Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Pegasus Descending" by James Lee Burke

Fiction and reality collide once again in this action packed and thought provoking novel by James Lee Burke. With his usual flair for tying history together with mystery, this book finds New Iberia Detective James Robicheaux involved in the 20 year old murder of a former friend during an armored car heist gone wrong. When the friend's daughter shows up in New Iberia, she brings with her a whole boatload of trouble.

A dead man is found in a drainage ditch on the side of the road, with no name or identification, and the coincidences begin to add up, leading Detective Robicheaux on a search for the truth which will take him down some of the darkest and ugliest roads of humanity. Politics, old money and outdated societal traditions fuel the story as the case leads to the murder and gang rape of a young girl. Was she killed by the local gangbangers? Or were the rich "frat" boys involved? Or, is there a connection between the two?

With the FBI looking into some of the same suspects for other crimes, Detective Robicheaux is forced into a game of cat and mouse between his own New Iberia Police Department and the Feds. With his old buddy Clete Purcel at his side, rampaging like a bull in a china closet, guess who wins?

This may be one of the most complex of the Dave Robicheaux series to date. There is virtually nothing left out of this wide ranging tale of corruption and greed. From the gambling profits of the Indian Reservations, to the televangelists who may be laundering them, and the politicians who allow these things to go on, Mr. Burke has once again written a novel which is so well grounded in the reality of our times, that it is often difficult to remember you are reading fiction.

All of the usual characters have been assembled here. There is, of course, Clete Purcel, Dave's old sidekick from the New Orleans Police Department, New Iberia Police Chief Helen Soileau, Dave's wife Molly, and Tripod, their pet raccoon. Added to the list are a wimpy District Attorney and a cast of sociopaths.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Mr. Burke's writing is his penchant for tying his plots to the applicable history which has firmly entrenched some very evil people in some of the highest positions of authority, all while waving the flag, or acting as a "shill" for the Lord.

But, against all odds, the self described "Bobbsey Twins of Vice", Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, kick ass and take down the bad guys, bruising a few egos along the way. With the added lessons in history, as well as some insights into the human condition, James Lee Burke's novels can only be described as Mickey Spillane's "Mike Hammer" on steroids.

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