Detective Dave Robicheaux is facing the most painful and dangerous case of his career. A troubled young woman breezes into his hometown of New Iberia, Louisiana. She happens to be the daughter of Robicheaux's onetime best friend -- a friend he witnessed gunned down in a bank robbery, a tragedy that forever changed Robicheaux's life.
In Pegasus Descending, James Lee Burke again explores psyches as much as evidence, and tries to make sense of human behavior as well as of his characters' crimes. Richly atmospheric, frightening in its sudden violence, and replete with the sort of puzzles only the best crime fiction creates, Burke's latest novel is an unforgettable roller coaster of passion, surprise, and regret.
The twists begin when Trish Klein -- the only offspring of Robicheaux's Vietnam-era buddy -- starts passing marked hundred-dollar bills in local casinos. Is she a good kid gone bad? A victim's child seeking revenge? A promiscuous beauty seducing everyone good within her grasp? And how does her behavior relate to the apparent suicide of another "good" girl, an ace student named Yvonne Darbonne, who apparently participated in a college frat orgy before her death?
Can Robicheaux make his peace with the demons that have haunted him since his friend's murder so many years ago? Can he figure out how a local mobster fits into all the schemes and deaths? Can Robicheaux's life be whole again when it has been shattered by so much tragedy?
Once again, Burke proves why he is the virtual poet laureate of southern Louisiana, and why his novels, especially those featuring Dave Robicheaux, stand as brilliant literature and entertainment for our time.
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Simon & Schuster
July 18, 2006
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Excerpt from Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke
In the early 1980s, when I was still going steady with Jim Beam straight-up and a beer back, I became part of an exchange program between NOPD and a training academy for police cadets in Dade County, Florida. That meant I did a limited amount of work in a Homicide unit at the Miami P.D. and taught a class in criminal justice at a community college way up on N.W. 27th Avenue, not far from a place called Opa-Locka.
Opa-Locka was a gigantic pink stucco-and-plaster nightmare designed to look like a complex of Arabian mosques. In the early a.m., fog from either the ocean or the Glades, mixed with dust and carbon monoxide, clung like strips of dirty cotton to the decrepit minarets and cracked walls of the buildings. At night the streets were lit by vapor lamps that glowed inside the fog with the dirty iridescence that you associate with security lighting in prison compounds. The palms on the avenues were blighted by disease, the fronds clacking dryly in the fouled air. The yards in the neighborhoods contained more gray sand than grass. Homes that could contain little of value were protected by bars on the windows and razor wire on the fences. Lowrider gangbangers, the broken mufflers of their gas-guzzlers throbbing against the asphalt, smashed liquor bottles on the sidewalks and no one said a word.
For me, it was a place where I didn't have to make comparisons and where each dawn took on the watery hue of a tequila sunrise. If I found myself at first light in Opa-Locka, my choices were usually uncomplicated: I either continued drinking or entered an altered state known as delirium tremens.
Four or five nights a week I deconstructed myself in a bar where people had neither histories nor common geographic origins. Their friendships with one another began and ended at the front door. Most of them drank with a self-deprecating resignation and long ago had given up rationalizing the lives they led, I suspect allowing themselves a certain degree of peace. I never saw any indication they either knew or cared that I was a police officer. In fact, as I write these words today, I'm sure they recognized me as one of their own -- a man who of his own volition had consigned himself to Dante's ninth circle, his hand clasped confidently around a mug of draft with a submerged jigger of whiskey coiling up from the bottom.