James Burke loves Lousiana
James Lee Burke is in top form in his latest book, Creole Belle, the nineteenth in his consistently well-written and entertaining series. As this installment opens Dave Robicheaux, a deputy sheriff in New Iberia, and his long time friend and former New Orleans Police Department partner, Clete Purcell are still recovering from the traumatic events of the last book The Glass Rainbow. Dave is still in the hospital and on morphine when the book opens. He thinks he was visited by Tee Jolie Melton, a beautiful young black woman, who tells him she in in danger and gives him an ipod with music that only he can hear.
Upon his return home from the hospital, Dave discovers that Tee Jolie has been msising for a long time and no one really believes that he saw her. Tee Jolie's sister Blue turns up dead and frozen into a block of ice and Dave and Clete are quickly drawn in. At about the same time Gretchen, Clete's illegitimate and long lost adult daughter who has a sordid past of her own (that may be dangerous to Clete and Dave), turns up and Clete takes responsibility for her for the first time.
There is a lot going on here. Dave and Clete take on some powerful forces including the corrupt DuPree family, whose patriarch may have been a Nazi. Their interactions with the DuPrees leads to an inevitable confrontation at the end of the book. Also there is a group of thugs claiming that Clete owes them money from a long ago loan marker found in a recovered safe. New Iberia sheriff Helen Soleau has a role to play, but Dave's wife and daughter are not as prominent as in past novels.
Burke has many strengths as a writer. Through this long series he has developed Dave and Clete's strong friendship and loyality to each other which has sustained them for years. Burke is a very descriptive writer and his words take reader into the bayous of Louisiana. His books have become increasingly political, and as he could not avoid writing about the damages and neglect during Hurricane Katrina. In Creole Belle he makes his views on oil companies and on the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf very clear. This book is a must for readers of this long running series. Dave and Clete are aging and battered and increasingly aware of their mortality, but they are carrying on together as a force of good fighting an evil world.