Sunday, February 3, 2008

Purple Cane Road - James Lee Burke

Purple Cane Road is the eleventh installment in the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke. And I think this may be my favorite to date.

Dave learns that his mother was killed by cops years ago, and he searches for her killer. But, it's never that simple. His search pulls him into the midst of dirty cops, dirty politicians and hired killers. Hired killers that befriend his daughter! And while all this is going on, the debate about whether to go through on the execution of a woman who killed the man who sexually molested her as a child rages in Louisiana.
One of the elements that makes Dave such a great character is his person demons. Dave's internal conflict that the reader is privy to makes him real. He desires justice and knows that the legal system doesn't always provide that justice. But at the same time, he's a lawman, sworn to uphold that deficient system. He's a father and a husband, and in this novel a son, whose family comes first. So, when there is any threat to them, seeing things clearly or thinking ahead isn't always Dave's strong point. And the interaction between Dave and Alafair in this book is priceless. If Alafair isn't the typical teenage (albeit not in the typical teenage scenerio), I don't know who is.
Johnny Rometa is also a great character. He's the hired killer who doesn't fit the stereotype of a hired killer. When Dave saves his life, Johnny feels indebted to Dave. What hired killer would feel a debt like that? Johnny leaves you wondering exactly how you feel about him. There are just too many dimensions to pigeonhole him and find him purely unlikable.
I listened to this novel on audiobook (so I apologize if any of the names are misspelled), and I was less than impressed with the reader (Nick Sullivan) on this one. He is a great reader, easy to follow, but he just didn't have the Louisiana sound down. In Burke's words you can hear and see the Louisiana bayou, in Sullivan's voice, a lot of that was lost. A number of his characters made think I was listening to Asian people who's native language wasn't English. And Helen was one of those characters - it just didn't fit. The sheriff at times made me think of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. Somehow, one doesn't want to view the head law enforcement official as Forrest Gump. Sullivan also read Dave's voice in a very Northern dialect - that, too, did not fit. Chivers North America could have made a better choice on readers for this one.


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