Sunday, September 19, 2010

THE GLASS RAINBOW by James Lee Burke

I don't usually remember particular scenes from the books I've read, but I still remember Dave Robicheaux diving and rescuing Alafair from a submerged airplane.  There is no telling how many years ago I read that.  

James Lee Burke makes a lasting impression.

I've always enjoyed the Dave Robicheaux stories . . . except "enjoy" is not the right word. 

Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel live in dark places.

In this book, Robicheaux stubbornly investigates the sadistic torture and murder of seven young women.  Two of the murders seem somehow different than the others. Both women are throw-aways, the kind of people the police and society would let fall by the way. But Dave, and, in his even-more-troubled way, Clete, are determined not to let that happen.

As with all the Robicheaux books I've read, the setting--New Iberia, Louisana, and the surrounding counties--is a character in the book.  James Lee Burk's descriptions are breathtaking, some of them filled with ominous spirits from the past.

Dave still sees figures in the electric mist.  They beckon him to his own death.

Robicheaux looks at the Southern landscape and paints states of mind.  At one point, he writes, "Early morning is a bad time for recovering drunks.  The wall between the unconscious and the world of sleep is soft and porous, and the gargoyles have a way of slipping into the sunlight and fastening a talon or two into the back of your neck.  Perhaps that is why I have always been an early riser, escaping into the blueness of the dawn and its healing properties before the power of memory and the dark energies of my previous life lay claim on my waking day."

The place itself brings healing and, in other situations, psychotic brutality.  Southern history, the decline of the agrarian slave society and the clear pain of the memory of an awful Civil War, run as a thread through everything that happens.

Dave's family is not just threatened, but almost blown apart by this whole series of events. 

The book's conclusion is harrowing.

In other words, this is a typical Dave Robicheaux story (if there is such a thing).  It is brutal, dark, powerful, beautifully-written, and well worth reading.

It was good to get back to reading about Dave Robicheaux. 


Naomi Johnson said...

Like old home week, getting back down South with Dave and Clete. I loved this book.

Joe Barone said...

Yes. It had been a while for me. I had missed several of the books in the series.

Joe Barone said...

After I published the last comment, it occurred to me, I should tell you--Your review is the reason I read this book.

Naomi Johnson said...

In that case, I'm glad you didn't hate it! I've read the Robicheaux books all out of order, and in fact I still have a couple to read in my TBR. I find it makes little or no difference to my enjoyment of them.