05 October 2007

Cadillac Jukebox, by James Lee Burke


I've read a number of these Dave Robicheaux mysteries, set in Louisiana, and I've liked them all. This book was no exception. The mood is dark and swampy, some of the characters are as lowlife as they can get, the mystery goes back to the nineteenth century for some of its roots. This is essential, basic, James Lee Burke.

Along with the old history he includes some more recent. There's a character called Clay Mason, steeped in the Hippie culture of the 1960's, who bears a certain similarity to William Burroughs. There's some connection to a location in Mexico that could be Burroughs' ranch there.

Both the Governor-elect, Buford LaRose, and his wife, Karyn, are acquainted with Robicheaux, indeed it seems he has had a vague encounter with the lady in his alcoholic past -- and these people are incredibly corrupt as well as being drug addicts. If this is a reference to anyone real, let me know, I've missed it.

The case centers around a man named Aaron Crown, in prison for killing a major Louisiana civil-rights leader, whom Robicheaux is beginning to believe may be innocent. And there's Mookie Zerrang, recently released from prison, a psycho/sociopath. He may be in town just to kill Robicheaux. Or someone else. Or all of the above.

There's so many characters, and so much plot. What really happened to Aaron Crown, what did he do? And what's Jerry Joe's story, Dave's childhood friend? He was close to the LaRose family, worked on a place in Mexico that they owned, side by side with the young Buford. This is a hell of a story.

Just the names are enough. Mingo Bloomberg. Sabelle Crown.

"If you seriously commit yourself to alcohol, I mean full-bore, the way you take up a new religion, and join that great host of revelers who sing and lock arms as they bid farewell to all innocence in their lives, you quickly learn the rules of behavior in this exclusive fellowship whose dues are the most expensive in the world. You drink down. That means you cannot drink in well-lighted places with ordinary people because the psychological insanity in your face makes you a pariah among them. So you find other drunks whose condition is as bad as your own, or preferably even worse.

"But time passes and you run out of geography and people who are in some cosmetic way less than yourself and bars where the only admission fee is the price of a 6 A.M. short-dog.

"That's when you come to places like Sabelle Crown's at the Underpass in Lafayette."
Cletus Purcel ( a regular character in these novels). Brandy Grissum. Dock Green:

"...an agitated, driven, occasionally vicious, ex-heavy-equipment operator, who claimed to have been kidnapped from a construction site near Hue ... and buried alive ... His face was hard-edged, as though it had been layered from putty that had dried unevenly. It twitched constantly, and his eyes had the lidless intensity of a bird's, focusing frenetically upon you, or the person behind you ..."

Dock Green has Tourette's syndrome, just for good measure.

There is violence, mystery, and the Bayou. All in all, worth your time.

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