Beset by age and creeping toward death in recent novels, Ol' Dave rejuvenates himself in Burke's 22nd book with an ethically dubious affair with his seductive partner, young enough to be his granddaughter.
As with many of Burke's plot developments, the affair serves no real narrative purpose. In this case, there's little more other than the prurient interest of an old man rediscovering intergalactic sex with a young woman who has an uncanny resemblance to the actress in John Ford's "My Darling Clementine." Robicheaux succeeds where Henry Fonda failed, at least for a while.
Rather ineptly trying to put together clues to a series of gruesome murders, Robicheaux embarks upon a tour of the Cajun culture's dark side: blues bars, cheap hotels and rough cabins.
In short, Burke's latest novel is another gumbo of outlandish cartoon characters, gratuitous violence and illogical plot twists. Robicheaux's pet racoon and cat get along fine while humans can't stop maiming and shooting each other.
Robicheaux's indestructible sidekick Clete Purcell returns for comic relief, and the gallery of villains comes from a Hollywood crew shooting a film in the Cajun parishes. Guess Burke carries a grudge over that Robicheaux film starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Along with beauty and intelligence, Bailey slowly reveals criminal traits that make her a possible suspect in the deaths. But her troubled past is just a feint, and in the end, after the real killer is revealed to no real surprise, she goes off to live happily ever after with a film genius who's a Louisiana native.
The brilliant film director, the half-Indian, half-Cajun Desmond Cormier, is also positioned as the possible mass murderer. No worries, he's just a moody guy who likes to hang around with another strange Hollywood type, Antoine Butterworth. Desmond gets the girl in the end, but how he holds off criminal movie financiers threatening him is never resolved.
Robicheaux's meditations on Louisiana's natural beauty and its environmental devastation overcome the preposterous plot and video game violence. Burke's language, underworld slang-peppered dialogue and cinematic scenes lull the reader into accepting his outlandish tricks.
As in past books in the series, Robicheaux comes off as a brilliant backwoods philosopher pondering deep questions of humanity's good and evil, not to mention the best breakfast place in New Iberia.
Once again, Robicheaux, his daughter, Alafair, and sidekick Purcell survive loony hit men, gun battles and a lot of Cajun food. Burke says that Robicheaux and company will return again soon to work their magic. The man can't stop writing, and we, his helpless fans, can't stop reading.