Sunday 4 December 2016

Review: The Glass Rainbow by James Lee

Orion, €17.54, Hardback

Published 13/11/2010 | 05:00

New Iberia detective Dave Robicheaux is investigating the deaths of seven young women whose mutilated bodies have been found dumped in his parish.

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One of his main suspects is Herman Stanga, a big-time pimp and meth dealer who is managing to cloak his criminal proclivities behind a respectable façade through his involvement in the St Jude Project, a charity aimed at helping young women get off the streets. When Dave's ex-partner and close friend, Clete Purcell, is arrested for a felony assault on Stanga and for resisting arrest, he has no hesitation in bailing him out -- this is the man who has saved his life on a number of occasions. But an enraged Clete's double demons of alcohol and violence are gaining the upper hand, and, unwittingly, he brings these demons into Dave's life in a way that threatens the safety of his family.

As Dave investigates Stanga, he discovers the main backer of his charity is a man called Kermit Abelard, the scion of a wealthy family and a man whose motives and friends Dave instinctively distrusts. Worryingly, Dave's daughter Alafair, a budding writer of some talent, is romantically involved with Abelard. (James Lee Burke's own daughter, also Alafair, is a successful thriller writer).

The more Robicheaux probes this case and the deeply unpleasant people involved, the more criminal strands it reveals, strands that reach into the heart of a corrupt business world bent on usurping planning legislation for its own ends and prepared to kill anyone who stands in the way.

As the violence escalates exponentially, Dave Robicheaux is plagued by visions of his own mortality and imminent death and a real and well-founded fear for the safety of his beloved daughter.

The Glass Rainbow is the 18th in the series featuring Dave Robicheaux, and James Lee Burke has also written more than a dozen other well regarded novels and volumes of short stories. Born in 1936 on the Texas/Louisiana Gulf coast, he is widely regarded as one of America's finest living novelists irrespective of genre, and his work has been compared to that of William Faulkner in its evocation of life in that different America that is the South.

His lyrical prose brings the lush bayous, landscape and small towns of Louisiana vividly to life, and his sharp eye for the many foibles of their human inhabitants creates memorable characters, both good and evil. He rails against the indifference, excesses and incompetence of authority -- his 16th Robicheaux book, The Tin Roof Blowdown, is an excoriating criticism of the relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina -- and the institutional racism in the South. But for all that he is, au fond, a skilled and imaginative storyteller who delivers punchy, meaty thrillers that keep legions of fans wanting more.

Irish Independent

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