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Purple Cane Road [Mass Market Paperback]

James Lee Burke
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 8 2001 Dave Robicheaux Mysteries
From Edgar Award-winner James Lee Burke comes this emotional powerhouse of a novel ... in which everyman hero Dave Robicheaux confronts the secrets of his long-forgotten past in a shattering tale of revenge, murder, and a mother's haunting legacy....

Robicheaux first hears it from a pimp eager to trade information for his life: Mae Guillory was murdered outside a New Orleans nightclub by two cops. Dave Robicheaux was just a boy when his mother ran out on him and his whiskey-driven father.

Now Robicheaux is a man, still haunted by her desertion and her death. More than thirty-five years after Mae Guillory died, her son will go to any length to bring her killers to justice. And as he moves closer to what happened that long-ago night, the Louisiana cop crosses lines of color and class to find the place where secrets of his past lie buried ... and where all roads lead to revenge -- but only one road leads to the truth....

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From Amazon

In New Iberia, Louisiana, memories are long and dangerous, and the past and present are seldom easy to untangle. Homicide investigator Dave Robicheaux is trying to help Letty Labiche, a New Iberia girl on death row for killing the man who molested her and her sister as children, when chance brings him to Zipper Clum, a pimp and pornographer who recognizes Robicheaux secondhand through a 30-year haze:
"Robicheaux, your mama's name was Mae.... Wait, it was Guillory before she married. That was the name she went by ... Mae Guillory. But she was your mama," he said.

"What?" I said.

He wet his lips uncertainly.

"She dealt cards and still hooked a little bit. Behind a club in Lafourche Parish. This was maybe 1966 or '67," he said.

Clete's eyes were fixed on my face. "You're in a dangerous area, sperm breath," he said to Zipper.

"They held her down in a mud puddle. They drowned her," Zipper said.

To Robicheaux, whose memories of the fun-loving Mae are few and bittersweet, the news comes like a bolt of lightning. Though she abandoned him to the uncertain mercies of a violent, alcoholic father, he loved her, and his desire to find her killers--cops in the pay of the Giacano crime family, according to Clum--is instantaneous and deeply felt. Unfortunately, Zipper Clum meets the wrong end of a .25 automatic soon after his electrifying announcement, but his conversation with his killer is recorded--and Mae Guillory's name comes up again.

The winding trail of evidence connected to both Letty Labiche and Mae Guillory leads Robicheaux almost immediately to Jim Gable, the New Orleans Police Department's liaison with city hall, whose position has afforded him a number of less-than-legal advantages. Gable also happens to be an ex-lover of Robicheaux's wife, Bootsie--formerly the widow of Ralph Giacano. From there the web of connections grows ever wider, and (not surprisingly) incriminates those in high places. These include the state attorney general, a woman who, if photographic evidence is to be trusted, was once friendly with the Labiches' parents, who were known procurers.

But if Purple Cane Road has its share of corrupt powermongers, it's also filled with beautifully rounded characters, like piano-playing governor Belmont Pugh and hit man Johnny Remeta, whose personality slowly begins to unravel as he gets closer to Robicheaux's daughter. The plot converges seamlessly to its climax--the true story of what happened to Mae Robicheaux--as James Lee Burke's trademark of uncompromising justice is brought to fruition. Like Burke's other Robicheaux novels, Purple Cane Road offers a solidly satisfying piece in the picture of a complex hero. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

