into town for a killing spree.
Dave, Clete, and others get on Smiley's trail, but the hitman is a wily, elusive guy. As the story unfolds we learn who's pulling Smiley's strings and why.
Dave's daughter Alafair, a lawyer and novelist, also arrives in town.....to visit her troubled father.
Just for fun, Alafair decides to write a screenplay for Levon Broussard's book - which draws her into the brouhaha about the movie adaptation.
The novel has a rich palate of ancillary characters, including: Tony Nemo's hoodlum crew; cops from a neighboring parish; Jimmy Nightingale's cold-as-ice secretary (who might be his cousin or sister); a former Klansman who's had plastic surgery; a naïve, pretty bartender; a sadistic prison guard from a previous book; and more.
Eventually, after much murder and mayhem, the strings of the plot come together - though some issues are left unresolved. I wasn't happy with the epilogue, but I didn't deduct points for that.
Many elements of the story are relevant to American society today, such as: men who sexually harass women; a demagogue who enters politics to benefit himself; a xenophobic, racist political hanger-on; citizens that would vote for a rapist; and more.
As always, Burke writes beautiful prose that brings the environment - as well as the characters and their surroundings - to vivid life.
Dave is aging as the series goes on, and - in reality - Dave and Clete are probably past retirement age. I hope they go on forever, though, solving crimes and beating up bad guys.
I'd highly recommend the book to readers who enjoy mysteries, especially fans of Dave Robicheaux.
POW, right in the kisser! Let me be clear: I don’t mean this in a good way. I mean it literally—there are a lot of POW right in the kissers, because this is a macho man masterpiece where beating the crap out of people is pretty much the whole shebang. So if you want macho land, go ahead and pick up this overly long book, where plenty-o tough guys roam.
I didn’t realize how much I did not want macho until I was in the thick of it. At first, I was wowed by the sarcastic, cynical East Coast hitman dialogue, and it made me a little nostalgic for Tony Soprano. But man, I was so glad when I finished this one! More than once I wanted to abandon ship, but I stuck with it, mostly because I’m a masochist. And also because I had just read an excellent book, The Wife, by his brilliant mystery-writer daughter, Alafair Burke, and I wanted to see if pops’ and daughter’s writing were at all similar. A bigtime no.
Okay, okay, there is a Joy Jar, but it’s not overflowing, I’ll tell you that. There are some great quotes buried within the pages, and I almost added some winners here. But I’m so annoyed with the book it’s hard to spew out joy quotes. It’s hard enough to admit there’s any joy at all, but here goes:
-Listen to me, will ya? The dialogue is all tough-guy cool, and although I can’t be sure (because I’m only basing it on movies!), I think it’s authentic. It’s raunchy, funny, sarcastic, and cynical, with lingo from a world I can only imagine. There is a catchy rhythm to it and for a while I felt pretty cool getting to eavesdrop on conversations that I’d never ever hear in my hood.
-I have your back. The main character, Robicheaux, and his buddy, Clete, are fiercely loyal to each other, which is always touching and appealing. It’s especially cool when a friend puts himself in danger to protect his buddy. Watching loyalty in action makes my chest feel big and huffy, like I’M the loyal friend out to save my buddy from harm.
-Ain’t this scenery grand? Yep, Burke gets an A+ in describing the trees, the heat, the water, the houses, the boats. He sets up some vivid scenes.
-This wise guy has something to say. I mean wise as in wisdom. Burke has some killer paragraphs describing the human condition. I’d lap them up if he had put them in an essay instead of a novel.
-A peek at the Katrina wreckage. Occasionally (I mean really occasionally, like maybe twice), Burke talks about the devastation of Katrina. It’s heartfelt and brilliant when he does so. The guy should write an essay on Katrina. (Hey, maybe he has!)
-Careful, or I’ll put you in my novel. In this book, Robicheaux’s daughter is a cool writer named Alafair who went to Stanford Law School. Burke’s daughter happens to be a cool writer named Alafair who went to Stanford Law School. Supposedly, Alafair Robicheaux has been a character throughout the long Robicheaux series. Although this fact has nothing to do with the story or the writing, I added it to the Joy Jar because it tickled me. What a cool dad!
That’s all very nice and good, but my Complaint Board cries out for attention.
-PLEASE stop with the grand scenery. Stop it right now! Personally, I think Burke has the dreaded Description Disorder, known as DD among those readers, like me, who tire of hearing about every damn little object on the horizon—trees, of course (they’re the “go-to” for every writer with DD), but also cars and water and houses and clothes and I don’t even remember the rest because my eyes would glaze over. Writers with DD seem to have a compulsive need to make us hyper-aware of the surroundings, even though all these objects aren’t players in the story. I know, “atmosphere,” yada yada yada, but my eyes and brain have to work too hard to get the picture. Honestly, I never remember what things look like in a story. I remember the plot, and I might remember some of the dialogue. Maybe for Burke, description is the easiest thing to write. For me, it’s the hardest thing to read. Yeah, I see the trees, and yes, they’re very lovely, but I want to see what the people next to the trees are doing, and what they are talking about or thinking. At first, I forced myself to take in the sights, because, yes, Burke is so very good at this (as most writers afflicted with DD are), but eventually I found myself skipping. And skipping. And skipping.
-“I’ll stop the cruiser and stomp the shit out of you.” This line and a zillion others like it are what you have to listen to, page after page. Thug talk gets old, especially when it’s spread over 400 pages. So even though the dialogue has a lot of funny thug lines, the book is equally populated with violent thug lines. My ears hear: Me macho man, me hit you in the face. I got sick of spending my time with a bunch of Neanderthals.
