on 28 July 2013
I have long been a fan of James Lee Burke, in particular his Dave Robicheaux series, and this latest saga now tops my list! He continues his delicate balance of good vs. the very worst evil set in amazingly beautiful prose descriptions of the environment where the sometimes disturbing characters live, work and develop their intriguing relationships. Great regular characters mixing with the new. Highly recommend it to Burke fans or new readers looking for a new literary escape.
on 6 February 2014
My bookshelves attest to how much I have followed and enjoyed James Lee Burke over the years. He really is right at the top. This latest has many of the Lee Burke touches - atmosphere, beautiful but tough writing, strong characterisation. That said, the overall feel is that it never really knows where it is going. And, above all, it proved one of the most unpleasant books I've read for a long time, full of gratuitous sexual torture. In retrospect, I wish I'd passed.
on 6 September 2014
I have read all the Robicheaux books and mostly they are brilliant. I love his descriptive evocative writing, in fact our recent trip to the States was in part a desire to see live oaks with spanish moss.
His plots are sometimes chaotic but always in the past I have been captivated by his lyrical style of writing.
Now I come to his latest book and although it has all the hallmarks of his other books it appeared to me to have become almost a parody of the other Robicheaux books.
Robicheaux himself has become pious and Clete is completely ridiculous. The idea that this fat old drunk would attract the attention of a much younger rich beautiful woman beggars belief.
Alafair is irritatingly good and Gretchen as a character is wholly unconvincing.
The action has relocated to Montana, this of course might subconsciously account for my irritation as no live oaks dripping with spanish moss there but it did not stop the author from repeating overblown descriptions of the landscapes, i think use of the word primeval may have been overdone.
The plot was nonsensical, the idea that a couple of tourists to Montana would almost accidentally get caught up with the
machinations of a serial killer defies belief and i had to keep jumping off my reality tree just to finish the book.
Local law enforcement are ignoring the evil living amongst them and it of course falls to Dave and Clete and various other hangers on to ensure that good will overcome evil, oh really!
This is a lazy book and far too reliant on what has worked in the past, a parody, a cliche and i think it is time to put Dave and Clete out of their misery.
on 26 January 2014
This is my first review for Amazon and it may as well be about a series of books that have been an intermittent part of my life for as long as I remember and an author who is second to none in his chosen, or any genre.
Well the good news is that James Lee Burke and the unholy Bobbsey Twins from homicide are as good as ever. The author has clearly thought about his characters and the direction he wants to take them in in the last few books and maybe he has realised that in real time Clete and Dave would be running riot in a retirement community somewhere in their seventies. Real life time and book time don't equate right, but neither are they stuck in a Simpsons style never time where yellow hair and skin never goes grey and grandpa is eternally senile.
So in this case JLB has had pass the buck a bit and extend his cast of characters with Gretchen becoming a much harder edge and troubled version of Clete and Alafair threatening to emulate her father in a similar way. In addition there's Albert who seems to have no obvious relevance to the plot and ex nun Molly who gives the useless sheriff as good as she gets. And then there is Wyatt Dixon. Wyatt Dixon is like the man with no name with his brain messed up by a psychiatrists' collection of drugs and is well worthy of his amount of stage time. And the hovering presence in the background of the stalker in Montana who may or may not be serial killer Asa Surette. Whoever he is only someone as practiced in the art of evoking gut wrenching disgust could make you able to almost smell the fecal stench he carries which layers of deodorant can never quite erase.
So yes this is JLB doing what all established writers must crave doing and developing and maybe to a certain extent taking risks with what they have. To those who don't like it this is messing with the mix. To those of us, (and as a first time published writer a mega distance behind him I do) who do like it it is opening out the envelope so that other characters other than Dave and Clete, (always via Dave) can strut their stuff and enrich the overall experience by speaking with their own voices. And some of those voices carry the authentic echo of nightmare.
I"ll say one final thing about the Dave Robicheaux books which are quite unique to my mind. They are without doubt both the best and most disturbing series of american stories about a detective and a private investigator, (for you could hardly just call them detective stories) I have ever read and expect to. They are never an easy read but always repay the experience a hundredfold. The biggest compliment I can give them is that reading one be makes me want to read them all over again. Even though I know this will never ever be an easy experience.
on 4 September 2013
The older James Lee gets, the better his writing. He brings the setting into such beautiful clarity and his philosophy is always absorbing and interesting. So much so, you just want to go there. My America is James` America.
Dave, Clete and now the two girls remain fascinating with time bombs always ticking and the new "villains" are as ever, scary, violent and doomed.
