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A Gumbo Crime Thriller – He may have committed a murder he’s investigating

In this New York Times bestseller, James Lee Burke’s most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in this gritty, atmospheric crime mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana.


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.

James Lee Burke is what fellow writers call a wordsmith. He can make your eyes water with a lyrical description of tropical rain falling on a Louisiana bayou: “I love the mist hanging in the trees,” he tells us in ROBICHEAUX , “a hint of wraiths that would not let heavy stones weigh them down in their graves, the raindrops clicking on the lily pads, the fish rising as though in celebration.” In the next breath, he’ll offer a comprehensive account of an excruciating death by torture: “The guy who did him took his time.” And to satisfy our appetite for Southern eccentricity, he’ll introduce us to great characters like Baby Cakes Babineau and Pookie the Possum Domingue.

Dave Robicheaux, the narrator of this regional series is an Iberia Parish sheriff’s detective with the melancholy air of a man who occasionally sees the hollow-eyed ghosts of the Confederate dead. Haunted by his own violent past, Robicheaux keeps trying to redeem himself through good works; but when he falls off the wagon, as he does here in a spectacular way, he thinks he might be capable of committing murder. But he’s not in the same class as a contract killer named Chester Wimple (“Sometimes people call me Smiley”).

Like most of Burke’s plots, this one has roots in Louisiana history, a gumbo of “misogamy and racism and homophobia,” not to mention “demagoguery” and “self-congratulatory ignorance.” Mob figures like Fat Tony Nemo look tough, but they have nothing on up-and-coming politicians like Jimmy Nightingale, eager to follow in the footsteps of his flamboyantly crooked predecessors. Burke has no inclination to romanticize gangsters, no matter how well groomed: “They were brutal, stupid to the core, and had the visceral instincts of medieval peasants armed with pitchforks.” Rather, he pays homage to the fallen dead like Lt. Robert S. Broussard, a Civil War hero whose sword gets into the hands of a crime boss. In rescuing this artifact, Robicheaux bares his bleeding heart for “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.”

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Originally posted 2018-03-22 23:34:04.

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