Monday, February 28, 2011

"Crusader's Cross" by James Lee Burke

Whenever I get fed up with the real world and all of it's attendant problems, I leave the Non-Fiction section behind and head straight to the Fiction section, usually the B's, as in Burke. The wonder of Mr. Burke's fiction is in it's reality. There are people who firmly believe that fiction is just that, fiction. But Mr. Burke knows better, there are people out there every bit as sinister and depraved as the characters he draws in his novels. I've met some of them.

When former police Detective Dave Robicheaux was a young man, back in the late 1950's, his brother Jimmie worked with him on the off shore rigs of Louisiana, making the money which would put them through college. This is where the story begins.

His brother Jimmie falls for a local girl named Ida Durbin, who saves their lives one day when they are out swimming, and they form a friendship with her. She also happens to play a mean mandolin, and sings like Kittie Wells. But when Jimmie finds out that she is a hooker, working off a debt to a local pimp, he is devastated. When she disappears, after Jimmie has confronted the pimp, offering to buy her debt, only to find himself ripped off, forces are set in motion that lead to a 20 year dead end, which suddenly opens up after a seemingly unrelated string of crimes.

When Robicheaux is re-instated as a detective in New Iberia Parish, in order to help investigate a serial killer, seemingly unrelated to the 20 year old disappearance of Ida Durbin, he joins forces with his old friend and partner Clete Purcell. What they find, when they scratch the underbelly of New Orleans, leads them to believe that Ida might not be dead after all. One thing's for sure in this action packed novel, the "Bobbsey Twins" are back, and nobody is safe until they get the answers they are looking for.

The most amazing thing about Mr. Burke's fiction is the way in which he spins his characters. They range from the seemingly normal schoolteacher type, like the women who killed for Charles Manson, to the truly sick and depraved, both of whom walk amongst us.

Long adept at exploring the dark side of man's nature, this book is no exception. As Detective Robicheaux struggles with the case itself, he is also forced to face the eternal question of just what, if any, are the differences in the motivations that drive both those who stand behind the law, as well as those who oppose it? The answer, like the underbelly of New Orleans, is neither pretty, nor simple.

Loaded with evil, sordid characters, this book will take you behind the headlines and into the world of fiction, which is where non-fiction comes from to begin with. Or is that the other way around....?

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