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Pegasus Descending [Paperback]

James Lee Burke
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 July 2007

Dave Robicheaux left his drinking days behind him many years ago, but he still feels guilt over a tragic event he wasn't sober enough to prevent. Dallas Klein, a gambling addict and bar buddy of Dave's when Dave was posted to Miami PD, was killed in an armed robbery he'd been forced to engineer. Two decades later, several incidents in Dave's life in Iberia Parish link to those involved. First he meets Dallas' daughter, Trish, who keeps odd company and is blackballed by the local casinos. Then the supposed suicide of a young girl appears to be connected to the man Dallas owed money to back in the Miami days.

Dave's inability to let things alone gets him involved with two very powerful criminals, both wanting to protect their sons from the trouble they court, and both with the attitude of the privileged and white. When a young black drug dealer gets on the wrong side of the boys, tensions run high and there are more needless deaths - causing Dave to come to blows with the FBI, the DA's office and a thug who has little regard for any life but his own.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New Ed edition (19 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753822083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753822081
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Lee Burke is the author of many previous novels, many featuring Detective Dave Robicheaux. He won the Edgar Award in 1998 for Cimarron Rose, while Black Cherry Blues won the Edgar in 1990 and Sunset Limited was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger in 1998. He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Missoula, Montana and New Iberia, Louisiana.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Admirers of James Lee Burke long ago ran out of adjectives to praise their hero, and the only puzzling thing about his remarkable literary achievement in the crime writing field is that although his sales are more than respectable, many a lesser writer outsells him. This is doubly ironic, as a book like Pegasus Descending proves that, unlike that other much acclaimed master of the American crime novel, James Ellroy, Burke is remarkably consistent. While Ellroy's more recent books have struck off into some very strange territory that has alienated many of his readers, Burke continues to do just what his readers expect: deliver the most pithy and sweeping writing to be found in the crime field.

In Pegasus Descending, we are once again back in the comfortable (if eventful) company of Dave Robicheaux, Burke's long-time protagonist. Dave has finally brought his excessive drinking under control, but still suffers from guilt over a tragic event that he was unable to prevent due to his drunkenness. A friend of Dave’s, a gambling addict, had died in an armed robbery that he had been forced into. After the passage of many years, various events in Dave's life have brought him back into the orbit of the individuals responsible for this violent death.

As readers of Burke will realise from this, Dave is completely unable to let the past rest, and becomes dangerously involved, this time with some very sinister men. In such books as Lay Down My Sword and Shield, The Lost Get-back Boogie and Cimarron Rose (the latter book won the prestigious Edgar award, as did the equally impressive Black Cherry Blues), James Lee Burke has carved out a territory that is very much his own. While the plotting of his novels is as adroit as one could wish, Burke is one of the latter-day descendants of Raymond Chandler who has learned a very important message from the Master: it’s character and atmosphere that counts most in sprawling American narratives like this, and in this area, Burke is nonpareil among current practitioners. As ever, observations on the social mores of the day are folded into the narrative, but at the centre of it all is, as ever, the wonderfully drawn Dave Robicheaux. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Pegasus Descending is a major work by a major writer, and to tell you the truth I'd read a shopping list he wrote and count myself lucky. The book ends with Hurricane Katrina, and I can't wait for him to write about New Orleans post-apocalypse. (Mark Timlin INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Penned by multi-award-winning Burke, this is noir mystery writing at its best. ... With a compulsive plot woven in Burke's seductive, elegiac style, this is a stylishly dark tale of redemption. (PSYCHOLOGIES magazine)

When it comes to literate, pungently characterised American crime writing, James Lee Burke has few peers. (Barry Forshaw DAILY EXPRESS)

Quite superb. (Matthew Lewin THE GUARDIAN)

the 15th of James Lee Burke's David Robicheaux novels, and one of the best - and that is saying something. Burke is the most poetic and lyrical of today's American crime writers; ... In other hands, Pegasus Descending would be merely a gritty noir novel featuring a tough tormented cop. But Burke turns it into an elegaic, almost mystical tale of human frailty, redemption , vengence and loyalty. (Marcel Berlins THE TIMES)

Burke is a cracking storyteller and a wonderful writer whose limpid prose evokes the lushness and mysteriousness of the steamy bayous, where danger and decay lurk just beneath the seemingly placid surfaces, and the darkness and violence in the souls of some of Louisiana's human inhabitants is treated masterfully. After 12 outings, Dave Robicheaux's ongoing struggle with his personal demons remains remarkably fresh and interesting. Don't miss this one. (Myles McWeeney IRISH INDEPENDENT)

Never before has Burke assembled such a Dickensian array of characters ... each one is sketched visually and linguistically with captivating vividness, and as an ensemble they provide an elite-to-underclass panorama of a state Purcel describes as 'a fresh-air mental asylum.' (John Dugdale THE SUNDAY TIMES) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Robicheaux 5 Aug 2006
James Lee Burke writes with a special intensity of language and imagery. I rate this, the latest in the series of Robicheaux novels, as one of the best. And there are some very good books in that series. The main plot is beautifully interwoven with numerous sub-plots that twist and turn before the sudden dramatic climax. If I have a criticism it would be that the climax comes almost in a rush, before you know, it is all over and you are left wondering just what happened. On reflection this is probably more life-like. This is probably a book for James Lee Burke/Robicheaux fans who are already familiar with the characters/surroundings. If I was a newcomer to both I'd start way back in the series. All in all a splendid addition to a great collection. Somehow you know with a deep down sadness that it must all end sometime but long may it continue.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A return to form for JLB 10 Aug 2006
After a lacklustre couple of outings in the Dave Robicheaux series since the peak of 'Purple Cain Road', James Lee Burke has come back with a vengeance in this latest installment. It would always be intriguing how Hurricane Katrina impacted upon his mythical Louisiana landscape, but thankfully, it only seems to have given JLB's writing an extra intensity.

