Heaven’s Prisoners

This is book two of Burke’s crime novel series. I wasn’t so sure that I was completely sold on Burke when I read The Neon Rain last year, but when I reflected on it at the end of the year it was clear that I was going to press forward with the series.

This is more crime noir than just crime. The main character, Dave Robicheaux, is a dark and self-destructive alcoholic ex-cop. But he doesn’t sit in a dark room and brood, he actually has someone who loves him and a relatively stress free life (he runs a bait shop about an hour away from New Orleans). Stress gets added though in short order when he and his wife see a plane go down in the bayou while they’re out relaxing. They are lake people so they slap on the diving gear and manage to save a young girl from certain death. But the other stuff they see in the submerged plane leads Robicheaux back into the world of law enforcement, and puts him and his family in grave danger.


Burke throws tension into his writing more than any of the crime writers I read. Every time Robicheaux leaves his house I think someone is going to come in and kill his family. And that’s what happens. About a quarter of the way through the book, Robicheaux steps out in the middle of the night to clear his head and two hoods break down his front door and blow his wife away. This sends him on another bender, described by Burke in searing detail. I was shocked by the alcoholic binge in the first book, and this one was just as bone jarring.

So Robicheaux seeks vengeance. While doing so, he reforms a drugged-out hooker and takes care of the young girl he rescued from the plane. The violence carried out between Robicheaux and the bad guys is strongly in contrast with the loving relationship between Robicheaux and the women in his life. It’s a vengeance story and a love story. Burke plays both almost to the extreme. Sometimes it’s an absurd extreme and it’s almost too much to cover in 274 pages.

I can’t wait to read the next one, mostly to see if they pick the storyline up with the ex-hooker and the young girl. Plus, how does Burke weave this guy’s life into crime dramas? He was a cop in book one, then quit. In book two he was an ex-cop that got deputized then quit again, so what’s next? Does he go private?

Like I said, pretty extreme. But good stuff.