on May 16, 2004
First, I have to agree with the other reviewer in saying that this probably isn't the best book to start off reading that's a part of the Dave R. series by Burke! This was my first by him, and it did seem a bit hard to get a handle on some things.
I did enjoy this book, but in trying to sum it up...I'm at a loss. This book had SO much going on!! There's a murder of a black man 40 years ago that is still unsolved and now his children are back in town to possibly resolve it...there are numerous criminals in and about town of a big stature creating a fuss...there are several local's who have issues of their own that need resolving...there's just SO much! There are so many characters, that I had a very hard time keeping them and their pasts straight. While I enjoyed some of the individual stories, it did get to be too much. I felt this book could have used some heavy editing.
Over-all, I did enjoy this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat to see how it would end and what all of the big cover-ups were. One thing to note-pay close attention to everything, if you miss something, you'll miss a lot.
on December 9, 2003
I am an unabashed fan of the Dave Robicheaux series. I know that some readers were disappointed with this particular book because it did not focus quite as much on Dave's homelife as some of the others, but that really didn't bother me in the least. Burke draws his characters so finely, and so seamlessly that it is a joy to read any of his books. This book is somewhat darker than some of the other ones, but the parallels Burke draws between the human condition of the past, and the presesnt are not wasted on the reader. There is also a great deal of humor in the book. The scenes of Clete Purcell (Robicheaux's ex-partner on NOPD) busting up mobsters and setting up dirtbag bikers is hysterical. I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks. Underneath it all, however, is the wonderfully complex character of Dave Robicheaux who struggles so valiantly with external and internal demons. There is a spirit to Robicheaux that is difficult not to like or even love. He gives everything to everything he does...not always winning....but never giving up. I loved the book...and I love the series. I hope Burke writes a hundred more.
on July 23, 2002
Set in New Iberia, La. This novel takes you from the estates of the rich to back room cockfights to brothels. From rape to murder to other various acts of violence, this book has it all. Can Detective Robicheaux solve a forty year old murder? What would cause someone to drag up something so long ago and forgotten by most? You have to read or listen to this novel to find out. With many twists and turns this novel weaves a tale of action and suspense.
This was my first experience with the works of Mr. Burke and I was extremely pleased with it. The characters were absolutely wonderful and the narrator Will Patton did a marvelous job at creating different distinguishing voices for each of them. Many times when listening to a book on tape, you have to listen very close to distinguish between the characters. This wasn't the case here. Mr. Burke did a great job in bringing the settings and characters to life, and with the help of Mr. Patton creating mental pictures of the people and places in the book was extremely easy.
The twists and turns I wrote of earlier will also keep you changing your mind about who did what, when and where that you will finally give up and just wait for the end.
Again, this was my first experience with any of the works of Mr. Burke and it isn't going to be my last.
If you like detective novels or a good book on tape, don't skip this because you'll be sorry you did.
on October 17, 2001
I am a James Lee Burke fan and I enjoy his beautiful writing, loaded with metaphors and interesting uses of language.
The plot was almost impenetrable. Although Dave is a detective, he does no detective work. Instead, he travels to the suspect (or even worse the suspect travels to him) and says nasty things to the suspect and accuses the suspect of being a bad guy. Hopefully, the police are smarter than this. Why the bad guys would waste their time talking to these people is never explained. There is no police work such as determining if a person had an alibi and checking the alibi. Instead, all witnesses are threatened or worse beaten up by Dave, his oddball partner Helen. No one ever seems to interview an eyewitness.
Also, Clete, Dave's ex-partner, appears in the story only to beat up bad guys. After the various Clete scenes, I was rooting for the bad guys or at least a civil rights attorney to sue this guy. He is an out of control thug who should be brought to justice. The plot is absolutely dreadful. You end up sympathizing with mobsters and bad people.
on May 13, 2001
"Sunset Limited" is my first book by Burke. In many ways, it is excellent. Burke has the ability to make you feel like you're in the middle of the scenes he describes. He conjures up mist rising from a Louisiana bayou so that you not only see it, you smell it and feel it as well. His characters come alive in a very human way. There are manipulators and pawns, perpetrators and victims. Innocents sometimes pay a heavy price for the misdeeds of others, but even a killer like Swede Boxleiter has redeeming qualities. And Burke's story never has a dull moment. Tension is constant and there is plenty of action.
