James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux tackles the mob

dave robicheaux

What time it is?” “For how come you burn them leafs under my window, you?” “While I was driving your truck, me, somebody pass a nail under the wheel and give it a big flat.”

This is Cajun English, in all its glory, and James Lee Burke plays it for all the brilliant local color it can add to Black Cherry Blues. For any lover of language, this alone is sufficient reward for reading this third novel in his outstanding Dave Robicheaux series focusing on crime on the margins of Louisiana society. And it’s not just Burke’s rendering of the local dialect. His narrative writing style commands attention, too. For example, “I’ll never forget that summer, though. It’s the cathedral I sometimes visit when everything else fails, when the heart seems poisoned, the earth stricken, and dead leaves blow across the soul’s window like bits of dried parchment.” In other words, this is no run-of-the-mill example of writing about crime. Burke’s prose often sings.

Black Cherry Blues (Dave Robicheaux #3) by James Lee Burke @@@@ (4 out of 5)

Dave Robicheaux, a twice-wounded junior officer who led a platoon in Vietnam, has left the New Orleans Police Department after an unhappy career as a detective. Now, he owns a bait-, boat-rental, and sandwich-shop on the bayou, where he lives with the six-year-old girl he calls his daughter — the explanation lies in a previous novel — and works as a private detective on the side. His wife, Annie, was brutally murdered in bed by two thugs who’d hoped to kill him instead. Her death constantly haunts him. She appears nightly in his dreams, robbing him of sleep.

Enter Dixie Lee Pugh, his freshman roommate in college, once a high-flying country music star, now washed-up after five ruined marriages and a stretch in prison for murder. His chance meeting with Robicheaux in a local bar sets in motion a series of increasingly violent events that involve his former partner in the police, the Las Vegas and Reno mob, and threaten both their lives. The action swings from Louisiana to the oil-fields of Montana, with suspense steadily mounting to a crashing conclusion.

For crime and mystery fans who can tolerate over-the-top violence, Black Cherry Blues is a terrific read. James Lee Burke knows how to write a thriller!

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