-Now why are we supposed to think thugs are romantic and cool? Both the bad guys and the good guys hit. They hit a lot. I don’t mind violence, but this is basically what most of the characters do all the time—threaten, beat up, or kill. There are lots of brutal scenes. I didn’t like spending all the time with people who sound like they’ve been brain-damaged from too much time in the ring. I mentioned Tony Soprano when I started this review. We all loved Tony. He was such a sweetheart. Wait! He just killed a bunch of people! Why don’t we hate him for it? Why don’t we reject him because of his immorality? Why do we still think he’s a hero when he’s a murderer? The same goes for this book. The two good guys really are violent. Why are we supposed to excuse this behavior under any circumstances? Because they really are good guys deep down, with struggles that make you feel for them? Face it: they, too, are thugs. Why do we think they’re cool?
-Just where is this meandering plot going? There is no real suspense here, and no clear plot. I half-heartedly wondered whether Robicheaux committed a crime, but there was no big ah-ha moment at the end. The plot meandered. There were little fires to be put out here and there as various bad guys kept knocking off other bad guys, while the good guys chased the action and threw a bunch of punches themselves. None of this worked for me. And I was often confused about who was chasing who and what the point was. I like my mysteries to be page-turners with a good plot, not a show of thugs running around in circles.
-Now which person said that? Too many characters talk and act exactly the same way. Voices and behaviors weren’t distinct enough and thus it was hard to tell who was saying what. The one-liners could have been uttered by any of about five characters. Even Robicheaux and his friend Clete sounded the same and acted the same.
-Where did HE come from?? A major character appears halfway through the book. I don’t see any reason why he wasn’t introduced at the beginning. Just seemed random and it annoyed me; I resented having to meet someone new in the middle of the party.
-Nope. Don’t buy it. Robicheaux’s writer daughter Alafair (named after Burke’s daughter, as I mentioned in the Joy Jar section) would not have taken on a certain project, given the players. Staying vague to avoid spoilers.
-A call for scissors! Chop off 100 pages! This book, at more than 400 pages, is way too long. Once I got the hang of skipping through some of the description, I decided I could reach the end. I threatened to quit this one many times.
This book has fists, murder, torture. It has sleaze, pimps, relapsed alkies, dirty cops, corrupt politicians, old Cadillacs, and sweat. Images of soldiers at war both open and end the story, which further made me run away (throwing in random war scenes just doesn’t do it for me). This is one big macho fest!
This is Burke’s 21st book with Robicheaux as the down-and-out recovering-alcoholic detective. Even though the book is part of a way huge series, it works fine as a stand-alone. Burke is prolific and popular, and I know his character is dearly loved. I just found him to be stereotypical, too thuggish, and uninteresting.
I hate to be the outlier, I really do. Being part of the Gush Club is so comfy! But it was not meant to be. I just wasn’t a fan of tough guys swaggering around in the Bayou, using their fists to lead the way. The fascinating, authentic dialogue and little bits of wisdom couldn’t save this one for me. It was 100 pages too long and a total slog to read. I looked at the page numbers constantly, thinking, will this never end? I threatened to can this book more than once. Reading it was shear drudgery—I NEVER looked forward to picking it up. See? Even though I’ve completed my Complaint Board, I still can’t stop whining!
The mystery-book gods call this Burke a king, but it’s his daughter Alafair Burke who’s the royal writer in my book.
Well, now I know why you make so many of my GR lady friends swoon, Mr. James Lee Burke! Or should I say Mr. Robicheaux? You have a fine combination of deep troubled soul, unflinching loyalty to family, friends and the downtrodden, a deep moral compass that doesn't always match up with the law, and a crazy way with words. I imagine your face is weather worn, your voice is deep and a bit raspy, and you have a bit of a twinkle in your eye.
Ok, enough with the swooning! Seriously, JLB sure can write and tell a story. I'm late to the party and obviously started with the wrong book when I read The Jealous Kind last year. It was good, but I didn't really get the JLB fetish. Now that I've read Robicheaux, I get it. Dave Robicheaux is a police officer featured in a long standing series set in southern Louisiana. There was no issue with jumping in and reading this one out of order. There are a number of intertwined story lines and mysteries, featuring a corrupt demagogic senate candidate (sound familiar?), a film maker, the driver of the car who recently killed Robicheaux's wife, a very odd serial killer and a cesspool full of other unsavoury characters. While the story is complex and entertaining, it's almost besides the point. What really got me were the writing, the rich characters, and the strong sense of place. The parts of the story featuring Robicheaux are told from a first person point of view, and JLB sure knows how to spin the internal musings of a troubled man.
What can I say? I feel like I am falling in line with many other swooners. At least, I'm in good company and, better yet, there's a whole stack of books featuring Robicheaux I haven't read yet.
Thanks to my enthusiastic GR friends for pointing me towards JLB, and thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
4★ “Let’s rock,’he said. When he pulled open the door, his coat was heavier on one side than the other. ‘What’s in your pocket?’ I asked. ‘Lint,’ he replied.”
Of course we know what’s in his pocket, because we are familiar with the kind of revenge meted out by characters in Burke’s New Orleans. Sometimes it’s offensively gruesome. But sometimes we want to pump the air and shout YES!, wishing we could deliver jungle justice.
“I hooked him twice with my left hand and caught him again with my right, knocking his head against the bar as he went down. I should have pulled the plug. But I knew I wasn’t going to. The simian that had lived in me since I was a child was back in town.”
I haven’t read any of the Dave Robicheaux series, but I can see why it has attracted a devoted fan following. This can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, (well, I enjoyed it), but I can see it would be a lot more fun if you’re already familiar with Clete and Alafair and others who are probably regulars.
There are new characters, of course, and their names are distinctive, which I imagine is a Burke trademark, but I don’t know. Spade Labiche, Jimmy Nightingale, Levon Broussard. And then there’s Tony. I think there’s only one Tony, but he’s called so many things, that even a character asked “Tony who?” when he was referred to as Tony Squid, or something.
