Sunday, August 7, 2011

Read: "Purple Cane Road" by James Lee Burke

Read: Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke, 2000, 0385488440.

I think I read this novel once before. Or, maybe not. Hard to tell since the Robicheaux novels are all the same. Burke is like Lee Child, he follows a formula (of sorts) but still puts out a real good story. I like Burke's novels better than Lee's.

Robicheaux is maudlin again. A local gal is on death row for killing the man who molested her and her twin sister when they were children. Robicheaux is dealing with longtime pal and former cop partner Clete Purcell. Clete is throwing scumbags off a low roof. One scumbag, a pimp, claims that Robicheaux's deceased mother was a whore and murdered by the police in 1968. Robicheaux gets more maudlin and starts investigating the claim.

Stories of Robicheaux's sad family background: drunken and brawling father killed on an oil rig in the gulf. Sad mom looking for love from other men and a pattern of running away, returning, and then never coming back.

Robicheaux finds New Orleans dirty cops involved in the 1968 murder. Robicheaux investigates to find people who were there. Robicheaux gets involved in local death sentence gal's case; Robicheaux wants gal freed or commuted. Things happen. More things happen. Button man is dangerous and scary. Clete is drunk. Robicheaux refers to twelve steps. Robicheaux clashes with people. Robicheaux blinded by rage. Manners are important. Robicheaux drives around Southern Louisiana.

1. Burke's talent for story telling, characters, and setting drives everything. The plot does not much matter for me. I think of it as a Twin Peaks story: the mystery is not the point.
2. But, I still need something going on in the plot. Burke just barely provides that.
3. White trash murderer love.
4. .45 ACP love.
5. Fishing and boating love.
6. Louisiana lingo love.
7. More rotten cops.
8. Recurring motifs: rotten politicians, white trash, stone-cold killers, dirty cops, characters speaking elliptically, sorrow of the past is present all the time.

1 comment:

SteveHL said...

As you say, all the Robicheaux books do have a lot of basic plot points in common. Burke writes so well, though, that it doesn't bother me as much as it would otherwise. You are absolutely right; characters and setting are what I look for in the Robicheaux series.