James Lee Burke has been saving his best Robicheaux novel


“Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke (Simon and Schuster, 447 pages, $27.99)

James Lee Burke is a relentless literary genius who produces new books each year even after entering his eighth decade. His signature crime series features the Louisiana lawman Dave Robicheaux.

His last Robicheaux novel, “Light of the World,” came out in 2013. Burke has been busy with other writing projects — I have been waiting expectantly for the next installment in a series that places this masterful author at the center of my reading universe.

The wait is over. Burke just published the eponymous “Robicheaux,” and after 30 years and 21 previous books in this series I must declare that the author has outdone himself with this one. It is the best Robicheux yet.

RELATED: Nobody can write crime fiction like James Lee Burke

This is also the darkest Dave gets. He is a troubled soul. As usual, he is dealing with his personal demons. Dave is an alcoholic and regular attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings has been helping him maintain his sobriety. He has occasional relapses — and when he does, things can get really ugly very fast.

It doesn’t help matters that Dave’s best friend and crime-fighting sidekick, Clete Purcell, is a full-blown boozer who has no interest in changing his habits. As the story begins, Dave is having one of his recurring hallucinations in which he envisions Confederate soldiers rising up in ghost-like brigades from the swamps. He doesn’t have to be drinking to imagine such things. It happens.

RELATED: Was she the real thing? “Creole Belle,” the book, is

Dave is haunted. There are his Civil War ghosts and also the spectral images he recalls from his own battlefield experiences in Vietnam. He’s filled with grief and a potent desire to exact retribution upon the man who is responsible for the death of his wife. Then there all those unsolved murders.

Clete has gotten himself into a financial bind and Dave is in the process of mortgaging his house in an attempt to bail his buddy out. Things are really starting to press in around Dave and he responds in typical fashion by embarking on a colossal drunken bender so full blown that when he regains consciousness, he has no memories of what he might have done while he was blacked out.

RELATED: “Feast Day of Fools” will pull you in with evey turn

While Dave gathers his thoughts, he is called in to investigate a murder. This investigation becomes complicated by the fact that Dave is considered a prime suspect for the killing — he was so intoxicated at the time that he cannot recall if he did it. He might have done.

This lyrical masterpiece contains numerous subplots. More murders take place. There are many potential suspects. Jimmy Nightingale is a charismatic politician in the populist Huey Long mold. Is he also a rapist? Fat Tony Nemo is a crime lord with dreams of becoming a Hollywood movie producer. Kevin Penny is a pimp/drug dealer/child abuser. Spade Labiche is a total sleazeball and quite possibly a rogue police officer.

Then there’s Chesterx Wimple, aka Smiley, a contract killer who is arguably Burke’s creepiest villain ever. The lethal Smiley is so wonderfully portrayed that this reviewer actually began to like him. “Robicheaux” is James Lee Burke’s finest achievement yet.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Springfield Entertainment

See this small but mighty restaurant a short drive away TONIGHT on ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’
See this small but mighty restaurant a short drive away TONIGHT on ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’

When husband and wife Pramod Lama and Phuntso D Phin received an email last year from the producers of the hit Food Network series, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, they were certain it was a prank. A last-minute decision to respond would launch the culinary couple’s television debut. Momo Ghar, the popular Nepalese restaurant located in Columbus...
Def Leppard and Journey are going on tour together — and they are coming close to here
Def Leppard and Journey are going on tour together — and they are coming close to here

Two of the greatest rock bands are teaming up for a massive co-headlining North American tour composed of both stadium and arena concerts. Def Leppard and Journey are hitting road in May, and their tour includes some stops close to home including Monday, May 28 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and Wednesday, May 30 in Cincinnati at U.S. Bank...
Chris Pratt loved and nuzzled his sheep. Then he ate him.
Chris Pratt loved and nuzzled his sheep. Then he ate him.

The sheep on actor Chris Pratt’s farm had a glorious life on his way to the menu. “He was groomed and shorn, his hooves medicated, de-wormed, no antibiotics necessary,” Pratt, who has filmed movies including “Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2” and “Passengers” in Atlanta, said in a lengthy Instagram post...
Meet the most generous book lover in Yellow Springs
Meet the most generous book lover in Yellow Springs

Countless books of the odd and unexpected varieties are in the hands of many people who have visited Yellow Springs, thanks to Kate Mooneyham.  >> 5 things to do in Yellow Springs Mooneyham, manager of Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, has been consistently placing a large box of FREE books in the alley behind her and her mother&rsquo...
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in South Florida

Rapper Kodak Black was arrested Thursday in South Florida, accused of grand theft of a firearm, possession of marijuana and child neglect, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said. Black, 20, whose legal name is Dieuson Octave, also faces two counts of possession of a weapon by a felon and two counts of probation violation, the Sheriff&rsquo...
More Stories