The Glass Rainbow

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Glass Rainbow.jpgEighteen titles, twenty-three years and the Dave Robicheaux series is still going strong, though The Glass Rainbow has the New Iberia detective picking up ominous signs.

I've seen suggestions that, with Robicheaux and long-time associate Clete Purcel seriously wounded at the end of the story this may well be the end of the series, but I'd counter that with an if Dave Robicheaux's dead how come we're getting a first person narrator?

There are a couple of things that come in handy when you're looking at an extended series of crime fiction, and James Lee Burke continues to tick most of those boxes along the way.

For a start, in the absence of the long term good guy/bad guy scenario you find operating between Ian Rankin's Rebus and Big Ger Cafferty or Graham Hurley's Joe Faraday and Bazza McKenzie you need an on-going ability to roll out convincing psycho and sociopaths.

While you'd think that Burke could roll these characters out in his sleep bestselling celebrity ex-convict author Robert Weingart is right up there with the best of his villains, pulling the strings and manipulating those around him as Robicheaux digs around the latest in a series of brutal murders in neighbouring Jefferson Davis Parish.

Then there's the psychotic Vidor Perkins, a truly nasty piece of work who gets his comeuppance in a salutary manner shortly before a close Robicheaux escape from the same fate at the hands of a ruthless batch of hired hands.

Or pimp/crack dealer Herman Stanga, beaten up by Clete Purcel and subsequently shot beside the swimming pool that's the only attractive feature of his increasingly dilapidated residence in a previously upmarket neighbourhood.

Most authors would probably draw a line around there but Burke goes further.

There's novelist and scion of local local landowning family Kermit Abelard, who's become involved with Robicheaux's stepdaughter Alafair, who's in the process of embarking on a literary career.

You can add local boy made good investment tycoon Layton Blanchet, on the verge of going under in the wake of a Ponzi scheme, his scheming wife Carolyn, who's got form relating to Robicheaux's boss Sheriff Helen Soilau and Mississippi prison gun bull Jimmy Darl Thigpin to that little array of nasties.

Thigpin inconveniently disposes of a black convict whose sister, high school honour student Bernadette Latiolais is one of the seven  women who have been brutally murdered. in the neighbouring county.

Given the wealth and quality of villains in the area, I tend to start a new James Lee Burke with an intention to explore the story a chapter or two at a time in a limited bit by bit strategy. Inevitably, however, the narrative drags you in to polish the rest of the story off is a flurry of reading activity.

You want to take your time, savouring Burke's seamless prose without overdosing on the thugs and low lives and end up churning through the pages to see how it all works out.


© Ian Hughes 2012