Swan Peak

[Amazon Link]

Amazon helpfully informs me that I bought this with a Christmas gift card on December 26, 2008. So I'm slightly less than 4.5 years behind in reading James Lee Burke novels. Got to pick up the pace!

Burke's hero, Dave Robicheaux, has taken a long overdue break from his beloved Louisiana, which is struggling to recover from Katrina. He, his wife Molly, and good friend Clete Purcel are up in Montana, determined to be uninvolved with their usual assortment of bad guys, moral degenerates, and folks down on their luck.

It's nice to wish for things like that, but trouble follows Dave and Clete like a too-loyal dog. They are beset by a strange conflation of circumstances: first, their vacation spot is near the dwellings of the very rich Wellstone brothers. One of whom is married to the former Jamie Sue Stapleton, ex-country singer. Whose former beau, Jimmy Dale Greenwood, has made his own share of mistakes, one of which was defending a hooker from her pimp, who just happened to be the nephew of the meanest judge in Texas. Jimmy Dale escapes from his intolerable imprisonment, but not without making an implacable enemy of guard Troyce Nix, who pursues with bloody vengeance on his mind. But while on the quest, runs into ex-Roller Derby skater, ex-junkie, bosom-tatted, Candace Sweeney. And they develop a complex relationship.

Complicated enough? But then a couple of bodies turn up, murdered in a fashion most gruesome. Local law asks Dave and (reluctantly) Clete to help out. Which sets everyone on a collision course. The course of the plot is somewhat surprising, hearkening back to the first couple of books in the series. Did not see that coming, although I should have: if there's a theme to Burke's work, it's that the past is always returning to haunt everyone.

I can't say enough about the evocative beauty of Burke's writing. And (I've said this before), some TV genius should turn his books into a Justified-style series, where the overall plot plays out over the course of the season.