HAfter the relatively lightweight Sunset Limited (1998), Cajun cop Dave Robicheaux returns in a powerhouse of a thriller that shows Burke writing near the peak of his form. Robicheaux faces his most personal case yet, when a pimp puts him on the trail of the truth behind his mother's long-ago disappearance. Meanwhile, he uncovers new evidence in the case of death-row inmate Letty Labiche, who took a mattock to the man who molested her as a child, state executioner Vachel Carmouche. Burke parades the usual cast of grotesques: feckless Louisiana governor Belmont Pugh; cold-blooded attorney general Connie Deshotel; sleazy police liaison officer Jim Gable, who "keeps the head of a Vietnamese soldier in a jar of chemicals"; and psychopathic hit man Johnny Remata, who acts as all-around avenging angel. Wife Bootsie's having had a fling with Gable drives Robicheaux into a jealous fury more than once, while daughter Alafair's flirtation with Johnny raises the temperature even higher. Old buddy Clete Purcell doesn't have a lot to do, other than to contribute to the general mayhem. Once Robicheaux learns that his mother fell afoul of a couple of New Orleans cops in the pay of the Giacano crime family, it's a simple matter of identifying the guilty pair and bringing them to justiceDor is it? Burke winds up an often convoluted and gratuitously violent plot with a dynamite ending that will leave readers feeling truly satisfied, if a bit shell-shocked. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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YEARS AGO, IN STATE documents, Vachel Carmouche was always referred to as the electrician, never as the executioner. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Better Entries in the Series July 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In PURPLE CANE ROAD Dave Robicheaux is essentially working on two separate cases simultaneously. He is trying to get enough evidence to stop Letty Labiche's scheduled execution in Angola Penitentiary and at the same time Dave is also hunting for the killers many years ago of his mother, Mae Guillory. The story moves fast with plenty of action and enough colorful characters to keep it interesting. The latter include the usual Burke types such as prostitutes, pimps, a populist politician, corrupt police and just plain hardened criminals. Robicheaux's long-time friend and associate Clete Purcell defies description. We have to look long and hard to find any normal people in this book.
The best part of the story focuses on Robicheaux's search for the killers of his mother. It is here that Burke gives us another glimpse of Robicheaux's complex nature and we learn still more about his troubled past.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not competitive with the best Jan. 10 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I don't know where all the laudatory reviews are coming from. This book isn't particularly well written. Burke's writing is unmemorable, his similes and descriptions frequently lame.
The book isn't particularly well plotted. The plot is fairly complex, but implausible. The protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, is a homicide cop in a Louisiana parish outside New Orleans. He does much of his work in the company of a thug private investigator named Clete. Clete is just a transparent device invented by Burke to allow Robicheaux to engage in flagrantly illegal activities and violations of the rights of private citizens. It is obvious that this situation wouldn't be tolerated by any law enforcement agency, regardless how corrupt or how good-ol-boy Southern. Louisiana may have more than its share of a history of political corruption, but the percentage of outright crooks in both the police departments and the elected officials in this book defies credulity. It is similarly implausible that an ordinary cop from outside New Orleans would be such good buddies with the governor and that his wife would be an old friend of the Attorney General.
The book isn't particularly well characterized. Robicheaux is a recovering alcoholic (a remarkably imaginative and original touch, isn't it?). Very few of the characters come to life. One who does is Robicheaux's buddy Clete - but it's not hard to create a character who's nothing but a bully and a thug. The other is Johnny Remeta, a hired hit man with an unusual combination of psychoses.
Considering how many other writers of hard-boiled detective novels there are out there, I see no reason to read Burke. Read this, and then read anything by Dennis Lehane (for example), and the difference is dramatic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best crime novel since Raymond Chandler Nov. 18 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've been reading crime novels all my life, and this is the best one I've read since Raymond Chandler. "Purple Cane Road" has everything a good crime novel should have, and more. Good guys and bad guys and many shades of gray. Corrupt cops. Cold-blooded killers. Femme fatales. And at the center a great swirl of emotion and moral principles and deep caring known as Dave Robicheaux. We always know where this hero stands and how he feels and what makes him feel that way. Burke breaks several conventional rules here. There is more than one through-line, indeed a rich and complex whirlwind of story involving half a dozen characters and as many killings. This is an amazing piece of work. My hat is off.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Getting annoying Aug. 12 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although Purple Cane Road is worth reading, the Robicheaux series is losing its appeal. I
enjoyed the early books in the series but lost track of Burke some time after Dixie City Jam.
In rejoining the series with this book, several facts became strikingly clear. First, Burke
remains a skilled atmospheric writer. The bloodred skies, the gum trees and schooling fish,
the blowing rain and leaves, the physical appearance of the characters -- Burke can certainly
paint a scene. Second, Dave remains as humorless and grim and earnest and possessed by
""demons'' as ever, and frankly I'm tired of it. In 341 pages, I had one involuntary laugh.
(And that was when the sheriff made light of Dave's weirdness.) Didn't Marlowe and Lew Archer
have a similarly admirable (if unconventional) moral code, without having to beat everyone
over the head with it? No one is asking Dave to be a comic, but a lead character must be
appealing, and Dave isn't. Third, Burke still writes excellent, snappy, idiomatic dialogue.
It's great fun to read characters talking about about ""flushing'' someone's ""grits'' and
other colorful euphemisms for killing. Beyond these general observations, some specifics.
Other reviewers have pointed out that the Alafair infatuation is wholly unrealistic; I agree.
(I am also tired of Dave calling her ""Alf'' despite her wish going back several books that he
use her full name.) Cletus is on tilt, and that's fine; he's one of the main attractions of
the series. And as with others in the series, it doesn't pay to try to diagram all the plot
twists, or holes, in Purple Cane Road. Just read and enjoy. Burke has created Robicheaux and
he has to live with him; I don't. So although this was a fairly satisfying read, the
annoyances detailed here will keep me from running out to buy the next in the series.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Few too many plot holes/manipulations
I tend not to read many novels by any one mystery/thriller author before the sameness of plot/character/style begins to wear. Read more
Published on July 9 2003 by Russell Heath
1.0 out of 5 stars Overrated author produces boring novel
Certainly the wide acclaim Burke has received can not be based on the quality of the novels he has written. Read more
Published on June 7 2003 by "inthefoam2"
4.0 out of 5 stars Burke lives up to the hype.
Unlike the main characters of some series who seem to be without fault, Dave Robicheaux is anything but. Read more
Published on May 9 2003 by Brad Cooper
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!
I have read every Dave Robicheaux novel by James Lee Burke and absolutely loved them all and recommended them to every person I know. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of a great series
Burke has saved his best for last. I've read and loved the whole series, but "Purple Cane Road" is the best so far. Read more
Published on Nov. 24 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving..
Dave Robicheaux, a Lousiana cop, is suddenly confronted with his identity and his past when he learned by chance that his mother had been murdered, from then on his investigation... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by Manuel Gwiazda
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving..
Dave Robicheaux, a Lousiana cop, is suddenly confronted with his identity and his past when he learns by chance that his mother had been murdered, from then on his investigation to... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by Manuel Gwiazda
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
This book was fast paced and emotionally moving. Burke was superb as usual. This book tugged at my heart strings. I was glad to know what really happened to his mother. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Reecia Thompson Stoglin
5.0 out of 5 stars I Need Some Deep Fried Shrimp & Potato Salad
James Lee Burke has done it again. Sort of reminds me of John MacDonald's Travis McGee series with his love of the Deep South shining through every chapter. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2002 by Jim
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