Complicated plot about state and national politics, murders, local police politics, and enough bits of back story to fill me in on Robicheaux’s history with his adopted daughter, Alafair, whose IQ is supposedly off the charts, and with his beloved old partner, Clete, the heavy drinker with the “link” in his pocket. Robicheaux has been doing AA and the 12 steps but finding it hard sticking to Dr Pepper when surrounded by drinkers.
I actually didn’t like the storyline or plot at all. I found the collaboration between Alafair and an author and a producer/politician too odd, so I wasn’t interested in that.
But Burke’s New Orleans is memorable. I’ve lived in enough hot, humid places with jungly shadows and bugs to feel the atmosphere and know what it is to be hanging out for a change.
“It’s a phenomenon that seems unique to South Louisiana, like a sea change, as if the natural world is reversing itself and correcting an oversight. The barometer will drop unexpectedly, the bayou will swell and remain placid at the same time, and suddenly, rain rings will dimple the surface from one bank to the other.”
His characters and settings are worth the price of admission, whether you like the storyline or not. The people are unique, the locale affects everything. He can get a bit preachy, but I didn’t mind.
“the Atchafalaya Basin, the flooded woods a golden green at sunset and so swollen with silence that you wonder if this piece of primordial creation was saved by a divine hand to remind us of what the earth was like when our ancestors grew feet and crawled out of the sea. The cypress trees were in early leaf, as delicate as green lace, ruffling in the breeze, the water high and black and undisturbed, chained with lily pads, the bream and goggle-eye perch rolling under the pads like pillows of air floating to the surface. “
If it had been a bit shorter and I’d enjoyed the actual plot more, I’d have rated it higher. As it is, I’m sure it will find a place on many Favourite Books lists.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the preview copy from which I’ve taken the liberty of quoting.
This is the 21st book in this series, revolving around Dave Robicheaux, a man haunted by his past, by his time in Vietnam, his battle with his demons leading him to alcohol in the past, and sometimes still he strays from his promise of sobriety. As a detective in Louisiana, he is also surrounded, involved in the seedier side of life, it wears on him, making it harder for him to win his battle against the demons of his past that haunt him.
I have only read one other book by James Lee Burke, ‘The Jealous Kind,’ which is not part of this series, putting me at somewhat of a disadvantage in being as familiar with this character as those others who have read the 20 books that precede this one – but I still really enjoyed this. Burke falls into the category of natural born storytellers, with a gift of showing the many sides of life in Louisiana, from the social climate in an area still hurting economically and haunted by Katrina, from New Orleans to the lesser known towns and remote areas, Louisiana is culturally rich in a spiritual and historic sense even where poverty reigns, maybe even more so there.
It’s here in this place where the land and people seem to accept the ghosts of the past as well as the present, with a handful of less-than-completely honest politicians and a few slightly corrupt members of law enforcement. Nobody’s perfect, right? Add a touch of Hollywood to the scene, with a movie being made which may include some rather nefarious types, and one unforgettable character named Smiley.
This falls into the mystery / crime fiction category, which is really not high on my list of types of books I’m drawn to, but I love the characters Burke creates, they are all so perfectly imperfect, and Dave Robicheaux, especially, is a character that is easy to be drawn to. He’s a wonderfully complex character, a recovering alcoholic who gives of himself to those he loves – family, friends, and others who are also broken inside, filled with guilt and a deep feeling of shame and disgrace over his failures. Between Robicheaux and the setting, all of the additional characters, I loved this literary ride through one of my favourite places.
Pub Date: 02 Jan 2018
Many thanks for the ARC provided by Simon & Schuster
In the memorable words of Rocket J. Squirrel "And now, here's something we hope you'll really like!", we get the book ��Robicheaux” the Dave Robicheaux Series #21 by James Lee Burke. It has been five years between the last Robicheaux, 2013’s “Light of the World”, and this addition to the series.
Things have turned soft and brown for Dave. His third wife has recently been killed in an auto accident. (His first wife, Bootsie, died of lupus, his second wife Annie Ballard, a social worker, was murdered). He has fallen off ‘the wagon’, His beloved pet, Tripod, that ice cream loving raccoon, is no longer in the picture. Yet Dave soldiers on espousing honorability and truth.
The book “Robicheaux” reflects current situations and times, with reflections into the past. Mr Burke informs us this is the first book in a trilogy, the second being “New Iberia Blues”, with a third in progress. As the series has progressed the books have become more and more complex. The battles between good and evil more defined.
A bit of background, Dave Robicheaux is a police officer in New Iberia, Louisiana, a few miles down the road from New Orleans. Burke introduced him in “The Neon Rain” (1987), one of my all-time favorite books, and, since then, fans like me have followed Dave’s every move, in and out of alcoholism, sharing his visions of ghostly Confederate troops trudging through the swamp land and along the fringes of the bayous, and bringing down all sorts of bad men with the help of his bail skip tracer buddy known as Cletus Purcell.
Also making an appearance in this volume is Dave’s adopted daughter Alafair, who has been away writing her novels and making her way in the world. Another character is the overpowering Louisiana climate that does not do pastel shades: it never drizzles – the rain comes down like magnum bullets, clanging into tin roofs, the wet heat saps the spirit, and makes men mad, and women madder.
