BLACK CHERRY BLUES
By James Lee Burke
Harper, 2012, c1989 ($9.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Dave Robicheaux's nightmares of his wife's murder are still vivid and frequent, but he tries to keep himself together, and sober, for the sake of Alafair, the child he rescued from the sea. She has her own nightmares of the violent life she left behind, and he does his best to give her a safe, stable life. His years as a cop and a homicide detective in New Orleans are long gone, and he just wants to work in his bait shop, fish, and hang out with his friends.
His past, however, is not through with him. One rainy morning in a Baton Rouge café he runs into his old college roommate Dixie Lee Pugh, who went on to become one of the first white rhythm and blues stars. His rise was fast, his fall faster, a series of drunken escapades, failed marriages, and a stint in prison. He tells Dave he's made a new life for himself as a leaseman in Montana, and all is well. They say their goodbyes and go their separate ways, but sadly for Dave, they are not done with each other.
Dixie shows up at the bait shop a few days later asking for Dave's help. He'd overheard a couple of his colleagues talking about a double murder they'd committed back in Montana. It seems there are some nasty, dangerous men involved in the oil and gas land grab there, and Dixie is involved with some of the worst. He wants to do the right thing about the murder, but he doesn't think the authorities would take the word of a convicted felon. Dave is sympathetic, but says he can't help.
Next thing he knows, he's in Dixie's business up to his neck. He's accused of murder, his family and friends are in danger, and he knows if he doesn't take action he's going to end up in Angola for life. He and Alafair head off to Montana, where he employs all his skills and strengths in an attempt to clear his name, stay alive, and keep his daughter safe. Dixie and another face from the past, his old partner Clete, are both a help and a hindrance in his quest.
James Lee Burke has never written a bad book, just different shades of excellence. His prose is as fine as any writer ïn any genre, his skill in writing mysteries is unexcelled. He can write hauntingly beautiful, lyrical scenes of the Louisiana landscape, while painting a picture of the danger that hides in the undergrowth. This book stands the test of time, a great read by a master story teller.
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