The New Iberia Blues

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

James Lee Burke’s wildly entertaining Dave Robicheaux mysteries continue to offer thrills even after twenty-one previous entries. The writing is lush and poetic; the characters vividly imagined; and the dialogue is often muscular or funny or instructive, or, amazingly, a combination of all three and some. Burke manages to keep several threads going with THE NEW IBERIA BLUES, which is set as usual in the backwoods of Louisiana. Burke brings Louisiana to life with colorful imagery and inimitable sensory details. Where a lesser writer might say it was a balmy evening, Burke tells us “The wind had turned cold; yellow and black leaves were tumbling through the parking lot and floating in pools of rainwater greasy with oil.” The plot is important, of course, but the true joy in reading any of James Lee Burke’s novels lies in discovering just how vigorous language can become in the hands of a master. This latest entry starts off with Robicheaux and a young deputy he is mentoring knocking on the door of Desmond Cormier, a local boy turned Hollywood celebrity. Within a matter of moments, Robicheaux casually looks through a telescope at the back of Cormier’s property and discovers the body of a young woman who’s been nailed to a cross and left in the water like driftwood. Cormier and his mysterious actor friend Antoine Butterworth claim ignorance to the deadly scene happening right outside their backyard. Robicheaux knows better. From this jumping off point the story careens in a number of different directions as Robicheaux works to connect the dots. The ride to the truth is, of course, an uproarious adventure. I’m tempted to say this will prove to be one of the best crime novels of the year. But it is more apt to say it will be one of the best NOVELS of the year, period. Burke is a gem.
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Upfront I have to admit, I am biased when it comes to the writing of James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux series.  Burke would have to really turn out a complete dud before I would rate his novels poorly.

With that, his newest Robicheaux novel, The New Iberia Blues, does not disappoint.  As always, Burke's writing is like looking at paintings where an artist is skilled at bringing forth the most vibrant aspects of all colors while creating a perfectly assembled painting. 

In The New Iberia Blues, Davie Robicheaux and a new deputy are investigating reports of a screaming woman in the bayou and while doing so, interview Louisiana-born, film director Desmond Cormier at his waterside estate. Cormier has returned home home to fashion his film masterpiece, bringing along his unctuous companion Antoine Butterworth.  While speaking to the two, Robicheaux eyes a woman's body crucified to a wooden cross floating in the water.   The story unfolds from this point into a violent mystery involving other murders that melds together the past, evil and ruminations on good, evil and the mortality of humans, particularly Dave Robicheaux. 

Burke brings back all the familiar characters, as well as introducing new ones, including a love interest for the dour Robicheaux. Burke has also brought back Chester "Smiley" Wimple, the interesting, sociopathic, sometimes-for-hire-hitman-killer introduced in the previous Robicheaux novel.

How all these characters and plot strings pull together is for the reader to discover along the way. 

While it is strongly suggested new readers to the Robicheaux series start with the first novel, one thing Burke does well is to offer concise re-introductions of characters and past events that allow the reader to stay current with his new writings.
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The New Iberia Blues is another fine installment of the Robicheaux series that has Burke at his best. Dave’s on the case of a serial cult murderer and all the familiar characters are here. Having Smiley back is a great delight. Highly recommended. Burke does not miss a beat.
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Another SENSATIONAL book,from JLB.  He is fantastic, and each book is better and better.  It’s vivid, vibrant and filled with all the crackle and verve of Louisiana and the bayou.  It’s a time to rejoice when there is a new Burke novel, and the only unfortunate thing, is that they end.  Bravo!
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I don't think I will ever grow tired of the cast of characters James. Lee Burke has blessed us with in the Dave Robicheaux series. Throughout the years they have ingrained themselves in my heart. This latest chapter is yet another example of the authors almost magical storytelling. It does not get better than this. Period.
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It is no secret that I'm a James Lee Burke fan. Not as big a fan as my friend Caroline who goes to the Dave Robichaeux Festival (named after Burke's main character) in New Iberia, Louisiana, every spring. 

Burke (now in his 80s) lives on a ranch in Montana these days but I think his best work is about Louisiana--vicious criminals, corrupt cops and greedy developers, And the ever-present heat ("hotter than a $2 pistol") and then there's the humidity....