The books in sequence are:
“The Neon Rain” (1987) “Heaven's Prisoners” (1988) (and movie) “Black Cherry Blues” (1989) “A Morning for Flamingos” (1990) “A Stained White Radiance” (1992) “In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead” (1993) (and movie) “Dixie City Jam” (1994) “Burning Angel” (1995) “Cadillac Jukebox” (1996) “Sunset Limited” (1998) “Purple Cane Road” (2000) “Jolie Blon's Bounce” (2002) “Last Car to Elysian Fields” (2003) “Crusader's Cross” (2005) “Pegasus Descending” (2006) “The Tin Roof Blowdown” (2007) “Swan Peak“ (2008) “The Glass Rainbow” (2010) “Creole Belle” (2012) “Light of the World” (2013) “Robicheaux” (2018) “The New Iberia Blue” (2019)
James Lee Burke (born December 5, 1936)
Rocky: "Look, Bullwinkle, a message in a bottle." Bullwinkle: "Fan mail from a flounder?" Rocky: "This is what I really call a message." Narrator: "Oh good heavens!... Today we find our heroes plunging straight down toward disaster at supersonic speed!"
I have to admit - when it comes to James Lee Burke, I am biased. He is one of my favorite authors and his new novel Robicheaux was not a disappointment.
HIs writing is so visually descriptive and as colorful as a painter's palette When reading Robicheaux, you can hear the dead leaves blowing in the wind and across the ground, smell the particulates carried by rain and taste the salt blown into the air.
Burke's characters are three dimensional and complex and often times, Burke purposely leaves the full meaning of their spoken words somewhat ambiguous, forcing the reader to develop his or her own interpretation of their full meaning.
Characters from all walks of life - the mob, religion, politics, the sewer and upper society - are thrown in, often with murky motives and often not what they seem or purport to be.
How to describe the plot? In one way, it's difficult and that is part of the appeal of Robicheaux. The story starts when a dying mobster asks Dave Robicheaux to return a family heirloom, Confederate sword to a man of status in hopes of entering into a film-making venture with the man.
From here, an odd assortment of characters start to emerge and then people start dying. The villains in this novel include corrupt law enforcement officers, people of means and a deadly, enigmatic hitman named "Smiley."
As the story unfolds, the many plot lines start to merge leading the reader to a satisfying ending.
Burke brings along Robicheaux's daughter Alafair, close friend Cletus Purcel and Sheriff Helen Soileau for the ride. When needed, he also provides nuggets of backstory from previous novels so that the reader can easily remember past events.
Burke's writing is also sprinkled woven in historical facts and mysteries of the Southern past that adds additional layers to the complexity of the Robicheaux character's life. As in past novels, Robicheaux is in a constant battle with his violent ways and horrifically, destructive alcoholism.
When I first met Dave Robicheaux, in The Neon Rain, the Vietnam veteran was a lieutenant in the New Orleans PD and was already wrestling with an addiction to alcohol. In those early days he was prone to occasional blackouts during which the red mist that sometimes descended could push him to commit vile acts of violence, the details of which usually escaped him the morning after. Well time has moved on in the books that have followed (this is the 21st) and throughout much of this period Dave has been based some 130 miles away in the smaller city of New Iberia, in the heart of Cajun country. And that's where we find him in this latest book, struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife in a motoring accident.
Robicheaux’s manner is abrupt and his conversations with just about everyone tend to end in harsh words and/or accusation. Yes, he's not a bundle of laughs, in fact his normal demeanour makes Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch look like a standup comedian. And yet I, like probably all of JLB’s regular readers, I have come to love this man. He sets high moral standards for himself and others but he works to his own set of rules which allow him license to operate, at times, outside of standard police parameters. He tries to do the right thing, but in his own way.
His regular sidekick, Clete Purcell, is once again on the scene as Dave becomes entangled in an investigation into the violent death of a man who met his end during the period of one of his blackouts. Robicheaux had fallen off the wagon and, like times of old, has no recollection of events on the fateful night. Did he kill a man? He begins to think that he just might have. Clete adds the humour in these stories. He's a wild man but with a moral compass as well defined as Dave's own. He's brutal and hilarious in equal measure. In fact, I believe he's my all time favourite fictional character and I'm only surprised that Burke hasn't yet seen fit to give him free rein in a book or two of his own.
I won't delve further into the plot as I really don't want to spoil this for anyone, but I will say that the standard of writing is out of the top drawer – as always – and I believe lovers of this series will certainly not be disappointed with this offering. It's not as fast and furious as some other books in the series, but this does allow us to see Robicheaux truly fighting his demons as he struggles to find the truth behind the events that unfolded whilst also mourning the loss of his wife and the erosion of the Cajun way of life he grew up with in his beloved Southern Louisiana homeland.
My thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
James Lee Burke’s novels are often considered crime fiction, but that does the author and his work a great disservice. Yes, there are police and criminals and investigations but the novels are so much richer and deeper than that. In my opinion, he is one of America’s greatest living authors. In this most recent outing for Dave Robicheaux and his pal Clete Purcel, Dave is suspected of murdering the man who killed his wife Molly in an auto accident. Dave’s friends and family don’t believe he could have committed the murder, but Dave doesn’t know because he was in an alcoholic blackout. In the midst of that investigation he and Clete are also dealing with a particularly slimy mobster, a senatorial candidate with a lot to hide, rape, child abuse, and one of the most unusual and terrifying killers in recent fiction. As he always does, James Lee Burke vividly brings the Louisiana setting to life. One of the things I most appreciate about Burke’s fiction is that everything isn’t neatly tied up at the end and evil doers aren’t always punished - just as it is in life.
Woven into this complex and absorbing story are Civil War history and the place it holds in southern consciousness, alcoholism and the very realistic depiction of it, the importance of family, and the code of honor Dave and Clete live by. A code of looking out for the weak and helpless, seeking justice, and behaving honorably and nobly. Because he tries to live honorably, Dave doesn’t lie or take the easy out offered to him to eliminate a possible murder charge. As he has in previous novels, Burke traces that code of honor and chivalry back to the tale of Roland and the battle of Roncevaux. (If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s fascinating reading.) There’s also a sly aside to a book written by a novelist in the story entitled “White Doves at Morning” where he refers to it as being the best book he’s written. Long time readers of Burke will recognize that title and it made me wonder if Burke considers that his best book.