With all these strengths brought to bear,"Sunset Limited" has a lot going for it, but it also has some shortcomings. This is the 16th Dave Robicheaux novel. A consequence of this is that some things are taken for granted, like the nickname "Streak". Several characters use it on Robicheaux, but if you're unfamiliar with the series, its significance is lost on you. This isn't a big deal, but it is symptomatic of the fact that terms and local expressions abound in this book. To the extent that it can sometimes be difficult for the uninitiated to follow the meaning. Another thing that struck me was that there are a lot of characters in the story, and some just seem to fade in or out without adequate introduction or resolution. For example, "Cool Breeze" Broussard is a pivotal character early in the story, but he just seems to disappear about midway through and you never see any more of him. In the end, the story itself seems to fade away almost like "Cool Breeze". I felt that a lot was left unresolved when the book was done, and it left me with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling. Real life is often like this,a nd some readers may like it this way, but I don't read fiction to get reality. I like stories with all the loose ends tied up.
When I got "Sunset Limited", I was not aware that the Dave Robicheaux character had such a lengthy history. In retrospect, this book was probably not the best place to make his acquaintance. The story is fast-paced and I enjoyed it, but I felt that a lot of loose ends remained when I finished the book, and I probably would have gotten more from it if I had read other books in this series before this one. This is a good book, and I think fans of this series will certainly enjoy it. If you're a newcomer to the Robicheaux novels, however, I suggest that you start with an earlier one. For myself, some earlier Robicheaux books are definitely on the agenda.
on December 1, 2000
It's funny that many readers thought this was one of Burke's worst books. I thought it was his best. The "villains" in the story were inspired, beginning with the loyal psychopath Swede Boxleiter, who retains amusing habits from his days as an abused orphan (walking on his hands, acrobatics on tree limbs). Harpo Scruggs was an oily redneck assassin who was despicable yet still garnered pity. And the two latter misanthropes--Ruben Esteban and a Canadian bounty hunter--were memorable as well. Does Burke use mugshots when he thinks up his psychopaths? Many of these characters seem vaguely familiar. It's as if I've seen them on the periphery of my own life. The beauty of Burke's writing lies in his expert characterizations. He gives even the most demented sociopaths redeeming qualities that erase the fine line between black and white. And the scene with Clete Purcell chasing Ricky Scarlotti after using a plumber's helper on him was classic, both rousing and sobering, with an unexpected complication. James Lee Burke excels at brevity, knowing just when to end the action to leave the reader breathless. The climax of Sunset Limited is a poignant tribute to "Casablanca". It really doesn't matter how original the plot is, Burke's vivid characters make it seem new and interesting. And I enjoy the way he finds evil in the least anticipated setting, sitting with affluent neighbors on a patio enjoying a glass of lemonade...
on August 11, 1999
This book was different than the other installments in the Dave Robicheaux series. I actually had some trouble getting into SUNSET LIMITED and that was immediately after finishing JLB's CIMARRON ROSE. When I first opened the book, I was glad to be back in New Iberia. It was reassuring to know that Dave was back and so were Clete, Helen, the Sheriff, Batist, and Alafair and Bootsie (although in much diminished supporting roles). JLB has a beautiful way of describing his characters, especially the ones who drag Dave into their sordid little lives. SUNSET LIMITED is no different in that regard and in this book, I really started to be worried (and frightened) for Clete. Clete's violence is relentless and frightening in its scope. JLB just doesn't let us off easily when Clete goes on the warpath. What I did like and what James Lee is also a master of is his description of the bond that binds Dave to Clete and vice versa. The loyalty, the affection and the caring are all well written. I've had a couple of friends like Clete (and a couple like Dave, too) and in these books, they're well constructed. My problem with "S-L" was that for some reason it didn't grab me from the get-go. Could it have been because I had just finished Cimarron Rose and there just wasn't enough difference between Dave and Billy Bob Holland? Could it be that I'm JLB'd out? Or, did I just not like Megan Flynn and her brother (who ended up with more character and integrity than I first thought)? That was a surprise.
