James Lee Burke,
Crusader's Cross
(Simon & Schuster, 2005)

Dave Robicheaux is a captivating and endlessly endearing character. Way too many mystery writers' prime protagonists are not particularly interesting or even likeable people once you take away the clues and the mysteries. Not Dave. He's as affable, agreeable and, most charmingly wonderful, ruminative in this latest page-turner as he was in his debut novel, The Neon Rain. Fine Cajun man that he is, he's managing to age well like the silky amber whisky he so desires and struggles not to imbibe.

The present novel -- set in New Orleans and New Iberia, deliciously described as it was pre-Hurricane Katrina -- with its lovely and oblique title, is all any mystery lover could want. Combined with James Lee Burke's splendidly Proustian prose (with echoes of Dostoevsky, Faulkner, even Hemingway), it is an amazing and entirely satisfying read. The other characters who people Dave's down-at-the-heel universe are also well developed, and the plot develops, ebbing and flowing, into a grim and gritty, but ultimately inevitable conclusion.

I've been a Burke fan since The Neon Rain, but I have been away from his works awhile. This was a marvelous homecoming and it was just so pleasant reading about places I love in Louisiana, particularly now that many of them will never be quite the same again.

by Stephen Richmond
12 November 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.