There is a more elegiac tone in this book than in previous novels. “Solitude and peace with oneself are probably the only preparation one has for death. I put the statement in the third person for a reason. I don’t believe I ever achieved these things with any appreciable degree of success. But there are moments when we understand that the earth and the sky and the presences that may lie behind them are always with us.” Burke may have become more focused on mortality, but I hope he has an exceedingly long and healthy life so there will be many more books to come.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review..
I think James Lee Burke may be my favorite crime fiction novelist because the plots are complex, engrossing and not clichéd, the characters are believable and interesting and the dialogue and use of language are brilliant. This book had all of the above. I particularly liked that the book did not have a tidy conclusion. It is not necessary to have read any of the author's other books in order to enjoy this one.
Dave Robicheaux is a sheriff's detective in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. After a night spent in an alcohol-induced blackout, Dave finds himself implicated in the death of the man who caused the death of Dave's wife 2 years ago in a car crash. However, there is a lot more going on than this crime. There's a senate candidate with a shady past and his cousin/sister/possible lover, a mobster who wants to get into the movie business, a civil war novel, multiple murders, a child with an abusive father, a rape accusation, dirty cops, an avenging angel/hit man and ghosts. I wasn't crazy about the ghosts, but the author is fond of them and has used them before in his writing. "If there is such a thing as wisdom, and I have serious doubts about its presence in my own life, it lies in the acceptance of the human condition and perhaps the knowledge that those who have passed on are still with us, out there in the mist, showing us the way, sometimes uttering a word of caution from the shadows, sometimes visiting us in our sleep, as bright as a candle burning inside a basement that has no windows."
While the author creates rounded characters, woven into the book is a critical view of the citizens of Louisiana in general. "Since Huey Long, demagoguery has been a given; misogamy and racism and homophobia have become religious virtues, and self-congratulatory ignorance has become a source of pride." "Louisiana is not a state; it's an outdoor mental asylum in which millions of people stay bombed most of their lives. That's not an exaggeration. Cirrhosis is a family heirloom." "Whenever I hear people talk about white superiority, I have to pause and think back on some of the white people I've known. It's a depressing moment."
I received a free copy of the e-book from the publisher, however I alternated between reading it and listening to the audiobook. The narration by Will Patton was excellent as always.
Robicheaux is an extraordinarily powerful novel, an absolute masterpiece of crime fiction. It is filled with the most incredible prose, thoughtful, violent, nasty, and just plain out great writing. It’s worth reading more than once -just that good.
Although I am a bit late to the party - starting with book 21 of the series that stretches back over many volumes, I fully intend to read each and every one of those other 20 books.
Robicheaux takes us to New Iberia, a Cajun town near New Orleans, haunted by unsolved murders, gangsters, corruption, slick politicians, and more. Police detective Robicheaux too is haunted by his past in Vietnam, by deeds we don’t speak of, and by his wife’s death in a car accident. Shootings, rapes, beatings, torture fill the book, but what makes it is the prose that is so haunting you want to highlight a passage in just about every page. It’s not a book of good guys and bad guys necessarily, but far more complex and interconnected. The characters are filled with motivations and depth.
What a fantastic read. Really can’t say enough about this book. Highly recommended. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for an advance copy for review.
I bought James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux at the start of the year when it just came out. But I didn’t read it, struggling with the fear this was going to be the last book in one of my favorite and most beloved series. Honestly, I love this series more than panda bear cubs, those jeans that make my butt look like two cantaloupes just ripe for the picking, all but four of my relatives (you guys know who you are-wink-wink), and every variety of Girl Scout cookie. These are books that have meant a lot to me for many years. The eponymous title, author Burke’s advancing age, and the fact that the series’ main character, policeman Dave Robicheaux had almost died a few books back and is now seeing the ghosts of Confederate soldiers in the bayou beckoning him to join them all made me fear this was the end. I do not handle goodbyes well. So I ignored this book, it just sat on my nightstand. I was that guy who is thirty pounds overweight, smoking three packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day, Whooper with extra cheese Biggie-sized for lunch type of guy who is experiencing chest pains but just ignores them, too afraid to go to the doctor and uncover what might be actually going on.
But I eventually cracked the cover and immersed myself in another sensational trip to New Iberia with detective Robicheaux, his best bud, Clete Purcell, and a full cast of marvelous characters ranging from the wealthy and established to the degenerates secreting oily trails of slime as they participate in their wicked, and often violent undertakings.
Joey Ramone once said about a little musical ensemble called The Clash that, “(the)Clash are not the best punk band in the world. They are the best band in the world.” And this can be said about author James Lee Burke. He is not the best American mystery writer. He is the best American writer. Burkes’ novels contain repeating themes: he shines a spotlight on class and race issues. There are wealth and power issues. And, we also have themes regarding man’s nature, propensity for violence, accountability, and addiction. Robicheaux hits them all.
However, the biggest theme from this book, should be how we need to treat our kids better. Almost every villain, and most of the tortured police would have lived fuller and more peaceful lives if they had just been treated nicer when they were children. So be kinder folks. Seriously.
This electrifying tale will keep you up late. You will rapidly turn the pages wanting to see what detective Robicheaux uncovers, as well as cringe in revulsion as he uses his favorite ballpoint pen repeatedly to poke at shell casing, dead bodies and the assorted splattered viscera of multiple crime scenes and then nonchalantly put it back in his pocket.
Another great one from the best writer today in America.
I've only heard of James Lee Burke this year. I read the first novel in this long series earlier in the year. This is the latest instalment.
