This is the first novel in the Dave Robichaux mystery series by James Lee Burke. I don’t know anything about subsequent novels, except that there is a lot of them, and for me, this amazing Onion article that makes me feel seen in a way like no other:
Anyway, Dave Robichaux is a New Orleans police detective and Vietnam vet looking into the case of a dead sex worker who is found floating in a bayou. There’s conflict between her death being ruled as an accidental drowning, probably from heroin she was likely on at the time indicated by the track marks on her arm, and dying from an intentional overdose given by another party, a “hot shot” as it called (I don’t know anything about drugs and stuff except from novels and movies, so forgive me).
Robichaux goes down to her home parish and finds out that the local authorities and elite have a significant set of fingers in all sorts of pies, and that he has wandered into something big (although, as he points out, not necessarily over his head from working in a much large venue and being a veteran).
So as the novel progresses, her works through this cases and these details and reveals to the reader his own set of particulars.
It’s a first novel in a series and from the 1980s, so there’s a lot of tropes and context going on here that makes a lot of sense thinking about it in these ways. We learn way more about his way of life and details from his past than we likely would otherwise, and there’s a lot of musing and rumination here. This is a character-driven mystery, not a case-driven one. The case is interesting, but we’re clearly mean to spend some time learning about the detective and his context.
It’s got plenty of 1980s stuff going on too with mixed results, but Burke is clearly a talented writer.