Purple Cane Road Mass Market Paperback – May 8 2001
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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.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.
"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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
But Purple is probably my last one for a good while. Robicheaux's anger, righteousness, and violence were too unrelieved for me. By the middle of the story, I felt as if I were being hit with a hammer. Also his anger seems contrived as it tends to serve the plot by preventing him from pursuing critical information until the plot requires it.
Similarly, too many other characters' actions were transparently manipulated for plot purposes: e.g. His daughter's implausible crush on the hit man, Remeta; Passion Labiche's adamant refusal to tell her story until the plot called for it; the unaccountable incompetence of the forensic team that investigated Vachel Carmouche's murder--clues to which Robicheaux deciphered in minutes eight years after the event.
But it was a plot hole that hooked me the most: How did a no account pimp, Zipper Clum, know what happened to Robicheaux's mother 30 years previously, how did he know that Mae Guillory was his mother, and how did he know that Joe Remeta lead back to those who killed her? Maybe I missed it, but by the end of the book I was feeling kind of manipulated.
I did enjoy the writing, the dialogue, and snappiness with which Burke screams along.
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on July 18 2004 by Peter Kenney
I've been reading crime novels all my life, and this is the best one I've read since Raymond Chandler. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2003 by Roger Angle
Unlike the main characters of some series who seem to be without fault, Dave Robicheaux is anything but. Read morePublished on May 8 2003 by Brad Cooper
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 morePublished on Jan. 22 2003
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 morePublished on Nov. 24 2002
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 morePublished on Jan. 27 2002 by Manuel Gwiazda
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 morePublished on Jan. 27 2002 by Manuel Gwiazda
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 morePublished on Jan. 18 2002 by Reecia Thompson Stoglin