There were a lot of things to like about this novel: the settings and the descriptions were wonderful, honestly, I can't remember the last time I read a thriller/mystery novel that had so many detailed descriptions. As much as I admired Lee Burke's ability to come up with so many descriptions of settings, smells, atmospheric conditions because it was narrated by Robicheaux, a policeman, I thought it was a bit over-the-top. The same thing applies to the many life observations and philosophies that Robicheaux was coming up with. I mean the guy is a philosopher. So yeah, I am a bit conflicted, as the things I appreciated the most about this novel, were also the things that were over-done. I could have done with fewer expositions or shorter ones.
As far as the police work and mysteries were concerned, there were quite a few different threads going on. A simpler, less convoluted plot would have worked better for me. It would have allowed for some pruning because, at 464 pages, this was a tad too long.
It was great to get back with Dave after a five-year gap while Burke concentrated on his historical fiction series. After reading 20 out of 21 in the Robicheaux series of police drama set in southeastern Louisiana, it is like catching up with a family member. He is in tough straits as he hasn’t recovered much from losing his second wife to a hit-and-run accident two years before and lives alone in isolation with his memories. His compelling case of the disappearance and presumed rape and murder of eight prostitutes in the region has long been going nowhere, and his current case of the rape of the wife of a writer he admires makes him despair so much he goes off the wagon after many years of sobriety. The driver responsible for his wife’s death, free under the claim that she ran a stoplight, turns up tortured and killed. He has an alcoholic blackout for the period in question and unexplained injuries on his hands, leading him to dread the possibility of being the culprit. While suffering under the cloud of investigation, his old friend Clete, his boss, New Iberia sheriff Helen, and his grown daughter, Alafair, in town to write a movie script for the author noted, all keep his hope alive of his innocence.
Some may suspect this book of revealing that Burke is writing the same story over and over again. Dave courageously fighting evil in the world while struggling with the handicaps of alcoholism and wavering controls over seething impulses toward violence, both fueled by his hardscrabble upbringing and experiences in the Vietnam War. While he has long honorably ridden herd on his dangerous Id, his buddy Clete and former partner in his New Orleans police career was always the one to act out and employ illegal tactics in dealing with their enemies. Again, Dave and Clete operate like two aspects of the same person, with the roles of Jeckle and Hyde blurred. Yet this could be the best incarnation of common themes for the series. We are served a fascinating cast of characters and suspects in a satisfying mystery, some thrilling action sequences with survival at stake, and plenty of lyrical breaks to tune into natural environment of the Gulf Coast, and eerie interludes with Dave’s experiences of ghosts of Confederacy soldiers. The expectation of purists to read series in order I don’t believe is necessary, and there is no reason not to make this a first foray.
The concerns of the secondary characters here are emblematic of the state’s challenges in accommodating to its history of slavery, racism, and corruption. The writer Levon Broussard is a liberal with experiences with Amnesty International in Latin America but is one who buys into the Lost Cause outlook on the Civil War and thus sees a romantic nobility in his ancestors who fought with the Confederacy. The politician Jimmy Nightingale speaks in populist platitudes while currying favor from white supremacists, feels guilty about deadly retaliations against Indians who interfered with his oil development operations in South America while sanguine about possible raping Broussard’s wife when they were both drunk. The gangster, Tony “The Nose” Nemo, is riding herd on his empire while fading from health issues (emphysema and colon cancer), and now wants the glory of becoming a movie producer, with a Broussard write-up of family history as a hotly desired ticket to achieving that goal. Unfortunately, Nightingale has the same idea, and both curry favor with Dave and Alafair to help intercede with Broussard. Suddenly, a hitman comes on the scene, a real odd duck who does surprising things like stealing an ice cream truck and giving out freebies to downtrodden neighborhood kids. Despite windows on a serious killer, we still have the mystery of who his contractor is, as well as who was behind the earlier deaths, including that the prostitutes. There is enough malevolence in the murk for Dave to be a bit forgiving of himself for some of his loss of control:
How do you handle it when your anger brims over the edge of your pot? You use the shortest version of the Serenity Prayer, which is “Fuck it.” Like Voltaire’s Candide tending his own garden or the British infantry going up the Khyber Pass one bloody foot at a time, you do your job and you grin and walk through the cannon smoke, and you just keep saying fuck it. …”Fuck it” is not profanity. “Fuck it” is a sonnet.
I love how Burke has Dave constantly touching base with the natural world around him. It is natural to suspect they are one in their outlook. For example, here Dave takes a broad mental reach in response to Nightingale’s compressed answer to his complaint about consorting with a white supremacist, “It’s politics. This is Louisiana”: I wasn’t up to his cynicism. I looked at the oaks, the moss lifting in the wind, purple dust rising from a cane field, Bayou Teche glinting in the sun like a Byzantine shield. La Louisiane, the love of my life, the home of Jolie Blon and Evangeline and the Great Whore of Babylon, the place for which I would die, the place for which there was no answer or cure.
Both Clete and Dave (and many others in this world) assuage their states of uncertainty and stress by outings alone that involve meditative fishing. Here such a breather for Dave inspires a wonderful sense of humanity as not too far from its amphibian ancestry: Henderson Swamp is part of the vast network of bayous and bays and rivers that constitute the Atchafalaya Basin, the flooded woods a golden green at sunset and so swollen with silence that you wonder if this piece of primordial creation was saved by a divine hand to remind us of what the earth was like when our ancestors grew feet and crawled out of the sea.
Purple patch to some, but to me a typical and satisfying bit of romantic mentality by which Burke and Robicheaux oppose all the grim and hardboiled elements of his dramas.
This book was provided by the publisher for review through the Netgalley program.
James Lee Burke is one of our finest story tellers. His novels are masterful, lyrical, colorful. As the title might suggest to those familiar with the author in this novel he brings back one of his favorite characters. Dave Robicheaux is a complex character. A Vietnam veteran, an alcoholic, a man haunted by ghosts of the past, and now the sudden loss of his wife Molly.
