Book Review: The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke | More2Read
 

The New Iberia Blues : A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke



Detective Dave Robicheaux’s world isn’t filled with too many happy stories, but Desmond Cormier’s rags-to-riches tale is certainly one of them. Robicheaux first met Cormier on the streets of New Orleans, when the young, undersized boy had foolish dreams of becoming a Hollywood director.

Twenty-five years later, when Robicheaux knocks on Cormier’s door, it isn’t to congratulate him on his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Robicheaux has discovered the body of a young woman who’s been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle. She disappeared near Cormier’s Cyrpemort Point estate, and Robicheaux, along with young deputy, Sean McClain, are looking for answers. Neither Cormier nor his enigmatic actor friend Antoine Butterworth are saying much, but Robicheaux knows better.

As always, Clete Purcel and Davie’s daughter, Alafair, have Robicheaux’s back. Clete witnesses the escape of Texas inmate, Hugo Tillinger, who may hold the key to Robicheaux’s case. As they wade further into the investigation, they end up in the crosshairs of the mob, the deranged Chester Wimple, and the dark ghosts Robicheaux has been running from for years. Ultimately, it’s up to Robicheaux to stop them all, but he’ll have to summon a light he’s never seen or felt to save himself, and those he loves.




Praise For The New Iberia Blues:

The shocking death of a young woman leads Detective Dave Robicheaux into the dark corners of Hollywood, the mafia, and the backwoods of Louisiana in this gripping mystery from “modern master” James Lee Burke  –  (Publishers Weekly)

Stephen King recently said, “He’s a gorgeous prose stylist. Nearly in his 80s now, I think, and as good as he ever was. Such a thing gives hope to those of us who are getting on in years.” 

Discussing Creole Belle on The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly called James Lee Burke “the best fiction writer in the country.” 

Now, with The New Iberia Blues, Burke proves that he “remains the heavyweight champ, a great American novelist whose work, taken individually or as a whole, is unsurpassed” (Michael Connelly)

“With his lush, visionary prose and timeless literary themes of loss and redemption, Burke is in full command in this outing for his aging but still capable hero.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“James Lee Burke is one of a small handful of elite suspense writers whose work transcends the genre, making the leap into capital-L Literature. You don’t have to get past the opening paragraph of The New Iberia Blues to see his mastery of the craft…I read it slowly, pausing from time to time to digest the first-rate prose, the atmospheric bayou setting and the complex interactions of people I feel I have known for 30-plus years.”
—Bookpage

“At 82, Burke just keeps getting better, his familiar theme of an idyllic past at war with a demon-drenched present taking on more subtle levels of meaning…And, yet, there are signs of hope here—even a glimmer of marriage between past and present—that give the novel a new dimension, but not before an all-stops-out finale with the power of cannon fire in the 1812 Overture.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

“Indeed, filled with spookiness, spirituality, and slayings a-plenty, this may be the best, most hard-to-figure-out Robicheaux novel yet. Get your hands on it today, because ‘The New Iberia Blues’ positively pops.”
—The Guam Daily Post

“Burke is an old hand at this game, and he juggles deeply flawed characters, several subplots, and dark humor with the vivid prose that draws comparisons to William Faulkner.”
—New York Journal of Books

“We’re hanging on for Robicheaux’s pensées…and those angry outbursts when Robicheaux lets it rip: ‘I don’t think you get it,’ he tells one of the movie people. ‘Louisiana is America’s answer to Guatemala. Our legal system is a joke. Our legislature is a mental asylum. How’d you like to spend a few days in our parish prison?’ Only if there’s a new James Lee Burke novel in the cell.”
—New York Times Book Review

“Many of the character types, plot devices, and oracular sentiments are familiar from Burke’s earlier books. But the sentences are brand new, and the powerful emotional charge they carry feels piercingly new as well.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

“Burke remains an icon of the crime fiction world and one of its truly great practitioners, packing more soul and more poetry into a paragraph than some authors can manage in a book.”
—CrimeReads


Review:

We have the great David Robicheaux back in the narrative with his twenty-second episode in a series. He is at this time living in a shotgun house on east Main in New Iberia with his daughter Alafair. He attends the occasional A.A meeting, living minus three wives gone and dead with his cat Snuggs. He loves a French vanilla ice cream, that is “Crème de menthe, brandy and chocolate, plain chocolate, butterscotch.”

Bobbsey Twins from Homicide back in business?

Good old Clete Purcel appears again in the narrative under different circumstances and finds himself injected back with real rumble into David and Alafair’s lives.

David has a new female homicide partner Bailey Ribbons, and sheriff Helen Soileau assigned after the city department merged with the parish.

The bad ones, the evil that humans do..

There are the usual suspects or unusual?

….Escaped convict, Aryan Brotherhood, the Mob, a Movie Director and an actor, and a Maltese cross.

The whole dead emerge with the first in the narrative, a Lucinda Arceneaux, floating on a wood cross in Weeks Bay.

Battling with death, with love, with complexities of it all, while upholding justice against injustices and murder, callous and brutal, murders of women and men stacked up. Hollywood monies hitmen he has Bobbsey Twins back in the tragedy again in ways with dear ones in the balance, with shadows emerging and that rage settling and rising within Robicheaux his heart at battle with itself to the evil that men do, and the women, the loved ones he lost, a set of cases to solve, dealing him a trying road that he would never by its end want to traverse upon again.

