So sit back, relax and enjoy some crawfish and something cold to drink along with this book as you read some swampy Cajun action all around the bayou! Makes an interesting read, and leaves you wanting to read more by James Lee Burke! Well done, noble mon.
Cadillac Jukebox is overall a good read. It's basically a tale of the dark motives that drive people across the line from good to bad. Unfortunately, Burke let the story get too complicated. I wish I had made a chart of the characters as I read the book, because keeping track of who's who got confusing. The storyline also spreads out to the point that staying on top of it becomes a chore.
I thought the story got formulaic at points. The mythological symbolism in the fate of the husband-and-wife antagonists was over the top, like a classical bass drum roll at the end of a Warren Storm tune. But Burke didn't miss a beat with his characters. I was scared by Aaron Crown and Mookie Zerrang, I felt sympathy for Buford LaRose and enmity toward his wife, and I felt like I'd known Batist for a long time. Dave Robicheaux was as polite, resolute, and conflicted as ever.
Alas, his writing prowess does not necessarily translate to compelling story telling. While we found ourselves liking his leading man of some dozen of his 22 books, Louisiana cop Dave Robicheaux, a huge supporting cast of small time hoods, politicians, barflies, and so on, were difficult to follow without a scorecard. While Robicheaux and his wife Bootsie were well defined, most of the other players were not. Thus the plot became just as muddy as the bayous where much of the story is set. We found ourselves thinking Burke might be better at writing fiction that does not pose the pressures of a mystery, where clues and plot evolution have to lead to some relatively logical conclusion.
These findings seem to coincide with a majority of his reviews -- either one is overcome by his mastery of the language into more or less ignoring the story per se; or one is left admiring his imagery while finding that the story line disappoints as it unfolds. We would like to try a non-series Burke, perhaps his Pulitzer nominated "Lost Get-Back Boogie", to see if he can get it all together. Stay tuned.
Burke's natural writing talent is obvious, and he grabbed my attention right away. The characters are all very human and real, it's a great setting, and things click along at a brisk pace. I found myself zipping my way through this book eagerly awaiting the next surprise.
And then, about halfway through the book I just got lost. A thousand different things had happened to Dave Robicheaux, his cohorts, and his enemies, and though each scene was written well, it just wasn't coming together as a whole. I realized that I either didn't know enough because I hadn't read any of the previous books, or Burke was just all over the place.
Over all a disappointment, but since this is my first Burke book, I plan to give him another chance by reading the first of the Dave Robicheaux series.