Robicheaux has difficulty dealing with the death of his wife and whether it was an accident. Unfortunately, and as he has too often in the past, he turns to the bottle to deal with his emotions. When the man who killed his wife turns up dead Robicheaux finds himself a suspect in the man's death. He works to clear his name while at the same time questioning himself and whether he could have committed such an act in an alcoholic blackout. But he is not alone. His best friend Clete Purcel works with him to try and determine his whereabouts during the murder.
As with anytime Dave and Clete find themselves paired up in an investigation they are entangled with a cast of unsavory characters. There is Mafia boss Fat Tony Nemo and his enforcers, novelist Levon Broussard and his wife Rowena, and Jimmy Nightingale who has political aspirations. How far is each willing to go to defend themselves from what they believe is theirs? Add a dangerous contract killer named "Smiley" and you wonder whether Dave and Clete, the "Bobbsey Twins from Homicide" will survive this time.
Dave Robicheaux is a good man with many demons. At his core though he is loyal and devoted to family and friends. In Robicheaux we have a story of past and present, grandeur and shame.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster, James Lee Burke, and Goodreads for the opportunity to read this as a Giveaways win.
Another favorite from a favorite author. Dave Robicheaux has lost his third wife, Molly, before this book begins but that loss sets a haunting tone for all that happens. He is deep in despair and having difficulty fighting his constant enemy, the bottle. He doesn't fall off the wagon; he jumps. But he also is a man who knows responsibility so he works to fight his way back to sobriety. So many twists and turns in this excellent book. Molly was killed in a car crash which Dave believes was not an accident but actually due to the other driver being impaired behind the wheel. But without proof, he has nowhere to go but the bottle to drown his sorrow. His friends are worried for him, his daughter Alafair is worried and comes home for a visit.
In addition to this, there are also predators from the past continuing to make inroads on respectability and members of the Southern gentry acting in strange ways. While trying to work out his own problems, Dave is also caught up in their issues, or are they somehow mixed?
The haunting mists that captured me in In the Electric Mist With Confederate Dead are very present here in Robicheaux, with its somber starting story of loss. Dave again sees those Confederate dead passing through the mists and they are often as real for him as Alafair or his friends. Is it the drink or his own form of PTSD? Dave knows the land; he knows where all of the old battles were fought as well as the new ones of these modern times.
This is another excellent outing in the Robicheaux series which, for me, has grown even more amazing since The Tin Roof Blowdown, written after Hurricane Katrina. Burke's passion for the people and places of Louisiana and the wrongs done to them has grown more fierce since that horrible time. And it has lit up his writing to an even higher level, in my opinion.
Very highly recommended.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An online definition of the noir genre states that it is "characterized by cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity", and there can be no question that this book, as with the others in James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series that I have read, fits that criteria. Robicheaux has always been obsessed with the darker regions of the human heart, the beauty and history of his beloved New Orleans and New Iberia, and the corruption, bigotry and violence endemic to the area. In this book, Burke expands his focus to encompass issues that have become part of the national political dialog in the U.S. in recent years. This is definitely a book of literary and cultural force.
Once all the characters have been introduced and the plot begins to take shape, it is difficult not to see the shadow of Huey Long as depicted in Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men. Burke echoes many of the themes of Warren's masterful account of the appeal of a charismatic politician to those with a desperate desire to believe in something grand that will let them rise above the reality of their lives. Burke may not match Warren's writing skills (King's Men won the Pulitzer and Warren served as US poet laureate in the 1940's), but he is head and shoulders above most writers of genre fiction. I started reading this book expecting a well written, well crafted crime novel, but it is so much more.
The sleazy underworld types and confederate ghosts that typically populate Robicheaux's world are, of course, present as are his daughter and best friend, and the plot should be sufficiently complex and opaque to sustain the interest of any of his fans. But for me, it is the exploration of the seductive allure of the gifted politician that makes this book so special.
BTW, I would seriously recommend the audio version - Will Patton is absolutely brilliant as the narrator.
And I think I'm going to put another re-read of King's Men on my TBR list. The time is right.
In case I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: James Lee Burke is a ONE IN A MILLION AUTHOR.
Robicheaux has ghosts from his past that cloud his mind til this day. He has never come to grips with the death of his wife Molly. The person who was responsible for her death haunts him and leaves him with an uncontrollable passion for revenge. The drinking problem that may have led to unspeakable acts of aggression in his job remains another mystery to uncover.
I must comment on my favorite character of all time: Clete Purcell, Dave's side kick. It's impossible for me to listen to Clete's take & response to anything whatsoever without going into near hysterics. This fabulous addition to any Dave Robicheaux stories and I'm shouting praises before he's present! Will Patton(the reader) does Clete like no other. Will is so into these characters and the stories that irreplaceable is his middle name.
Finally there is a character in this story that only Burke could pull off. Remember the name: Smiley. Beyond belief! Enough said. Get this book or listen to it on CD. James Lee Burke is unequaled.
Probably the less said from me the better. Having heard so many great things about Dave Robicheaux and really wanting to read JLB I can finally tick this one off the list. Disappointed is probably an apt word to describe my reaction to this reading experience. Disappointed because I fancied myself belonging to the millions of Robicheaux fans. Disappointed that I didn't start at the beginning of the series, fall under his spell and follow his story in sequence. Disappointed to realise that despite JLB's obviously great story telling ability this book just wasn't for me. Perhaps it was the amount of violence, or the abundance of tough and somewhat impaired charaters but I cannot truthfully say I enjoyed this one. Disappointed to have to post what is bound to be an unpopular, against the trend review. However, I'm still thankful for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Robicheaux is back full throttle battling his demon of alcoholism. He goes off the wagon and has a major black-out that leaves him wondering if he murdered a man who killed his wife. He has absolutely no memory of it. Burke's writing is so vivid that the thirst for the drink almost jumps off the page. I don't think anyone has written about this disease so understandably and in such detail than Burke has.
