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Heavens Prisoners Paperback – 7 Mar 1991
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|Paperback, 7 Mar 1991||
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HEAVEN'S PRISONERS-book Elmore Leonard Author of "Pronto" Burke tells a story in a style all his own: language that's alive, electric; he's a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky, raunchy dialogue that's a delight. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The second Dave Robicheaux novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Into this satisfying life comes death and destruction in the wake of a plane crashing into the water not far from where the pair are trawling for shrimp. Robicheaux manages to rescue a young girl whom, fearing that the crash was not an accident, he takes home and calls Alafair after his mother. This child, growing into a girl and young woman, will feature in many of the subsequent books.
The family soon find themselves the centre of interest of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency and some very unpleasant members of the mob. Soon Robicheaux is convinced that the authorities are involved in a cover-up and typically sets out to investigate. This causes difficulties between Robicheaux and Annie and eventually leads to tragedy, torture and killing. Amongst the mobsters are one of Robicheax’s school friends, Bubba Rocque [‘the kid who wore no coat in winter, had scabs in his hair, and cracked his knuckles until they were the size of quarters’], a bar owner called Eddie Keats and a tonton macoute named Toots. Apart from his family, the main female characters are a stripper with a heart of gold and Bubba’s lesbian wife.
Whilst Burke’s writing about sex is rather repetitive and formulaic, the opposite is true of his descriptions of the Louisiana landscape. Indeed the very first paragraph brings this to life in the most evocative manner [he describes the Louisiana coastline ‘which is really not a coastline but instead a huge wetlands area of sawgrass, dead cypress strung with wisps of moss, and a maze of canals and bayous that are choked with Japanese water lilies whose purple flowers audibly pop in the morning and whose root systems can wind around your propeller shaft like cable wire.’] and he rarely puts a foot wrong in this respect throughout the book. Also fascinating is the structure of the language of the native Cajuns, as typified by his father and his bait and boat helper Batist [‘What you want I do to them, me?’].
At one point the pressures on Robicheaux lead to him start drinking again [‘I was not simply a drunk. I was drawn to a violent and aberrant world the way a vampire bat seeks a black recess within the earth.’] and, to a teetotaler, Burke’s descriptions of the mental and physical agonies that this causes sound only too authentic [‘In an open air food stand on the beach, I drank a glass of iced coffee and ate four aspirins. I squinted upward at the sunlight shining through the branches of the palm tree overhead. I would have swallowed a razor blade for a shuddering rush of Jim Beam through my system.’].
As the number of deaths mount, Robicheaux [who is subjected to a beating that will make all male readers wince] joins the New Iberia sheriff’s department and the story is brought to a thoughtful end in an epilogue.
In this second book there are many references to Robicheaux’s childhood, his service in Vietnam and the viciousness of the segregated world in which he grew up, each of which is integrated into the story and we see that each strand contributed to his alcoholism and barely-contained psychiatric problems.
Such is the diversity of flora and fauna [mainly piscifauna] described that regular googling is necessary to get the most out of the novel. This is an engrossing read at so many levels. Highly recommended.
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.
One day whilst out fishing in the gulf he witnesses a plane crash which heralds the start of a tragic series of events.
Dave explores the darkest corners of his soul as he battles with his alcoholism and tries to conclude some business with an old school friend Bubba Rocque.
This book is an important link into the future stories and introduces some of the key characters including his daughter Alafair and Batiste the paid hand at Dave's boat and bait shop.
Not the best of the series but an emotional and revealing insight into the complexities and dichotomy of Dave's character. An introduction to the Dave's world in southern Louisiana as we later come to know it.
The main character, Dave Robicheaux, has every quality you might expect from detective in this type of thriller. He is a recovering alcoholic, a Vietnam veteran, a good guy who defies authority and will cut corners when he needs to, but is fundamentally a decent man. Naturally he has relationship difficulties and is haunted by his personal demons.
In spite of all this, Heaven's Prisoners is an excellent novel. The pilot has many twists and turns but whilst it is convoluted, it never stretches the reader's credulity. Robicheaux battles to discover the truth behind a plane crash and not only does he have to take on the bad guys but he also faces obstruction from the authorities.
The real reason all of this works is the quality of Burke's writing. He creates believable characters. He portrays the setting with descriptions that give the reader the feeling that he can not only see but also hear and smell the surroundings. Above all he has a natural story teller's gift and this novel not only maintains the reader's interest but also engages him emotionally.
This is the first of this series I have read but I look forward to the rest and cannot recommend this highly enough.