After being slightly disappointed with Black Cherry Blues, the third David Robicheaux offering from James Lee Burke, I found this a return to form even if it follows a similar formula: drugs, old acquaintances, and every Italian in south Louisiana being involved in the Mafia.
What made this one an improvement, and hopefully a pivot to the series, is how Robicheaux develops a relationship with the head mobster in the middle of the maelstrom. Previously, they’ve all been two-dimensional antagonists but this time, he bonds with the man he is chasing over their shared experiences in Vietnam. Dave is trying to shake his ghosts sans alcohol. That’s tough to do. He finds someone trying to do the same, but with drugs. Even though they’re on opposite sides of the line, they find commonality, which adds both pathos and depth to the story.
It was also interesting to see how Burke wrote the mobster’s son as a non-able bodied character. Yes, on some level, there is the tragic angle but the love the mob guy had for his son seemed to be genuine and it reflected on the pages. I just appreciated something that wasn’t from the same stock Burke used for the first three.
Not sure how I feel about the old flame character as she was underwritten. And there’s a voodoo angle that’s interesting enough, if perhaps a bit cliched. Nevertheless, Burke shows he can build on his stories a little bit and does so here. I’m excited for book five.