The problem with Burke is that he's such a great writer that it's hard to put down a book of his especially this one. He breathes life into his description of the life in Louisiana that is so realistic that the humidity was dripping down my back. He also describes the dirty underbelly like of Louisiana politics that is so unique, think Huey Long and you can't go wrong. I met so many despicable people in this book that I wanted to shower them off.
The story brings back his friend, Clete, who saves a young boy from a hellish life and his daughter, Alafair, who is writing the screenplay for a Civil War movie. They get wrapped up in this massive mystery that just leaves your head spinning.
If you want to read a literate book with gorgeous writing and a complex plot, this is it. Do you yourself a favor and read this beautiful mystery.
Thank you, Net Galley, for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
Some of his best prose writing, but some plot elements were ragged, some left dangling, and some were simply not credible. Ending was abrupt and "forced" - like "Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck. The end." Nevertheless, four stars because I can never get enough of James Lee Burke's writing, and I resonate with his political and social sensibilities. You know just where he (or Dave) stands and what he stands for. Right there with you, Big Mon.
Three final comments: (1) I pray there is another Dave Robicheaux book in him and that it takes place in New Iberia; (2) Will Patton absolutely *nails* the voices of the characters, particularly "Tony Squid" and "Smiley" - his best reading performance yet; (3) I will never again regard Elmer Fudd (yes, *that* Elmer Fudd ) - with the same childlike innocence.
James Lee Burke is one author I buy in hard cover. I can't wait to read them and I like having a copy to pass along to a like-minded friend. As I read, I am torn between reading fast to find out what happens next, and reading slowly so it will last longer.
It isn't just plot with James Lee Burke; the Dave Robicheaux books (this is #21) really star Louisiana, and it is a love/hate relationship. The love is in watching the mists lift off the Bayou Teche, taming a friendly raccoon to be companion to your cat, the empty threats of booming thunder during a drought, smelling the first rain hit the dry land, puddling on the Bayou, and the comfort and joy of community and connection. The hate is of the corruption, the oppression of others by those who make the "big bucks" and the oblivious hard-hearted exploitation of the weak, women and children, and distribution of addictive drugs.
There is always a social issue at the heart of the plot, and people willing to callously lie, cheat, steal, torture and kill to make a buck. Dave Robicheaux and his friend Clete are valiant, if flawed, warriors standing against the forces of evil.
There is a lot of classic Burke in this book, Dave and his friend Clete hang out, Dave falls off the wagon and gets back on, Dave mourns the tragic death of his latest wife (Burke does love killing off the wives, LOL), Dave listens to the wisdom of his beloved daughter, Alafair (Burke has a daughter named Alafair who is also an author), and a bucket-load of political corruption. There is not so much gratuitous violence as in the previous Robicheaux novels, but some. Some of the passages could almost be lifted straight out of earlier Robicheaux novels, but hey, the poetic prose is one reason we read James Lee Burke. The heartsick hatred of man's cruelty to man, particularly when it is institutionalized, is another.
Sadly, I have finished the book. James Lee Burke is aging. I am just hoping he has a few more of these great reads in him, and I will buy them every time. He takes me to another world. My husband and I actually take trips to New Orleans and New Iberia, Jeanrette, St. Martinville, Loreauville, Breaux Bridge, etc., to visit all the Burke sites. We have eaten several times at Bon Creole, a restaurant he mentions in Robicheaux, and at the bar and grill by the Bayou. I love it that he promotes the area businesses and churches. I will read anything this talented author writes.
“Robicheaux” is number twenty-one in James Lee Burke’s “Robicheaux” series, but it can be read as a “stand alone.” I am a new reader, but it took only a little time to become familiar with all the characters; Burke fills in any needed background as the story goes along.
Dave Robicheaux is a Louisiana police detective, devoted and complex, and yet imperfect and troubled. He is tormented by the death of his wife, his time in Vietnam, and his alcohol abuse. The addition of a contract killer and a police detective with his own issues create a potentially toxic situation. Burke creates multifaceted and complex characters. It is hard to distinguish the good from the bad because they are all tangled in the same unsavory web. Readers must assess if the good qualities are outweighed by flaws. Louisiana is also a character with its heat and humidity, its past and present, and its people and alligators. Louisiana’s social climate, economic damage, and historic past keep the story moving as much as the individuals do.
James Lee Burke is a natural born storyteller. The book is not a “nail-biting” thriller, but carries readers along as it ebbs and flows effortlessly. It makes readers think rather than recoil. The dialogue is clear and compelling. The characters are provocative and genuine. The story is riveting and vivid.
I received a copy of “Robicheaux” from James Lee Burke, Simon and Schuster, and NetGalley. I had previously only read one of Burke’s books, and it was not from this series. I greatly enjoyed reading “Robicheaux” and no I have twenty more books on my “to read” list.
Look, this is James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux. But in case you haven't read any of these, here goes. First, one quote-"The Teche was high and yellow at dawn, lapping into the canebrakes and cypress knees along the banks, the sun pink and the sky strung with white clouds and patches of blue. The trees were dripping audibly and throbbing with birds. It was a grand way to start the day, in spite of all that had happened." If that gets the lyrical monkey clawing your back, you don't need a drink nor A.A. Read the book. But a tidbit for those who wish something a bit harder, this- "'We called it off. That's why you've got your tally whacker in the hay baler?'" And remember the "in spite of all that had happened" phrase. And it does-around, to, from and by Robicheaux. Lastly, this book would get my five if for nothing else than the names Burke concocts.