The master craftsman of mystery and great prose brings alive upon the page some great tragedies and complexities, evoking the reader with great words and resonance in his voice, always immersive reading and something that will stay with the reader as a memorable and great achievement released in 2019.  


Excerpts:

“Then I saw an image that seemed hallucinatory, dredged out of the unconscious, a superimposition on the natural world of humanity’s penchant for cruelty.”

“As with all megalomaniacs, he had no handles. He was the type of man the Spanish call sin dios, sin verguenza, without God or shame.”

“Every literary plot is either in the Bible, Greek mythology, or Elizabethan theater. Hemingway said it was all right for an author to steal as long as he improved the material. I felt the same way about a homicide investigation. The externals were cosmetic. The motivations were not a mystery. Avarice, fear, sexual passion, revenge, a desire for power, rage that produced a chemical assault on the brain, this was the detritus floating in the gene pool. Read Charles Dickens’s journalistic account of a public execution in London. It will make you want to flee humanity.”

“I wanted to slip away with the season and the smell of burning leaves and the vestiges of an innocent youth. In a moment of reverie, I would recall a college dance at Southwestern Louisiana Institute, the music provided by Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, a fall crawfish boil under the oaks in the park next to the campus, the thrill of the kickoff at an LSU–Ole Miss football game, where every coed wore a corsage and ached to be kissed. 
  I was not simply tired of the world’s iniquity. I was tired of greed in particular and the ostentatious display of wealth that characterizes our times, and the justifications for despoiling the earth and injuring our fellow man. The great gift of age is the realization that each morning is a blessing, as votive in nature as a communion wafer raised to the sky. I made a habit of letting the world go on a daily basis, but unfortunately, it didn’t want to let go of me. The engines of commerce and acquisition operate seven days a week, around the clock, granting no mercy and allowing no tender moment for those who grind away their lives in sweaty service.
  I’m talking about the avarice at the heart of most human suffering. Yes, revenge is a player, and so are all the to the campus, the thrill of the kickoff at an LSU–Ole Miss football game, where every coed wore a corsage and ached to be kissed. I was not simply tired of the world’s iniquity. I was tired of greed in particular and the ostentatious display of wealth that characterizes our times, and the justifications for despoiling the earth and injuring our fellow man. The great gift of age is the realization that each morning is a blessing, as votive in nature as a communion wafer raised to the sky. I made a habit of letting the world go on a daily basis, but unfortunately, it didn’t want to let go of me. The engines of commerce and acquisition operate seven days a week, around the clock, granting no mercy and allowing no tender moment for those who grind away their lives in sweaty service. I’m talking about the avarice at the heart of most human suffering. Yes, revenge is a player, and so are all the sexual manifestations that warp our vision, but none holds a candle to cupidity and the defenses we manufacture to protect it.”

“Southern Louisiana, as late as the Great Depression, retained many of the characteristics of the antediluvian world, untouched by the Industrial Age. Our coast was defined by its pristine wetlands. They were emerald green and dotted with hummocks and flooded tupelo gums and cypress trees and serpentine rivers and bayouts that turned yellow after the spring rains and lakes that were both clear and black because of the fine silt at the bottom, all of it blanketed with snowy egrets and blue herons and seagulls and brown pelicans. 
We had little money but didn’t think of ourselves as poor. Our vision, if I can call it that, was not materialistic. If we had a concept about ourselves, it was egalitarian, although we would not have known what that word meant. We spoke French entirely. There was a bond between Cajuns and people of color. Cajuns didn’t travel because they believed they lived in the best place on earth. But somehow the worst in us, or outside of us, asserted itself and prevailed and replaced everything that was good in our lives. We traded away our language, our customs, our stands of cypress, our sugarcane acreage, our identity, and our pride. Outsiders ridiculed us and thought us stupid; teachers forbade our children to speak French on the school grounds. Our barrier islands were dredged to extinction. Our coastline was cut with eight thousand miles of industrial channels, destroying the root systems of the sawgrass and the swamps. The bottom of the state continues to wash away in the flume of the Mississippi at a rate of sixteen square miles a year.”

“I felt my old enemy kick into gear, not unlike a half-formed simian creature breaking the chains from its body. The transformation always began with a sound like a Popsicle stick snapping inside my head; then the world disappeared inside a wave of color that resembled the different shades of a fire raging in a forest. I was now in a place bereft of mercy and charity, drunk on my own adrenaline, the power in my arms and fists of a kind that, in certain people, age does not diminish.”

“I’ve always believed the dead roam the earth for many years after we try to weigh them down with stones. I also believe they outnumber us. For that reason I’ve never quarreled with the notion that they enter and try to shape our lives in order to redeem their own.”

“My father could not read or write and barely spoke English, but he understood the natural world and the culture of Bayou Teche. To us, the bayou was not simply a tidal stream that knitted together what we call Acadiana; it was part of a biblical epic and, because of its mists and fog-shrouded swamps, a magical place inhabited by lamias and leprechauns and medieval tricksters and voodoo women and the spirits of Confederate soldiers and cannibalistic Atakapa Indians. It was a grand place to grow up.”

 


Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 27 December 2018