Creole Belle

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The (so far) penultimate work in James Lee Burke's series of novels with hero Dave Robicheaux. As I type, Mr. Burke is 79 years of age, and who knows how many more of these he's got in him? Whatever: as long as he keeps 'em coming, I'll be reading them.

In the last book, The Glass Rainbow, we almost lost Dave, as he took an unexpected bullet in his back. But as this one opens, he's recovering from his wound, with a morphine drip. Which is dangerous enough on its own, but it's also giving him a tenuous grip on reality. Creole singer Tee Jolie Melton comes to visit, and tells him a story of she and her sister being held captive by folks who had something to do with the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. And she gives him an iPod, with some of her songs but—funny thing, this—only Dave can hear the songs she's put on it. Was Tee Jolie really there at all?

Well, Dave has had dealings with the supernatural before, so this is no real big deal. His home, southern Louisiana, is infested with the ghosts and spirits of those who have come to bad ends, many at the hands of evildoers, some at the hands of Dave and his buddy, Clete Purcel.

We are soon in the thick of it: some minor hoodlums try to scam Clete out of his office/apartment using a bogus bourré marker from years back. That doesn't work out for them: surprisingly quickly, they wind up dead. Whodunit? Suspicion falls on a new character who has a never-before-thought-possible relation with Clete.

As always, Mr. Burke's prose is painfully beautiful, his plots very confusing (but with a political-left context, which I just have to live with). His characters are invariably damaged (physically and psychically) beyond any point a human should bear. There is a slam-bang finish, the outcome in doubt until the very end.

Last Modified 2016-08-15 6:34 AM EDT