Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Crusaders Cross, by James Lee Burke

This book was 10 hours and 43 minutes long, was read by Will Patton, and is the fourteenth novel based on Louisiana cop/ex-cop Dave Robicheaux.

James Lee Burke is one of my guilty pleasures. His books are not for people with delicate sensibilities. They are bloody and profane and take place in a place that was, in my opinion, the bleeding sore of Western Civilization before Hurricane Katrina attempted to flush it away. It is a credit to Burke's power as a writer that he is able to romanticize the world of alcoholic lawman Dave Robicheaux in such a way that transforms him into some kind of Southern warrior-poet who battles the living gargoyles of a Gothic-Noir netherworld.

Burke's novels are not content to live in the present, and this one is no different. It begins as a trip down a trash-strewn memory lane to a time when Dave and his half-brother, Jimmie, lose track of time on a sandbar, and are stranded there when the tide comes in and they are surrounded by sharks as the water gets deeper. A girl in a boat comes out and rescues them, and Jimmie falls for the girl, unaware that she has a pimp and has no life of her own.

Jimmie tries to help her get out of "the life" and falls just minutes short of rescuing her before her pimp leaves town with her with vengeance on his mind. That was in 1958, and Jimmie has spent the rest of his life keeping hope alive that she was not killed for her attempt to escape the business.

Many years later, the girl in the boat resurfaces as part of a tangled mess that is getting cleaned up the old-fashioned way: killing off the participants. Dave has recently been restored to his position on the Iberia County Sheriff's Detective squad to help find a serial killer among the low-lifes he knows so well.

The writing is much better than the plot in this one. And that happens a lot when you've milked a character dry. And there are still 3 Dave Robicheaux novels after this one. It's worth 3 stars, especially if you've never read Burke before.

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