Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heaven's Prisoners

Coming into 2013, one of my goals was to re-read James Lee Burke’s entire Dave Robicheaux series, capping off the year by reading Creole Belle (2012) for the first time.  That’s 19 books in all and I’m already way behind, so it probably will not happen exactly that way.  But I have just finished Heaven’s Prisoners, the second book in the series, one I consider to be a key book in the set.

Dave is long gone from the New Orleans Police Department now (although he can’t seem to stay out of that city), and has returned to New Iberia, his hometown.  He is newly married to his second wife and the two are running their own bait and tackle shop there.  It is a perfect life for Dave, something he was born to and does well – if his past, and his white knight self-image, will just allow him to get on with it.

Dave can’t win, though.  One day, while he is fishing on the Louisiana Gulf with Annie, they watch a small, two-engine plane crash into nearby waters.  The plane passes so close to the boat before slamming hard into the water that Dave has a clear view of the terrified faces looking out the plane’s windows.  Strapping on a pair of near-empty air tanks, Dave hits the water in hopes of rescuing some of the passengers.  And, largely thanks to the heroic efforts of a little girl’s mother, Dave manages to get the child out of the plane in time to save her life.  No one else survives.

James Lee Burke
Dave saw some things in the sunken plane he should not, for his own good, have seen.  After one of the bodies in the plane is left unaccounted for in the official account of the accident, Dave starts asking questions.  Some very powerful people want him to shut up – and Dave knows that he should.  But Dave, being Dave, can’t do that.  He wants the truth, and he is willing to risk everything he has (and loses much of it before this one is over) to find it.

Heaven’s Prisoners is an important Dave Robicheaux book because the little girl Dave rescues becomes Alafair Robicheaux, the only child Dave will ever have, and 17 books later she is still one of the most important people in his world – and in the series.  It is not easy growing up Dave Robicheaux’s kid, but the little Central American girl who almost died entering the country illegally will thrive and become a fan favorite over the years.

Next up in the series is Book Three, Black Cherry Blues.  

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