With Heaven's Prisoners, James Lee Burke delivers an excellent sequel to The Neon Rain and ensures the success of his fictional detective, Dave Robicheaux.
The plot centres around the crash of a light aircraft into the Gulf, and it's passengers, both dead and alive.
What differentiates this book from the morass of dull "Thriller-by-numbers" is not only the plot, but also the creation of a truly lasting central character and the delightful and thorough description of the book's setting.
In Dave Robicheaux, James Lee Burke has created possibly the finest fictional detective of modern times. In my opinion, only Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus is worthy of comparison to Robicheaux. Both Robicheaux and Rebus are deeply flawed men, deemed under-achievers by their peers, haunted by personal demons, yet great believers in truth and justice, but not necessarily their respective judicial systems. The reader cannot help but be drawn to Robicheaux as Burke cleverly engenders feelings of sympathy and compassion for his character by subjecting him to some quite horrific twists of plot and fate.
Burke's literary talents are also exhibited by his portrayal of Southern USA and it's inhabitants. His love of this troubled part of the USA is apparent in every word as he transports the reader to the bayous and bars of the South with a detail again reminiscent of Rankin's Edinburgh.
A great novel by any standards, Heaven's Prisoners depicts good and evil, not in black and white, but in myriad shares of grey which is infinitely more satisfying. Devotees of great crime fiction could do no better than to discover James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux.