James Lee Burke writes like a dream. Vivid, lyrical prose makes you feel the heat and humidity of southern Louisiana, and smell the swamps and the rain and the cut grass. You can see the mists settling on the lakes and rivers.
But – and here the armies of JLB fans are going to start sharpening their machetes – this lyricism is always at the service of pretty much the same old plot. Dave Robicheaux will be fighting the alcoholic demons in his head. Clete Purcell will be getting ready to go postal. Dave’s daughter Alafair will be putting jerks down with words that crack like a whip. The villains will be entitled white racists, or homicidal cracker psychopaths. Everybody will always sound as though their heads are about to explode.
I read everything he writes, though, because I know that every so often all these elements come together in a gripping story. Creole Belle is one of them. And if it’s not as good as the first four Robicheaux novels, or Pegasus Descending, or In the Moon of Red Ponies, it’s awfully close.