The JLB mastery of place and description is still there and I think it might even be better developed than in some of the earlier installments. It's just that this book didn't get hold of me as early on as his others did. Toward the end, when things began to fall apart for Clete, it picked up again and I finished the book quickly.
There was a somewhat disturbing side note to all of this for me. While it wasn't one of JLB's best efforts, I didn't hate it, either. However, I am now caught up on all of his work (except for the just released BILLY BOB HOLLAND sequel and I think I'm going to put Mr. Burke on back-burner for a time while I read other authors.
There's an old saying in the military that goes, "familiarity breeds contempt..." Well, maybe I've just grown a little too familiar with Dave Robicheaux and James Lee Burke. I look forward to more of his books, it's just that I'll put off reading them for a while.
on July 20, 1999
I have read all of Burke's Dave Robicheaux novels, and, up until the last two (including this one), have thought they were exceptionally well-conceived and well-written. Burke does bring an almost tangible immediacy to the scenes he describes, and in places his prose still has the evocative ability to almost make the reader see, taste and smell the scenery. But I really felt cheated at the end of Sunset Limited. The characters, including Robicheaux himself and his wife and daughter, were poorly drawn, I thought. There was just too much action and running around without the author having made the characters seem real. I really didn't much care, by the end of the book, what the outcome was going to be (though it was not that hard to anticipate most of it). It makes me sad to see this writer getting formulaic and losing what had made me enjoy every page of his earlier works and look forward eagerly to his next novel. I think, like another commentator, that I'll be taking a vacation from Burke in hopes that he'll regain the depth and gift for character development that once distinguished his writing.
on July 11, 1998
I'm a Burke/Robichieux junkie. When I read everything that existed up to four years ago, I found myself muddled down with minor leaguers waiting for Burke's next work. It's like having an old friend stop by unannounced after a year or two.
This is one of his best. It's not the best one in terms of Bootsie and Alafair. Not the best one in terms of Batiste. Not the best one in terms of his old buddy, Clete Purcell - although Clete does pull off one of the best scenes with a frying pan. And it's not Burke's best at making me hungry for dirty rice. But, if you've read all of his previous works, all of this is set neatly between the lines.
What he does the best this time is ponder the human condition better than he has in the past. Robichieux has this habit of waking up and finding wackos waiting for him at every turn. His moral compass is steady throughout, and his thoughts on why people end up the way they do are as insightful as any "hi-brow" shrink could imagine.
If one hasn't read any Robichieux, they should start at the beginning with Neon Rain. Each work seems to build upon previous ones, and they make a lot more sense.
Welcome back, Robichieux!
on July 4, 1998
As a die-hard Burke/Robicheaux fan, I ordered this work pre-publication, and waited anxiously for it to be delivered. I am glad I didn't hold my breath, as the result isn't worth the risk.
By far one of the darkest Robicheaux novels, Sunset Limited is simply...incomplete. Although "outside" characters are well drawn, to an extent, some of their motivations are, to say the very least, elusive. Robicheaux's relationship with both Bootise, his wife, and Alafair, is virtually non-existent, whereas in previous Robicheaux novels, it has served as Dave's "center;" his grounding area. While not every work I read has to have a "happy ending," this one is not only not happy, but somewhat meaningless, and aimless. It is as if Burke has also lost direction, or no longer knows what to do with his creations. In fact, other than the evocative descriptions of atmosphere, none of the characters evoke sympathy, liking, or, better yet, active dislike. Burke so utterly fails to engage the reader that no strong emotions (other than exasperation at having wasted money on a hardcover version of the book) are created.
In summary, if you absolutely must, then buy Sunset Limited. However, for those of you who can wait, purchase the paperback. This book is definitely not worth purchasing in hardcover. I hope Burke regains his stride with his next work.