Sunday, September 6, 2009

Author of the Day: James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke writes wonderful, literary mysteries. He has a couple of series going, but his most famous is his Dave Robicheaux series, featuring an ex- boozer and ex-New Orleans homicide cop now settled in New Iberia Parish.

The series has gone on for so long, that Robicheaux has gone from cop, to bait shop owner, to sheriff, to ex-sheriff, to sheriff again. He's on his 4th wife. It's hard to say how old he is, but he must be over 70. His three-legged pet raccoon named Tripod is the oldest living raccoon in history, since it first appeared in Heaven's Prisoners in 1988 and was still scampering around, at least as of The Tin Roof Blowdown in 2006. Just how long do raccoons live?

The series is dark, complex, plenty gritty, and rich with lyrical details of beauty and evil. Once you sink your teeth into one, you want to gobble them all up. But I have found that more than a couple at a time are too much. I get tired of Robicheaux's dry drunk sermonizing, bored by the 700th description of rain on the bayou, and as worn out by the parade of creepy bad guys as Robicheaux himself must be. But then a few months or so will pass and I am ready for another.

Those I have read are in red. Those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue.

The Neon Rain

Heaven's Prisoners

Black Cherry Blues

A Morning for Flamingos

A Stained White Radiance

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

Dixie City Jam

Burning Angel

Cadillac Jukebox

Sunset Limited

Purple Cane Road

Jolie Blon's Bounce

Last Car to Elysian Fields

Crusader's Cross (reviewed here)

Pegasus Descending

The Tin Roof Blowdown (reviewed here)

Swan Peak (reviewed here)

The Glass Rainbow


Last updated October 4, 2012.

Review: The Tin Roof Blowdown

Sometimes fiction can make real what the news or government reports, no matter how immediate or thorough, cannot. In The Tin Roof Blowdown, the 16th novel in James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, Burke describes the devastation and tragedy of Hurricane Katrina with a gut-wrenching emotional intensity that no amount of news footage could ever achieve.

While the hurricane rages and floodwaters rise, Robicheaux and his sidekick, Clete Purcell, track down the usual assortment of psychopathic deviants and lost souls, including several rapists, Mafioso hooligans, a junky priest, and mercenary black marketeers.  The details of the plot get a little shaggy, but as a historical record and ode to a New Orleans that is gone forever, this one deserves its fourth star.  


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