A longer than usual book but remains gripping to the end. Will he write more?
It is so refreshing to see quality and work maintained through a writers career, where so many others get rich, lazy and begin to just turn the handle.
Well done James Lee Burke. Another winner.
on 31 October 2013
Classic Dave, Clete, Alafair and the most entertaining Gretchen Horowitz. If i asked myself the question "how do they get in so much trouble" constantly it would be difficult to answer, so i enjoy the fact that the book is written and therefore the story takes place.
Beautifully constructed and with an air of the complex world going on in Clete's ever more confused mental state, this one takes them again to the edge.. Classic Robicheaux!
Loved loved loved it and really struggled to put it down and get myself off to work!
James Lee Burke has written some of the best books in any genre and his detective, Dave Robicheaux, has grown in stature and psychological complexity over twenty books. As with a number of such characters, Robicheaux is ageless [although he must surely be approaching his 80s]. So there has to be an even greater suspension of belief in reading this long, probably overlong [548 page] book in which Robicheaux and his wife, Molly, his partner Clete Purcel and their daughters are involved in all manner of violence, both given and taken.
The difference here is the location, the wilds of Montana in winter. Burke and his family live in Missoula, Montana, and so he knows the country well. His descriptions of the countryside are evocative but lack the poetry of Louisiana. There is something rather predictable about the link between the Montana setting and the bear trap that features in the slightly over-the-top denouement. In addition, there is not the cast of characters of locals [and, in particular, the ethnically diverse mix] that is so exciting in the books set in Louisiana. There is a degree of flatness in the book that suggests a degree of tiredness. As a result, this is not a good place to begin reading about these characters.
Burke has broadened Robicheaux’s team to include Purcell who, in some ways is at the centre of this story, his daughter, Alafair, and Clete’s daughter Gretchen Horowitz, the weakest of the main characters, and has some difficulty in bringing them under control as they all set off in different directions. Almost everyone in this story has their own demons against which they struggle to various degrees. The only difference is the extent to which they involve innocent bystanders in their struggle.
The plot is complex and begins some years previously with Alafair going to Kansas to interview a convicted psychopath, Asa Surrette, as part of a book she is planning. Surrette is later thought to have died while being transported in a prison van, but a series of subsequent killings appear to bear his hallmark violence. The local police are ill-equipped to deal with this, partly because many of them are in the pay of a local billionaire and local philanthropist, Love Younger, whose money was made from oil drilling. Younger’s son, Caspian, is a gambling addict and his wife Felicity is attracted to Clete who reciprocates. When more bodies turn up the Louisiana investigators find themselves at odds with the police eventually being accused on complicity in the deaths. There is also an ex-rodeo star and evangelical and speaks in tongues, and an environmental activist who, unsurprisingly, is not welcomed with open arms by locals. Both of these seem to have rather wandered in from other stories.
There is a great deal of violence, swearing and misogyny in this book which, for difference, focuses very much on Clete’s demons and his guilt about his relationship with his newly-found daughter, a Jewish hit-woman who is now an aspiring film-maker! There is a subtle undercurrent of the supernatural but the foul odour that permeates Surrette’s body seems one step too far. Burke very deftly handles the concerns that the Robicheaux side have that their increasing hate of the serial killer means that they will be drawn into the spiral of torture and killings.
Evil is pervasive throughout this book, be it past or present, individual or corporate. However, seemingly Burke cannot decide whether Surrette’s powers are human or supernatural, and the character remains unconvincing as a result. The relationship between Clete and Felicity is also unbalanced because of the detailed characterization and background of the former and the fragmentary nature of the latter [and indeed the effete Caspian]. Instead of being a compulsive read, as almost all of the novels in this series are, this is an enjoyable thriller – admittedly better than most that one reads.
I suspect that the author must have thought very seriously about killing off one or both of his main characters. Surely he cannot avoid this for long. After a time even Robicheaux’s spiritual beliefs begin to pall.
on 1 October 2015
I have been an avid fan of Dave Robicheaux for years but I'm afraid everything is tired now. The same way he describes his villains and how their brains are wired, the same old Cletus, the bobsey twins, Over use of the word copacetic, the way he dislikes anyone with wealth and feels the need to explain how they all think too, his 'Nam' recollections of elephant grass, desire for alcohol and on and on. However it's the fact he and Clete went to Vietnam in 68 and yet in 2012 they re beating people up and winning unlikely shot outs like two 22 year olds that grates.
The same old circumstances which lead to his closest being kidnapped by a psychopath and his blind ignorance of what is unfolding make this a Robicheaux novel too far.