Purple Cane Road

James Lee Burke is a great writer. I first read his Cadillac Jukebox in the late nineties and was hooked. He is a true wordsmith. Take for example this opening sentence of this book. Years ago, in state documents, Vachel Carmouche was always referred to as the electrician, never as the executioner. Your mind can play with dozens of possibilities for the rest of the story. In fact, Carmouche will be murdered half way through the first chapter, setting off the rest of the story.

Detective Dave Robicheaux is puzzled by the fact that Letty Labiche was arrested for the murder, but not her twin sister, Passion. His problem is that the twins were always together. Now, note that he believed they had every right to murder the man who had raped and brutalized them as children. But he wanted to know what really happened. He was fond of the truth.

At the same time, Dave is driven to find the two men who murdered his mother some years before. Letty and Passion knew something about the murder, but would not tell him anything.

Clete Purcel, his best friend, he describes this way. He had sandy hair that he combed straight back and a round Irish face and green eyes that always had a beam in them. His arms had the girth and hardness of fire plugs, the skin dry and scaling from the sunburn that never quite turned into a tan. Even so, Purcel was the best homicide detective NOPD had until they bounced him for drinking. He still drinks. Oh, Robicheaux was bounced for much the same reason. He now drinks Dr. Pepper.

The Robicheaux series is a walk on the dark side. You will be introduced to scum who only look human. People will be thrown into trees–from the third story roof. Murders will happen. A hired killer will befriend Dave’s daughter.

This is not a cozy. This is grit, but written so well that Shakespeare would be proud. If you can, get a copy of the audio of one of his books read by Will Patton. He really does justice to the setting. Nick Sullivan reads this book and does a good job. You might not want to listen on a dark and stormy night.

Mike Lawrence

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