Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke

“Here’s the book,” Sparkle said, sliding into the restaurant seat as we all poured over the menu, wafts of garlic, white wine and butter drifting our way. “I’m getting kind of tired of Dave and Clete.”

“What, you mean not just bending the envelope but tearing right through it?” I asked “Or all the gratuitous violence?”

“Mostly the scorn for official procedures,” she started, two little lines between her eyes as she took in all the delicious possibilities, “How about some of that Montepulciano?”

She passed the book along to me. I was in the middle of another book, but oh, the temptation to drop it and get on with a new James Lee Burke.

The book opens with Dave Robicheaux, our recovering alcoholic detective, meeting up with a convict on a work crew whose sister has disappeared and who was found murdered. Bernadette Latiolais’s remains are thought to be the work of a serial killer working the area who targets prostitutes, but Bernadette was an honor student, graduating with a full scholarship promised to a Louisiana university. She was also an heiress, in a small way, to some property at the edge of a swamp. She doesn’t fit the profile, and her brother wants justice – not for himself, he’s doing his time, but for his sister, who never did anything to anyone, and who wanted to create a conservation area to preserve bears.

Right off the top, Robicheaux is outside of his parish, investigating a case nobody cares about in an area out of his jurisdiction.

OK, OK, my sister is right, this is pretty much another formulaic James Lee Burke. There are the corrupt rich families, the amoral women, the voiceless victims. Instead of the old Italian organized crime families, this time there are hired mercenaries, equally creative in killing, but way more efficient in cleaning up afterwards.

I’m just a sucker for James Lee Burke’s writing. Here’s one sample, from his interview with a very rich old man who goes a long way back with Robicheaux’s family:

“Don’t get old, Mr. Robicheaux. Age is an insatiable thief. It steals the pleasures of your youth, then locks you inside your own body with your desires still glowing. Worse, it makes you dependent upon people who are half a century younger than you. Dont’ let anyone tell you that it brings you peace, either, because that’s the biggest lie of all.”

Burke’s Dave Robicheaux and his private-investigator friend Clete are flawed men, prone to violence, but I cut them a lot of slack because in each novel they are bright shining avengers of all the wrongs done to the weak and helpless. They are Quixotic. They fight the rich and powerful for the rights of the common man. They know the risks they take, and they are too old to think they are going to survive every bad guy they go after. It’s a good thing the law of averages doesn’t hold true in novels; they should have been dead a long time ago.

What keeps me coming back are the lyrical descriptions of life along the Atchafalaya Bayou, community life in New Iberia, Louisiana, and Robicheaux’s family life, wife Molly, daughter Alifair (now grown to young womanhood) and Snuggs their cat and Tripod their raccoon, as well as the knowledge that at the end of the book, in spite of every evidence to the contrary, Dave and Clete will emerge alive, if damaged, and their indirect and violent path will have achieved some semblance of justice.

(I ordered the spaghetti with a white-wine mussel sauce, and Sparkle ordered the chicken marsala. Mom had seafood diablo.)

January 25, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Books, Community, Crime, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Fiction, Law and Order, Social Issues

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