Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book #11

James Lee Burke has written more than a dozen mysteries featuring New Iberia detective Dave Robicheaux and each has been critically acclaimed and sold well. That said, The Tin Roof Blowdown is his best book.
How can one distinguish between a plethora of similar works by Burke, each featuring inevitable confrontations between Robicheaux and the darker elements of New Orleans? Easily as this book takes Hurricane Katrina as its backdrop. Not only is this a fantastic mystery about Robicheaux, but it also serves as what may be the best book for understanding Katrina and its impact on Louisiana. At the opening, the hurricane hits and in the pages that fly by afterwards we see the devestation and apocalyptic aftermath of the tragedy.
Into the void of this destruction comes (Burke's best known character) Dave Robicheaux, a former alcholic with inner demons constantly consuming him, and his journey post-Katrina is not a pretty one. Burke has always had the ability to draw the reader into his books and you do not simply read one of his books - you live it. Burke evokes all the smells, tastes, feelings and descriptions other writers dream about. You feel every haunting, searing, beautiful, near poetic sentence as you are drawn deeper into the dark and seamy underbelly of New Orleans.
This book, written shortly after the disaster has a much darker and more cynical tone than his previous works (which I would not have thought possible) and as usual the characters pop off the page into reality as truly as if they were sitting beside you. New Orleans culture and community was severly damaged in the storm and this book is an anguished swan song for a city that will never be the same. It is truly a book that only an author as talented as James Lee Burke could write and it says something about the skill of the writer when his 14th book featuring the recurring characters is without a doubt his best work to date.

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