Last Car to Elysian Fields: A Novel Hardcover – Sep 23 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Homicide detective Dave Robicheaux is pitted against a handsome, urbane war hero of a bad guy instead of the typical obscenely grotesque villain in this latest installment of Burke's stellar series, set in New Iberia, La. It's a shift in adversaries that forces Robicheaux to take a different tack than his usual uncontrolled tilting at the windmills of elusive justice. As in many of Burke's novels (A Stained White Radiance; In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead), current felonies are tied to a crime from the past. Here, Dave's friend Father Jimmie Dolan is being stalked by Irish hit man Max Coll; linked to this intrigue is the story of blues singer Junior Crudup, who entered the hell of Angola Penitentiary in the 1950s and was never heard from again. In present-day New Orleans, three teens die in a fiery crash after buying drinks at a drive-by daiquiri stand. Porn star Gunner Ardoin takes a beating from Dave's sidekick, Clete Purcel, who wreaks his usual havoc. Mysterious lady cop Clotile Arceneaux keeps popping in with advice, and a minor thug, Jumpin' Merchie Flannigan, is married to Robicheaux's old girlfriend Theodosha. These are just a scant few of the characters and subplots that thicken the deep and complex gumbo of Burke's story. The writing is beautiful, as always, laced with the author's signature descriptions: "the sepia-tinted light in the trees and on the bayou seemed to emanate from the earth rather than the sky." This is an outstanding entry in an excellent series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Change comes slowly to Cajun country, but it comes just the same. Dave Robicheaux, hero of Burke's long-running series, has been struggling with that fact for years, watching his beloved New Iberia invaded by everything from mobsters to Wal-Mart. This time the change is more personal. Dave's second wife, Bootsie, has died from lupus; his daughter is away at college; and his house on Bayou Teche has burned down. Adrift, Robicheaux is even more of a loose cannon than usual, and all it takes to light his fuse is the death of three teenagers, killed in a car accident after being served illegally at a drive-by dacquiri stand. Soon Dave is knee-deep in a murky swamp of tangled motives and secret history that extends from the dead girls through a maverick priest, a crazed assassin, and a blues guitarist who disappeared from Angola Prison in the '40s. It is the musician's story that gives the novel its freshness, as Burke seamlessly connects past and present while re-creating the horrors of the legendary Louisiana prison farm and evoking the power of the doomed guitarist's art. Change is inevitable, Robicheaux keeps learning, and, no, it isn't 1950 anymore. And yet, the past isn't dead, either, as voices from the grave keep singing to us, blind to the shadow of Wal-Mart. Burke is, above all, an elegiac poet; his sweeping, lyrical sentences give life to the dead and make living worthwhile for the Robicheaux in all of us. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Inside This Book(Learn More)
The first week after Labor Day, after a summer of hot wind and drought that left the cane fields dust blown and spiderwebbed with cracks, rain showers once more danced across the wetlands, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and the sky turned the hard flawless blue of an inverted ceramic bowl. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews
The finest recurring quality of all of Burke's books is the beautifully descriptive prose. With the setting in the Louisiana bayou, Burke's colorful descriptions lets you close your eyes and imagine the setting with relative ease.
The only drawback from the book came late in the book. On several instances in the last hundred pages, it really seemed as if the autor was trying to push his political agenda on the reader. The remarks had nothing to do with the characters, hadd nothing to do with the storyline, and really distracted me from the reading experience for a few pages as I tried to figure out why those remarks were there.
Outside of that, this is a classic Burke and evidence that neither he nor Dave Robicheaux are showing any signs of slowing down!
Burke can be wordy, not nearly as so as king and others who don't seem to know when to shut up, but not in this book. His usually elegant descriptive prose is there, but not in the annoying extent that it can be found in other of his novels. Still, for me to complain about Burke's prose is pretty hypocritical since I consider the source of that prose one of the literary communities greatest assets...and he's just a mystery writer...yeah right!
