Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Mopping-up in Kat's wake, 9 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Tin Roof Blowdown (Paperback)
"Supposedly we are a Christian society ... According to our self-manufactured mythos, we revere Jesus and Mother Teresa and Saint Francis of Assisi. But I think the truth is otherwise. When we feel collectively threatened, or when we are collectively injured, we want the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday on the job and we want the bad guys smoked, dried, fried, and plowed under with bulldozers." ‒ Dave Robicheaux in THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN

"Th- dym---- is un--- the -ri--s on --e ot--- -ide of -h- -an-." ‒ where the swag is hidden in THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN

In this, the sixteenth in a long progression by James Lee Burke, his hero, Dave Robicheaux of the New Iberia Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff's Department, is on loan to the New Orleans Police Department to maintain order among that city's model citizenry in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It proves to be a messy assignment that encompasses an investigation of vigilante killings and the repercussions surrounding the burglary of a local crime kingpin's home evacuated before advancing floodwaters.

I've not read all the Dave Robicheaux novels (and am unlikely to do so), but will venture opinions anyway.

The strength of Burke's writing lies not so much in the books' plots or characters, though all are consistently above average and enormously engaging, but in the descriptiveness of the author's prose when describing environments. It's exemplary enough to bring tears of admiration from those not so gifted, including myself (much of whose job is technical writing). In THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN, Burke's word picture of a devastated New Orleans is worth more than any visual one:

"After sunset on the first day, August 29, the sky was an ink wash, streaked with smoke from fires vandals had set in the Garden District. There were also electrical moments, flashes of light in the sky, heat lightning or perhaps sometimes the igneous trajectory of tracer rounds fired from automatic weapons. The rule books were going over the gunwales."

And...

"The water was chocolate-brown, the surface glistening with a blue-green sheen of oil and industrial chemicals. Raw feces and used toilet paper issued from broken sewer lines. The gray, throat-gagging odor of decomposition permeated not only the air but everything we touched. The bodies of dead animals, including deer, rolled in the wake of our rescue boats. And so did those of human beings ..."

If one had to be there to understand, then the author certainly was, or at least took good notes when interviewing those who were.

My only quarrel with THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN is perhaps that it was overly long and complicated. It's as if Burke felt compelled to employ all his casting-call of characters and not save any for future series installments. As if there won't be any. Puhleeze!

As this is my first Robicheaux thriller since he joined the New Iberia force, it's my first exposure to Dave's boss, Sheriff Helen Soileau. In many ways, she's more intriguing a persona than her subordinate and, like Charlie Button in Stephen Leather's Dan Shepherd books, deserves her own series.

As Burke moves his Robicheaux character through time book-to-book, the coming-of-age development of his adopted daughter Alafair is something to behold. By the end of THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN, it's You Go Girl!
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Review Details

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3.9 out of 5 stars (127 customer reviews)
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Reviewer

Joseph Haschka
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   

Location: Glendale, CA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 475