I’m usually a big fan of Burke’s beautiful and brutal prose and this isn’t the first Dave Robicheaux novel to take place outside of Louisiana, but somehow the whole thing didn’t click for me. It felt like there were too many moving parts. There’s a serial killer, who everyone thinks is dead, who fixates on Dave’s daughter, Alafair. There are the struggles of Gretchen Horowitz, a documentary filmmaker and daughter of Dave’s best friend, Clete Purcel, who is trying to put her past behind her (a past that includes both sexual abuse and contract killing.) There’s Albert Hollister, a retired English professor, who is playing host to Dave, his family, and friends in a large ranch in Montana—Big Sky Country (an interesting contrast to the Big Easy). There’s the complex relationship between Clete and Dave and between Clete and Gretchen and between Gretchen and Alafair. Take all that and throw in a wealthy dysfunctional family, a recent murder, and a slightly crazy but righteous rodeo clown and you’ve got kind of a glorious mess.
James Lee Burke does “tortured” like no one else but there are so many ghosts here that the narrative loses steam and certain characters get lost (Molly, Dave’s wife, disappears from the story for a good 150 pages only to reappear when needed.) This novel might have benefitted from fewer points of view (maybe just Dave and Clete) and fewer characters. The whole time I was reading it, I wished that Walt Longmire would appear and just clear things up.