Without giving away the plot, Burke has brought us Clete Purcell at his best, an ira hitman looking for absolution and a typical cast of unsavory southern characters, the higher eschelon's of southern society, forwhom Robicheaux has a natural distaste...as do I. Perhaps that's why I like Dave so much, he's a lot like all of us...a bit in the extreme but a lot like us.
Last Car to Elysian Fields is an excellent read, well worth the price. I highly recommend this book to any one who likes a good mystery, with lots of action.
One of the beauties of this book is that any one of several mysteries would have been more than adequate to have made this an above-average book. For example, an ex-IRA hit man, Max Coll, has a gambling debt he cannot pay off. He's given the choice of killing a Catholic priest, Father Jimmie Dolan . . . but something always intervenes to foil his efforts. Pretty soon there's a hit out on Coll as well. In a second plot line, a talented songwriter and singer, Junior Crudup, found his way into the bottom of Louisiana's prison system from which he disappeared with no trace. The prisoner turns out to have been used as a laborer by a prominent war hero who denies remembering the prisoner. In a third plot line, a 17 year-old girl kills herself and two others driving drunk. She got the booze at a drive-through "daiquiri window" . . . and someone wants to stop the investigation into the daiquiri window. Dave also finds the man who miswired his house . . . and caused Bootsie's death. Someone is bound to pay for that! In the background, there are also porn stars, ex-lovers, sleazeballs, and other assorted criminals. Against this backdrop, Clete Purcel is his most outrageous righter of wrongs.
After the book was over, I found myself thinking that this book must surely deserve to be a five-star book. Then, I realized that the novel leaves so little room for hope and redemption that I found myself more despairing about people than encouraged about them. I hope that in future books, Mr. Burke will also show redemptive qualities as well as the darker side of human nature.
Robicheaux's friend, Father Jimmy Doyle undergoes a severe beating in New Orleans. Robicheaux, a New Iberia detective investigates with the help of the violent but lovable Clete Purcel. Of course this simple act leads to an increasingly complex web of violence consuming the lives of both the good and the very bad.
Burke's stories never really change. That is the one problem with the books. Each particular work is outstanding but taken as a whole they appear quite repetitive. Names are unbelievably unique- Junior Crudup, Merchie Flannagan, Castille LeJeune, Sugar Bee Quibodeaux, among many others. After living for eight years in New Orleans, I have never come upon a set of names of the characters that populate a Burke novel. Nonetheless, they are so very realistic that the reader will truly feel they know each and every one before the end. Superb- just not unique to the author.
Most recent customer reviews
I bought this item because I was suffering an eye injury and thought to have a talking book to amuse me. Alas, the suth'n ac'cent was pretty difficult to understand. Read morePublished on March 8 2010 by Ann M. Collett
With a precision writing style reminiscent of McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and a plot worthy of Leonard's TISHOMINGO BLUES, this latest James Lee Burke does not disappoint. Read morePublished on June 18 2004
Another truly great novel from James Lee Burke, on par with all of his others. What truly distinguishes Burke's novels is his gorgeous writing style--he truly evokes a sense of... Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Fred Black
My job affords me the ability to listen to tapes all day, usually theology lectures, but also novels. Read morePublished on April 3 2004 by matt
With a precision writing style reminiscent of McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and a plot worthy of Leonard's TISHOMINGO BLUES, this latest James Lee Burke does not disappoint. Read morePublished on April 2 2004
Perhaps I should have read other books by James Lee Burke before reading this one as he obviously has had a lot going on in the colourful life of his hero, Dave Robicheaux, which... Read morePublished on March 23 2004 by Beverley Strong
I guess I'd better go back and review the last couple of Robicheaux books, because I seem to have missed Bootsie's demise. Not that I was a big a fan of hers. Read morePublished on March 9 2004
Burke's latest Dave Robicheaux novel offers a cast of eccentric characters who thrive in the criminal underbelly of New Orleans and New Iberia Parrish. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2004 by Luan Gaines