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James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels are never ‘typical’ crime novels.

First, there’s Robicheaux, a disgraced, former NOPD Homicide lieutenant turned sheriff’s detective in Iberia Parish. Robicheaux is a good man with a chequered past; a Vietnam veteran and recovering alcoholic who carries traces of post-traumatic stress disorder and an unspecified, but lingering, guilt from the eruption of his parents’ marriage, his father’s death and his mother’s violent murder at the hands of corrupt, NOPD detectives.

His background is working class,backwoods, Louisiana Cajun. He’s Catholic. He runs a bait shop and bayou cafe when he’s not detecting. He has problems with authority, is single-minded in his pursuit of wrongdoers, corporate polluters and the antebellum remnants of the southern ascendancy.Robicheaux, although an essentially good man, has a violent streak.

Some of Burke’s other novels, like Two for Texas, are historical explorations of the complex forces that combine to make up Robicheaux’s contemporary environment; Louisiana’s sub-tropical swamplands, struggling to survive against the elements of natural phenomena like hurricanes, corporate greed and pollution and the complicit dealings of corrupt politicians, police and the Mafia.

Into this milieu in ‘In the Electric Mist’, he introduces a story about a violent and sexually perverted, serial killer, an alcoholic, Hollywood actor with psychic leanings and a sociopathic, Mafia boss turned film producer.

The actor taps in to Robicheaux’s own psychic inclinations by introducing him to the ghost of a one legged, one armed, Confederate general who, along with his ragged bunch of soldiers, haunts the swamps around his home.

Now he’s worried it’s just a dry drunk dream or living nightmare or has he conscripted himself into a new struggle with the Confederate dead, to fight the forces of evil, whether corporate, criminal or perverse or combinations thereof, that threaten his life and the lives of those he love as well as the environment they live in?

I’ve read everything I could find of James Lee Burke’s and I’m a fan.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the novels of James Lee Burke

  1. I discovered James Lee Burke also through a colleague on WordPress who lives near Boston. I had seem a film or two featuring Robicheaux and so Mr. Swiss and I began to read through them one by one. I arrived at book 4 in the series which I completed. Mr. Swiss was reading them in German and was even a couple of books ahead of me. I found them quite good, something different and am keeping the others for another day. I have so many books on my list to read and I like to change my reading patterns to save me from boredom. I should really read some more Burke. I was getting quite into the Louisianna way of life and even looking up some of the recipes of the food. I should really try a non-Robicheaux novel.

    • I’ve gone through them all, short stories, the Holland series, the books that are not in any series, the magazine articles. I can find problems with them but his style trumps them all

  2. I haven’t read anything of Burke’s, but I will add this to my summer reading list. I normally don’t read anything in the crime genre, so maybe I will pair it with another of his works. I like to read multiple works from the same author, if that author is worth reading. What would be your top two or three recommends of his works?

    Wishing you the very best this weekend, Dermott!

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