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Rain Gods Paperback – 24 Jun 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (24 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075382745X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753827451
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,310 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

In the pantheon of American crime writing giants, it might be argued that James Lee Burke reigns supreme. Elmore Leonard's position is, of course, secure, but wonderful though his books are, they don't have the ambition and sheer heft of Burke. And the man who was perhaps Burke’s nearest rival, James Ellroy, is much less consistent (even the author now admits that his last book, the infuriatingly written The Cold Six Thousand, was a misfire). We've been avidly consuming Burke's vivid and sprawling pictures of American society (and its miscreants) at least as far back as Lay Down My Sword and Shield in 1971, and -- intriguingly -- Burke's new book, Rain Gods, travels back to that earlier volume and plucks out a character to be centre stage in the new book: he is the cousin of Burke's beloved protagonist Billy Bob Holland. Hackberry Holland is the sheriff of a small Texas town, and he is quite one of the most idiomatic (and fully rounded) characters that the author has created (some British readers may find his moniker irresistibly comic, but the slightest acquaintance with the book will soon get them past that).

Holland comes across the bodies of nine Thai women who have been cursorily interred in shallow graves near a church. These murdered prostitutes, Holland knows, are the tip of an iceberg, and represent the greatest professional challenge he has ever faced. And the detailed map of corruption and intimidation that he comes up against stretches from a criminal in New Orleans (for whom the most extreme violence is quotidian) to a troubled veteran of the Iraq war struggling with his own demons (as is Holland himself --- he is, after all, a James Lee Burke protagonist). But by far the most sinister of his opponents is an assassin who lives by the tenets of the Bible, and goes by the soubriquet The Preacher.

Admirers of Burke (and they are legion) tend to ignore reviews and simply buy each new book. First-time buyers, however, should note that this is the author on kinetic form, delivering all the elements that he is celebrated for with pungency and panache. There is even a bonus for those who are resistant to the slightly proselytising religious strain in Burke's work: his malevolent bible-quoting villain here firmly puts paid to the idea that Burke is subtly doing a little PR work for the Catholic Church. This is the great James Lee Burke on something like vintage form. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The richly drawn characters, the powerful sense of the Texan landscape and the unrelenting pace of the storytelling combine to create one of the most gripping and atmospheric novels I've read this year. (Simon Shaw DAILY MAIL)

Burke deftly combines intricate, engaging plotlines and original, compelling characters with his powerfully poetic prose to create a blistering crime novel that also stands with the best of American contemporary fiction. (TANGLED WEB)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mike Alexander on 29 July 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This latest novel about life and death in Southern Texas covers a period in the life of Hackberry Holland, an aging sheriff with some of the attributes of Dave Robicheaux, a history of alcohol abuse particularly. Hack's military history is of the Korean War with all of its primitive cruelty and although the story is set in contemporary times, Hack's memories are vivid and alive. His professional partner is a female sheriff's deputy, a subtle blend of Clete and Helen, readers will know who I am writing about.
A chilling crime initiates the story and Hack along with deputy Pam is drawn into the investigation of the crime, along with an FBI investigator and a Immigration investigator. The latter coming into the story with a seemingly inappropriate history. There are several unpleasant characters, all reflections of the horsemen of the apocalypse or outriders to that group. An Irish psychopath with psychotic delusions of his cosmic importance is a strange inclusion. Although the perpetrator of the dreadful crime, his inclusion amongst shady business men from Louisiana and Texas needs a clearer explanation.
As usual, James Lee Burke's writing is colourful and imaginative, especially his metaphorical descriptions of the landscape. Woven into the story are some historical facts concerning The Alamo battle and consequesnces which will appeal to readers with an historical interest.
I found the similarities with Robicheaux somewhat frustrating as if Hack was overlaid and then altered to fit; The Korean War vs Vietnam;a history of alcohol abuse; a potentially violent partner, are just a few of these that make Hack seem just a tad unreal.
Coming so close after Swan Peak I found the read not quite as enthralling and that is perhpas because I am a keener fan of Robicheaux.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mark on 29 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
As ever, wonderful descriptive passages abound. However this is really just the same story as he has been writing for many years now. All the usual characters,scenes and themes are present. Personally I am yearning for Mr Burke to write something fresh. I love his writing but am tiring of the Deja vous. It has long past the point that to read one of his books is to read them all. I realise this is true of many crime authors but when one has such talents as Mr Burke possesses we should expect much much more.
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Format: Hardcover
As long time reader of James Lee Burke, indeed owning his every novel to date, I have never been disappointed. He creates graphic characters and paints their environment vividly. In addition all his characters are so human because they are flawed in various ways. The plots are tight, the violence at times higg but not over the top.

This book was, for me, his best write for quite a while, not that any of his books are below par, but because it was nice to have a change of character as lead, Hack Holland, and being brought upto date with his progress since he first appeared in Lay Down my Sword and Shield.

If you like atmospheric, fast moving, well researched crime fiction then he is the author for you, and this book highy recommended.

More please James.
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Rain Gods is slightly different, not having one of James Lee Burke's usual characters; however, this kind of focuses on Pete who has now grown up. I am sorry that he has jumped from a kid to a veteran soldier unless I've missed a book. It is a rather complicated plot, but it is nice that Pete has retained the decency imparted to him by Billy Bob Holland although he has his problems with alcohol. I am only two thirds through the book so am unsure how it will all pan out. However, no matter what the plot Burke manages to paint such clear pictures of everything so that one can almost imagine being there- seeing, hearing and smelling. This is his great strength.
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By D. P. Mankin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
By the end of the novel I was left wondering if this was an attempt by James Lee Burke to lay claim to the territory of Cormac McCarthy's 'No Country for Old Men', although their styles are so very different. Certainly I prefer the prose of James Lee Burke over McCarthy any day (except for 'The Road' where the latter's sparse prose style is a perfect match for the plot). I would have liked the central third of 'Rain Gods' to have been edited down by a good 50 pages as the plot did sag here. However, the first and third parts of the novel are a superb evocation of the setting. I still prefer his Dave Robicheaux novels but this was still a highly absorbing read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
"For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come." -- Isaiah 63:4

In Rain Gods, James Lee Burke takes flight from familiar territory and characters to spin a new tale of people mangled by life who try to gain redemption on their own. Without God on their side, it's an uphill battle that provides much frustration for all involved. In terms familiar to Burke fans, two of the leading characters have returned broken from war, one internally and the other internally and externally. Caught by their pasts, the characters are slow to pick up on the opportunities in the present.

I thought that the best writing in the book came in the descriptions of the hardscrabble Texas plains. I could almost feel the heat, dry wind, and promise of rain in the air.

While all of the major characters are conflicted to some degree, Burke's nuanced depiction of a killer for hire with scruples permits us to see that the face of evil is seldom totally black. The Preacher's tendency to be unpredictable is what makes the plot worth unraveling.

At the same time, this plot develops very slowly and leaves out major characters for a hundred pages at a time. Unless you like fine patinas of character development, reading this book can seem like watching paint dry for those who like lots of action in their crime stories and police procedurals. I found that the newness of the characters and territory made that slow evolution bearable, not still noticeable.

Fans of fine descriptive writing will be pleased with the book. Here's a passing reference to local color: "A redheaded turkey vulture flew by immediately over Hackberry's head, gliding so fast on extended wings that its shadow broke apart on a pile of boulders and was gone before Hackberry could blink."

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