Friday, May 23, 2014

The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke

 This appears to be the book which introduces New Orleans homicide Lieutenant Dave Robicheaux. A friend recommended Burke's stories, so I thought I'd give him a try.

First, this was an amazingly quick read. I picked it up shortly after the third contestant sang on American Idol, and finished it by bedtime (and I get up with the chickens). Robicheaux is a Viet Nam veteran with more than his fair share of post-war issues, including the inability to sustain a relationship for very long and raging, though suppressed at the beginning of the book, alcoholism. When he discovers the body of a young black woman in the bayou one day, he has no idea that her death tied into far more serious crimes.

While visiting an old informant on death row, Robicheaux gets word that the "greasers" want him dead for poking his nose into their business. (By the way, this novel is very old Southern in style, so if derogatory racial and ethnic slurs and stereotypes bother you, you may want to read something else). This, of course, merely pisses him off, and he really starts poking his nose in where it's not wanted. Between mobsters, Central American drug and gun runners, and rogue federal agents, things get pretty hairy quickly, and the violence dials up to a fever pitch.

My friend had said there were some similarities to Jack Reacher in Robicheaux's character, but I found the connection a bit slim. Other than being a veteran and obstinately unkillable, they are two very separate types. The things they do have in common are the lone wolf mentality, though Robicheaux at least does have some family and colleagues, while Reacher has none (aside from his brother who dies in one of the stories - can't recall which), and the willingness to calmly do violence upon the evil ones in the course of pursuing a case to its bitter end.

A fun and quick read, though perhaps a little darker than my usual preferences. I'm keeping Burke on my possible TBR pile for slow weeks, anyway.

1 comment:

ProudHillbilly said...

A favorite of mine - cool, calm, destruction for the bad guys.

I was introduced through "In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead", which was a disappointment as a movie.