Good stuff, no doubt. Containing the wonderfully evocative writing I’ve come to expect from Burke, it built a world of mud and heat I could just about sink my toes into. Yet despite all the elements that make it a prototypical Robicheaux novel–as noted by Nanosynergy in their pointed review–it lacked a certain spice to really pull it together into exceptional.
The story begins with a young girl brutally raped and murdered, and what seems to be an obvious suspect, a young black musician who had been dating the girl and whose prints were found on a can of beer nearby. Dave Robicheaux has doubts after the kid tries to suicide and a pillar of the community decides to represent him. Before long, a prostitute is found savagely beaten to death, and it starts to look like a serial killer. The woman, Linda, is connected to a crime family, and now her father is on the warpath. However, it isn’t long before both cases are sidetracked as Dave follows the age-old private eye premise of harassing various people in hopes of seeing what shakes out. Mostly what shakes out are a lot of threats, but occasionally some beatings as well.
Perhaps because I’ve been reading more police-type procedurals (as long as Ben Aaronovitch counts), but it surprised me that there wasn’t more straight-up detecting, particularly as Robicheaux has official status. Robicheaux also feels aggressive when he meets various people connected with the case(s), which surprises me a bit from the charming Cajun I thought he was. Then again, I suppose this is book 8, so some things must have happened between book three and this one. Still, I found the general repetitiveness of the (lack of) plotting a little tiresome. Not enough to skip, but enough to put it down and wander away.
Characters are interesting, particularly the renegade Clete, inarguably Dave’s best friend and general wild card. Although Dave’s wife and daughter make brief appearances, they seem to be more of an afterthought in this book. Dave’s pseudo-addiction is a little tiresome, both from a plotting standpoint and from a psychological perspective. I’m definitely ambivalent about the reason for the addiction in this book, and if anyone wants to discuss, please let me know!
Narrative is mostly from Dave’s point of view, but there are a few others included. It’s a little strange when stories of the past–both immediate and distant–are told as Burke moves the scene back in time and tells it from an omniscient point of view, including that of women being abused. It’s very evocative, but leaves the mystery to head into literary fiction-land.
Overall, not a bad read, just one that had me wishing for a bit more of actual detecting and less from the bar-brawler.