Thursday, July 29, 2010


James Lee Burke’s latest contribution to the Dave Robicheaux/Clete Purcell series, The Glass Rainbow, is largely a familiar romp across the swampy, over-fished storyline that fans of these books have come to love and expect. One gets comfortable with Dave and Clete, knows how they will react to each other. You know that one or both of the intrepid crusaders is going to be shot at (and most likely wounded), will chase despicable villains (both domestic and foreign), battle criminals and local law enforcement, experience betrayal, suffer hallucinations, and visit brutality in full measure on miscreants of every stripe. Both men will put their feet in their mouths. Clete is going to corner a bad guy in a bathroom and dunk his head in a toilet; he is going to bust someone up in anger and spend time cooling off in a jail cell. You just know it is going to happen. Burke’s writing, though, will carry along the reader, interspersed with short lectures on the history of Louisiana, evils of power and corruption, struggles of addiction, power of friendship, beauty of the bayou land, and resiliency of the people. Once you’ve become addicted to the travails of the Bobbsey twins from homicide, you know you are going to jump in the boat for the ride.

However, there was something a little more off than normal in this volume. While Burke is guilty frequently of repetition and unimaginative dialogue, he often counterbalances it with beautiful, detailed, colorful description and face-paced style. [And both people who actually read my reviews will recall my past complaints. J] But things got worse this time, almost as if the book didn’t have an editor to reign in Burke’s writing; as if Burke couldn’t recall what he wrote a day or two earlier. There is the familiar habit of giving different characters the exact same idiomatic language---one knows there will be the inevitable mention of piss (or spit) in someone’s mouth or a punch bowl, for instance, or someone will be brusquely requested to “get the [insert a variety of items, from grits to unmentionables] out of your mouth “. It isn’t so bad when it happens from book to book, because, well, they are the same characters and you expect a measure of consistency in their speech, but it happened several times too often in this book. Burke must have used “taken off the board” a half dozen times. He used the full name of the characters, nearly all of them, ad nauseum. He mentions certain facts repeatedly (such as Alafair’s rescue from the plane wreck). How many times did we have to hear mention of “the grotto that had been built as a shrine to the mother of Jesus,” in almost exact wording? I suppose that it may not bother most readers, and I might be overly sensitive to it, but it does bother me, and I think it takes away from Burke’s good passages.

Does this complain mean I will forgo reading the next installment, should there be one? Heck, no! Bring ‘em on!

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