BookPage Top Pick in Whodunit, January 2019
James Lee Burke is one of a small handful of elite suspense writers whose work transcends the genre, making the leap into capital-L Literature. You don’t have to get past the opening paragraph of The New Iberia Blues to see his mastery of the craft: “Desmond Cormier’s success story was an improbable one, even among the many self-congratulatory rags-to-riches tales we tell ourselves in the ongoing saga of our green republic, one that is forever changing yet forever the same, a saga that also includes the graves of Shiloh and cinders from aboriginal villages.” First-person narrator Dave Robicheaux is on hand and in fine fettle. Fans have watched Robicheaux age in real time, battling his demons, losing one wife, then another and another, raising the refugee girl he rescued from a submerged airplane when she was a small child and skating close to the edge (and sometimes over the edge) of the law. This time out, he will investigate the ritual slaying of a young black woman, nailed to a cross and left to the vagaries of the rising tide. There is a film company in town, and Robicheaux cannot shake the notion that they are somehow at the epicenter of this homicide, and as he gets closer to proving his thesis, the body count piles up. It is a long book, but I read it slowly, pausing from time to time to digest the first-rate prose, the atmospheric bayou setting and the complex interactions of people I feel I have known for 30-plus years.