1987 comes back to life in a brilliant detective novel

detective novel

The Neon Rain was the first of the twenty books in James Lee Burke’s award-winning Dave Robicheaux series of detective novels, and an auspicious beginning it was! Burke evokes the clammy, mist-filled atmosphere of his native Louisiana and the Cajun culture of his protagonist with great skill.


The Neon Rain (Dave Robicheaux #1) by James Lee Burke

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)


Robicheaux, a New Orleans police detective, has stumbled across the body of a young African-American prostitute in what seem to be suspicious circumstances. He was far outside his jurisdiction but can’t resist getting pushy when he learns that the local sheriff has squelched an investigation into her death. Pretty soon it’s clear that Robicheaux is pushing the wrong people. He finds himself tangling not just with a rural sheriff but with a powerful drug lord, the police hierarchy, and the federal government in a wild and violent quest that reawakens all his demons. The detective, a widower, is an alcoholic and a Vietnam vet with troubled memories of his time as a platoon leader.

The Neon Rain was published in 1987 and loyally reflects the events of that time. US intervention in Central America — most notably in support of the right-wing “contras”in Nicaragua — was much in the news, and there were widespread rumors (with an occasional press report) that the CIA was involved in drug trafficking to raise funds to support the effort. Though those reports were discredited, widespread doubts remained for years, compounded by substantial evidence of the agency’s involvement with heroin traffickers in Southeast Asia during the previous two decades.

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