James Lee Burke, acclaimed by critics as "America's best novelist," "the Graham Greene of the bayou," and "a poet of the mystery novel," returns with his popular character, Dave Robicheaux, in a novel rich with atmosphere, ripe with menace, and filled with the kind of crackling dialogue that has made Burke a consistent New York Times best-selling author.
When a beautiful teenage girl is killed, the victim of a particularly savage rape, New Iberia, Louisiana, police detective Dave Robicheaux senses from the very start of the investigation that the most likely suspect, Tee Bobby Hulin, is not the actual killer. Though a drug addict and general ne'er-do-well, Hulin just doesn't fit the profile for this kind of brutal crime.
But when another murder occurs -- this victim a drugged-out prostitute who happens to be the daughter of one of the local mafia bigwigs -- all clues once again point to Tee Bobby Hulin, and the cries for arrest become too loud to ignore. The dead girl's father, however, prefers to take matters in his own hands and sets out to find -- and punish -- the killer himself.
But before Robicheaux can solve these crimes and bring the killer or killers to justice, he is forced to battle his own inner demons, including a painkiller addiction, a habit that begins as the result of a brutal and humiliating beating he suffers at the hands of the mysterious and diabolical character known as Legion. A fixture in the area for years, Legion was once the overseer on a local sugarcane plantation and now gets by doing odd jobs. In temperament, however, he's still the malicious and malevolent bully he always was, a man defined by evil and seemingly possessed with supernatural skills of survival.
Added to the mix, and on the good guy side of the balance sheet, is Clete Purcel, a longtime buddy of Robicheaux's and a confirmed boozer and womanizer. Clete comes to New Iberia for a visit and is quickly drawn into the struggle between the various forces of evil in the town, including Jimmy Dean Styles, a black man intent on maintaining his empire of corruption; Joe Zeroski, a trailer park mafioso with palatial aspirations -- and of course, Legion Guidry, the devil incarnate, in whom Robicheaux finds himself facing a challenge and an enemy unlike any he has ever known. And soon, what began as a duel of wits has turned into a dance of death.
Gothic, dense, brutal, touching, and always compelling, Jolie Blon's Bounce is classic storytelling from a writer who has been dubbed "the Faulkner of crime fiction."
To read a Burke novel is to enter a timeless, parallel universe of violent emotions and lush, brooding landscapes, where class and racial distinctions and family histories mold society. This is the stunningly talented Burke's 21st book and his best until the next one. Dave Robicheaux, the psychologically scarred detective for the New Iberia, La., sheriff's department, investigates two brutal murders, one of a nave teenage girl, the other of a feckless drug-addled prostitute. The author provides a dense, richly imagined background for his characters, especially the sinister ones: malevolent Legion Guidry, a nightmarish figure from Robicheaux's boyhood; a power-hungry tavern owner; an arrogant lawyer; a combative female PI; the prostitute's Mafioso father; and Marvin Oates, an enigmatic Bible salesman who floats ominously through the narrative. Robicheaux doesn't believe the obvious suspect Tee Bobby Hulin, a drug-addicted musical genius is the murderer. Aided and disrupted by his obstreperous pal, Clete Purcel, Robicheaux runs into the usual trouble. Legion gives Robicheaux such a ferocious beating that he reverts to drinking and addictive painkillers. Though the search for the murderer moves the story, the novel is really an examination of the savage relationships of the characters and the palpable presence of the past. Burke offers a vivid social history of an inbred, corrupt place. As Clete so aptly tells his friend, "This is Louisiana, Dave. Guatemala North. Quit pretending it's the United States." (June 10) Forecast: Expect another bestseller from two-time Edgar Award winner Burke, who should be attracting more readers of "literary" fiction with his fine writing. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Simon & Schuster
July 31, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Jolie Blon's Bounce by James Lee Burke
Growing up during the 1940s in New Iberia, down on the Gulf Coast, I never doubted how the world worked. At dawn the antebellum homes along East Main loomed out of the mists, their columned porches and garden walkways and second-story verandas soaked with dew, the chimneys and slate roofs softly molded by the canopy of live oaks that arched over the entire street.
The stacks of sunken U.S. Navy ships lay sideways in Pearl Harbor and service stars hung inside front windows all over New Iberia. But on East Main, in the false dawn, the air was heavy with the smell of night-blooming flowers and lichen on damp stone and the fecund odor of Bayou Teche, and even though a gold service star may have hung in a window of a grand mansion, indicating the death of a serviceman in the family, the year could have been mistaken for 1861 rather than 1942.
Even when the sun broke above the horizon and the ice wagons and the milk delivery came down the street on iron-rimmed wheels and the Negro help began reporting for work at their employers' back doors, the light was never harsh, never superheated or smelling of tar roads and dust as it was in other neighborhoods. Instead it filtered through Spanish moss and bamboo and philodendron that dripped with beads of moisture as big as marbles, so that even in the midst of summer the morning came to those who lived here with a blue softness that daily told them the earth was a grand place, its design vouchsafed in heaven and not to be questioned.
Down the street was the old Frederic Hotel, a lovely pink building with marble columns and potted palms inside, a ballroom, an elevator that looked like a brass birdcage, and a saloon with wood-bladed fans and an elevated, scrolled-iron shoeshine chair and a long, hand-carved mahogany bar. Amid the palm fronds and the blue and gray swirls of color in the marble columns were the slot and racehorse machines, ringing with light, their dull pewterlike coin trays offering silent promise to the glad at heart.
Farther down Main were Hopkins and Railroad Avenues, like ancillary conduits into part of the town's history and geography that people did not talk about publicly. When I went to the icehouse on Saturday afternoons with my father, I would look furtively down Railroad at the rows of paintless cribs on each side of the train tracks and at the blowsy women who sat on the stoops, hung over, their knees apart under their loose cotton dresses, perhaps dipping beer out of a bucket two Negro boys carried on a broom handle from Hattie Fontenot's bar.
I came to learn early on that no venal or meretricious enterprise existed without a community's consent. I thought I understood the nature of evil. I learned at age twelve I did not.
My half brother, who was fifteen months younger than I, was named Jimmie Robicheaux. His mother was a prostitute in Abbeville, but he and I were raised together, largely by our father, known as Big Aldous, who was a trapper and commercial fisherman and offshore derrick man. As children Jimmie and I were inseparable. On summer evenings we used to go to the lighted ball games at City Park and slip into the serving lines at barbecues and crab boils at the open-air pavilions. Our larceny was of an innocent kind, I suppose, and we were quite proud of ourselves when we thought we had outsmarted the adult world.