If the pace of 'Pegasus Descending'is slightly slower than some of the earlier series (reflecting Robicheaux's advancing years), then Dave's philosophical reflections and the book's general atmosphere more than compensate. In its leisurely pace and discursiveness, it reminded me of Philip Marlowe in Chandler's 'The Long Goodbye'. The sensuous descriptions of the South and New Orleans are the things fans of the Robicheaux series love (along with the wonderful Cajun names), but JLB may have outstripped even himself here. The elegiac tone is perfect for the coming desolation of Katrina, though this is never overstated.

The only slight jarring note, for me, was the book's end, which resembled a Shakespearian tragedy. After a wonderful slow-burning build-up to the story, the climax was rather abrupt and laid the 'evil destroys itself' theme on a little thick. Mythical motifs are integral to the book, of course (though Bellerephon was a new one to me).

Essentially the Robicheaux books are the same (or a very similar) story over and over again. JLB's villains are never just run-of-the-mill bad guys, but Biblically evil. There is always the old-money patriarch with a shady past, the white mafioso thug that Dave has history with, and the black or Cajun outsider, either criminal or musician, on the run and deeply misunderstood. All the boxes are checked here, and we love it. Burke seems to be aiming for a kind of ideal and may finally have created it here, with the perfect story he has always wanted to write.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another cracker from the master 10 Aug 2006
JLB is back with a further installment of his outstanding Robicheaux series. Is a powerful addition to the series, with Dave being joined by his usual sidekick Clete Purcell & several other well known characters making brief appearances. As always the story is strong on characterisation and the story is fast moving, complex and violent. The suspense builds to a compelling climax. This book will have you hooked from the start. I loved it!

Not the book to pick up if you've not read JLB before - go back to Neon Rain & read through the series chronologically. But if you're already a fan - buy it. NOW!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars taut and atmospheric 14 Nov 2006
One of the best books I've read this year! I recently reviewed another book (Shiver) which I had hoped would bring New Orleans to life but which failed miserably. JLB's amazing descriptive notes appear in this excellent crime story as though he were writing a guide to the area but which, nonetheless, only add more to the atmospheric pictures he paints of the deep south. Though not strictly New Orleans, I know, his Lousiana detective Dave Robicheaux is a character I regret to say I've missed out on. He is one of the few 'heroes' of a detective novel who appears to have a heart in the right place but yet can meet out his personal aggression in the right place - usually! I liked the storyline, I thought I'd sussed the main villain but, in the event, I failed. Perhaps I was too entralled with the storytelling. If you read my other reviews, I think you will see I can be critical. With this one, I heartily recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up There With His Best 30 Nov 2007
On the whole, I'm a great admirer of James Lee Burke. Few crime authors have his consumate skill. Having once read two of his novels back to back, I now try and pace myself more. There is a tendency for them to get a bit samey. In this case, it's a while since I read him and perhaps because of that I was able to truly savour this gem of a book.

As with all of his best work, it is densely plotted. The characters are beautifully drawn - as is the environment into which he places them. Intriguing to the last page. Quality entertainment with literary flair.

On a slightly silly note, I had wondered how long it would be into the novel before he used the word "fecund". In this case, page 386! Apart from D.H. Lawrence, I don't recall any other author using it. But James Lee Burke uses it in EVERY novel. Is it meant to be a signature???

In conclusion, I'd highly recommend the book. I'd recommend you read all his books, actually. He's a master of the genre.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One if many top notch novels by James Lee Burke
Love all j l b books this one is up to the superb standard set at the outset of this series
Published 1 month ago by harry karry
4.0 out of 5 stars Bayou life
the insight into life in South Louisiana is superb and the author is highly skilled in his descriptions of that life but the storyline in this book a little convoluted and not as... Read more
Published 7 months ago by T. R. Stedman
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb!
Excellent. Crime fiction of the first order. Could not put it down. Great pace and poetry. Rare combination. Read it now.
Published 10 months ago by Old Bob
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT WRITER
Published 13 months ago by eileen.d.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
As ever beautifully written, evocative and gripping....this guy Lee Burke is something else! I recommend to anyone wanting to be thrilled and entertained
Published 14 months ago by Don Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Pegasus Descending
I have never been to New Orleans; at 83 perhaps I never will, but the next best thing must be James Lee Burke's Robicheaux series. Read more
Published on 8 July 2012 by Sceptic
5.0 out of 5 stars Burke at his best
I ordered this together with "The Tin Roof Blowdown," and hungrily devoured a double helping of Burke's brilliant writing. Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2009 by AnnaEsse
5.0 out of 5 stars Encore, encore
Would echo previous reviews. If you want a masterclass in how to write a detective story using evocative prose and atmosphere then look no further. Read more
Published on 2 Oct 2009 by Lucky Luke
4.0 out of 5 stars clever
If you want a good read with a clever plot, good characters, and very good descriptive passages then this is for you. Read more
Published on 13 May 2009 by KYGARA
4.0 out of 5 stars Past and Present Collide Explosively in New Iberia
Louisiana has always been a friendly host for those who wanted to run illegal activities, whether slots, cribs or powder. Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2006 by Donald Mitchell
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