In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

My man, James Lee Burke. It’s been over a year since I read you, which is too long, considering I’m only on the sixth Dave Robicheaux book out of eighteen. After this one, I may speed things up because you did some amazing work here. I have Dixie City Jam sitting next to my bed, but I’m building quite a backlog of  paperbacks, so it may have to wait.

I’m going to digress and talk about my problems. Skip the next few paragraphs if you’re not interested. Here’s the problem: I seem to be suffering from a horrible case of the recency effect. If it’s happening now, I like it. Is that normal?

I’m reading this book thinking that it’s not only the greatest JLB book I’ve read, but maybe the greatest American crime novel I’ve read. Additionally, I think I may like Burke more than Grafton and Hillerman and Francis. What’s wrong with me? It has to be that I feel this way about the book because it’s in my hands, now. I just don’t trust myself to seriously rank a book while I’m reading it.

Okay, enough with that. Wow, I loved this book though.

Burke’s hero is a dark and brooding crime fighter working for the New Iberia (Loiusiana) sheriff’s department. This book is similar to the first five in the series because Robicheaux gets suspended from the department for a period of time. He doesn’t seem to be able to get through any book without some sort of beef with authority.

** PLOT KILLERS FOLLOW **

It was different though because of how surreal and mystical it was. In the past I’ve quoted passages where Burke describes Robicheaux’s demons in colorful and sordid ways (here and here). Nothing like that stuck out here, but there was an ongoing fantastical dialogue between Robicheaux and a dead Confederate general that was comparable in it’s strangeness. These conversations were visions that Robicheaux was having and it took a little while to get used to them, but eventually I started looking forward to them. They added a lot of color and worked well to build the suspense.

The suspense was intense. The final chapters, with the malevolence and danger and emotion, were incredible. But as evil as the bad guys were, the good guys (and women) were caring and compassionate. Hopefully good people Elrod Sykes and Rosie Gomez show up in future books.

I also need to note in future books how much Robicheaux reaches into his childhood. In this one, he witnessed a murder as a teen-ager that came back to visit him in current day (I think he was 57 in this book). I’ve already looked ahead to the next one and it seems like there’s something comparable. Grafton does this a little, but not necessarily with the main character. She brings up stuff from the past to add to the current story. I’m getting more used to the tactic.

Long live the American detective novel!