Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creole Belle


James Lee Burke does something better than any crime fiction writer around today: he creates believable, self-contained worlds in which the outlandish things that happen to his good guys seem entirely plausible.  And, boy do crazy things happen to Dave Robicheaux, Clete Purcell, and those closest to them.  But in Burke's little corners of southwest Louisiana and remote Montana, it all makes a certain kind of sense.

As Creole Belle begins, Dave is still hospitalized, slowly recovering from the near-death experience he and Clete experienced at the end of the previous series novel, The Glass Rainbow.  In the hospital, Dave, who is often surrounded by visitors from his past (be they long dead or not), is surprised by a visit - and the gift of an iPod with some special songs on it - from Tee Jolie Melton, a young woman he knows.  There are just two problems: Tee Jolie disappeared several weeks earlier, not to be seen since, and no one can hear the special iPod songs but Dave.

Even when he finally leaves the hospital, Dave continues to get phone calls from Tee Jolie in the middle of the night.  Sensing that something is terribly wrong, he and Clete start asking questions.  When Tee Jolie's sister is found encased in a huge block of ice floating in the warmish waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it all suddenly becomes too real.  Someone badly wants Dave and Clete to back off and will do anything it takes to kill their investigation - and them.

James Lee Burke
James Lee Burke, at age 76, is still very much in peak writing form.  His Robicheaux novels, in particular, are as good as ever, and Burke has even added an intriguing new character to the mix here who will be one of the key characters in his soon to be released Light of the World.  In Burke's view, the fight between good and evil is not a black and white one.  He focuses, instead, on all the gray areas where the bad guys sometimes show a tiny sliver of a heart and the good guys are forced to use bad-guy tactics in the name of justice.  Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell pride themselves on protecting those incapable of protecting themselves - and if the system cannot do it, they do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Bottom Line: Read this book.  Read this series.  Read James Lee Burke.

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