So...I'm glad Burke's new book, The New Iberia Blues, takes us back to Louisiana. I've enjoyed his Western books but missed the salt-marsh smell of the bayous, the tinkling of  bottle trees, the coiling, cloying honeysuckle and the pelting of hard rain on a tin roof. (Full disclosure: I had a tin roof put on my porch--even though it hardly ever rains in Colorado). 

He describes an accent "like someone twanging a bobbie pin." The coroner has "a physique like a stick figure and a haircut that resembles an inverted shoe brush." Sometimes you have to read things twice--to get the flavor and savor.

A quote that will stay with me: Robichaeux remembers his father saying, "Did you ever see a mob rush across town to do a good deed?" Indeed. 

Oh, and there's always a great plot that centers around a grizzly murder (or two) that gritty, gusty, not-always-law-abiding, sometimes-cop (sometimes not) Dave Robichaeux, solves for a satisfying ending. This is not Burke's strongest book, but it is a very well-written page turner.
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5 stars

Dave Robicheaux makes a visit to Desmond Cormier’s home along with newly minted deputy named Sean McClain. Desmond has an interesting history. Dave met him twenty-five years earlier when Desmond was a scrawny poor boy. Now Desmond is a film director, and quite a famous one. When looking through Desmond’s telescope, they see a young woman who is affixed to a cross floating in the water. Her name is Lucinda Arceneaux. Neither Desmond nor his houseguest, Antoine Butterworth claim to see the body or know who the woman is. Butterworth is more than a little stuck on himself, affecting airs and being borderline snarky. Robicheaux knows they are hiding something. 

Dave is assigned a new partner. The woman’s name is Bailey Ribbons. They go to Cypremont Point, Desmond Cormier’s home. Dave had called a friend in the Los Angeles police department and learned that Butterworth is a deviant and drug user. Dave attempts to grill Butterworth, but he is a slippery character and wriggles his way out of every attempt Dave makes. 

Dave and Bailey receive a call from their boss, Helen. There is another body. They must travel to a distant place in the swamp where a man who has obviously been tortured and murdered lies. Later the man is identified as Joe Molinari. 

There are bad deputies in the department, Axel Devereaux is chief among them. They, of course, are giving Dave and his friends and associates a bad time – a terrible time: beatings, poisoning pets and other criminal acts abound. Devereaux is also making snide comments about Dave’s new partner, Bailey. 

When one of Clete’s informant, Travis Lebeau, is murdered horribly, they proverbial s**t hits the fan. The story escalates and the characters seem to spring into action. 

The thing I like especially about James Lee Burke’s novels is the philosophical bent to them. Mr. Burke writes one heck of a book and along the way ponders the state of many things: people, crime, the state of affairs and being a father. Dave and Clete always stick up for the “little guy” and the helpless and trapped individuals in today’s society. They are tough guys with hearts of gold. You always get a good read with a James Lee Burke book and plenty of action. This book is both remarkably well written and plotted. There are no wasted words in it. One event follows another in a linear and logical manner. I have read Mr. Burke’s novels since book one and will continue to be an ardent fan of his. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for forwarding to me a copy of this absolutely great book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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The Louisiana bayou in all its musty, shaded glory is almost another character in Burke’s Robicheaux series, a crime fiction series that is deeply character-driven, dark, gloomy, haunted.  Dreams, fantasies, and twisted pasts merge with current cruel truths here.  Everyone in this whether a midget gunman, Hollywood royalty, or a picture show detective has a checkered mysterious past.  Everyone here is haunted by the ghosts of their past.  And, Robicheaux is like a drowning man struggling to stay above the surface weighted down by the horrors of his past from his Vietnam days to the wives who passed on to the victims he can’t fix or find justice for.  

You don’t necessarily know if the violated corpses are the product of the freaks from Hollywoodland come to visit their sick hell on the wilderness or from vengeful ones escaped from prison or vowing to get even for all the troubles in their world or from someone else corrupted by their inner demons.  

The novel is not a fast paced shoot-em-up action Jackson tale but it’s more one of despair, distrust, and desolation.  An entire world is brought to life in these pages and it’s a joy to read this tale.   What a terrific addition to a series.  

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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I recommend any book by James Lee Burke and this title is no exception.  Well plotted, Burke writes with the precision of a trigger and the organic joy of a living being.  You will want to read the next book by the end.
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