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I'm catching up on James Lee Burke novels. This one is no exception to his usual masterly stuff. This is his second Billy Bob Holland book. Billy Bob is a lawyer, and ex-Texas Ranger based in Deaf Smith, Texas. Like Burke's other major protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob is a fundamentally decent but occasionally hot-tempered hero, incessantly haunted by mistakes in his past.

The usual Burkean elements are here too: a rich but corrupt family mired in evildoing; little people with the odds stacked against them; characters with circus-freak physical deformities; characters with psychological problems that would earn you or me a quick trip to the rubber room; a touch of the supernatural. Inventive mayhem and intense psychic travail all the way through, and a whole lot of dead folks by the end.

And I don't think there's a writer alive whose descriptions can plunk you into a scene like Burke. Rodeos, drive-ins, barbecue joints, mansions: you're right there.

Last Modified 2012-10-25 1:54 PM EST