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A Stained White Radiance (2002)

A Stained White Radiance (2002)

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4.15 of 5 Votes: 5
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0380720477 (ISBN13: 9780380720477)
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About book A Stained White Radiance (2002)

James Lee Burke is an excellent storyteller. He creates a tale full of atmosphere and mystery, and if plot details occasionally seem questionable, well, they remain engaging.Book five in the Dave Robicheaux series hits all Burke’s high points:An immersive, sense-filled setting:“I… walked into the French Quarter. The narrow streets were still cool with morning shadow, and I could smell coffee and fresh-backed bread in the cafes, strawberries and plums from the crates set out on the sidewalks in front of small grocery stores, the dank, cool odor of old brick in the courtyards. It had rained just before dawn, and water leaked out of the green window shutters on the pastel sides of the buildings and dripped from the rows of potted plants on the balconies or hanging from the ironwork.”Character description that goes beyond the physical:“Her accent was soft, pleasant to listen to, more Mississippi than Louisiana, but in it you heard a tremolo, as though a nerve ending were pulled loose and fluttering inside her.”Plot hints:“There was something too cavalier about her attitude, and I had the feeling that she had anticipated my visit and had already made a private decision about the outcome of our conversation.”Observations of human character:“He told me he had been a navy corpsman before he had gone to work for the parish as a paramedic. His face was young and clean-shaved, and he reminded me of most medics, firemen, or U.S. Forest Service smoke jumpers whom I had known. They were enamored of the adrenaline rush, living on the edge, but they tended to be quiet and self-effacing men, and unlike many cops they didn’t have self-destructive obsessions.”A narrator who struggles with human truths:“At that moment I realized the error of my thinking about Bootsie. The problem wasn’t in her disease, it was in mine. I wanted a lock on the future, I wanted our new marriage to be above the governance of mortality and chance; and, most important, in my nightly sleeplessness over her health, and the black fatigue that I would drag behind me into the day like a rattling junkyard, I hadn’t bothered to be grateful for the things I had.”At the story level, A Stained White Radiance lives up to the high standards set in earlier books. Dave, a detective with the small Iberia Parish’s sheriff’s office, gets an call about a shooting at Weldon Sonnier’s house. Weldon tries to dismiss it as a kid hunting, but Dave’s not so sure. When a fatal break in at Weldon’s house commits Dave to investigation, Weldon’s siblings Drew and Lyle become reluctantly involved.As Robicheaux delves into the affairs of the Sonnier siblings, Burke takes the opportunity to wind through Cajun country, this time focusing a little more on race aspects of Louisiana politics (the “Stained White” title is delicious). War history again plays a role in character relationships. I found plot-character mix a bit confusing at a few points, but truly, that must be how it seems to investigate a case–multiple leads that may or may not result in a solution. There’s false trails here, more so than in the average mystery. But as I finished, I realized Dave’s false starts make sense, although plotting falls slightly outside normal mystery conventions.For those who haven’t tried the Robicheaux series, I’d recommend starting at the first, The Neon Rain. Burke started out extremely strong, so there’s no worry about waiting for the series to gain footing. The main mystery in each book stands alone, but Dave’s wrestling with his personal demons is an ongoing character issue and there’s something to be gained from understanding that struggle. I strongly recommend the series to people who enjoy mysteries, complicated characters and developed settings.

I’ve never been to New Orleans, or even anywhere in Louisiana for that matter, but after reading 5 of Burke’s superb series featuring Dave Robichaeaux, I feel like I’ve been there. Burke has a talent for conveying the sense of the place, to the point that you can almost taste and smell it. It’s a rich, sensory world, but unfortunately populated by loads of pretty unsavory characters. The contrast of the idyllic bayou and the persistent crime and wrongdoing that pervades the world is what makes this series so compelling. In A Stained White Radiance, Robicheaux, now in the sheriff’s department in New Iberia, tangles with the Sonnier family, with whom he has a long history. Weldon Sonnier is an oil tycoon, and when someone takes a pot shot at him, Dave is called in to investigate. Weldon has some ties to covert CIA doings, which has drawn the interest of the local mob. Weldon’s wife is a pill popper, and her brother Bobby Earl is an aspiring politician with ties to white supremacists. Weldon’s brother Lyle served in Viet Nam with Dave, and conquered his demons by becoming a televangelist. Oh, and Dave once had a relationship with Weldon’s sister, who is battling her own demons. To top it off, the Weldons’ estranged father, who was thought dead in an oil drilling accident, may actually be alive, heavily disfigured and lurking about. What a family! The sniper incident balloons into a much bigger situation, some of which is probably out of Dave’s jurisdiction. But what we know of Dave after 5 books is that he can’t turn away from the evil and wrongdoing that exists around him, even though he’s come to realize it’s an uphill battle. A dead cop seals the deal for him, and Dave is determined to get to the bottom of this whole mess, even as it uncovers some awful truths about the Sonniers and the world in which he lives. Dave’s personal world is much like the larger world that Burke so eloquently describes. At home he runs a humble bait shop on a marsh and lives in a home built by his father, where he is accompanied by his old flame Bootsie, Alafair, his adopted daughter rescued from a drug runner’s plane crash in an earlier book, and his loyal assistant Batist. Dave is loath to cross the threshold of his own personal paradise, but feels compelled to try to fix the world, one bad guy at a time. I highly recommend this series which often reads like literature instead of mystery/crime fiction. It’s always a good sign when you finish a book and feel like diving right into the next one in the series. For new readers, Burke provides just enough back-story in each book to allow a new reader to jump in anywhere. If that’s you, do yourself a favor and start with book one.

Do You like book A Stained White Radiance (2002)?

I believe the best authors write from what they know, so I aver that James Lee Burke translates his pain, angst, anger, and soul searing love into his stories. I feel it; others feel it. Hard to fake this stuff altogether, at least at the level he writes.Ok, the final vote was a #3, but I'm probably not being fair. It was only his 5th Robicheaux and after reading all the others (there are 15 I think) it's like going back a couple of grades in school. Robicheaux's character has evolved to such a degree, as have the ancillaries in his life. James Lee Burke's skill as a wordsmith have been honed to such a masterful level (this book came out in 1992).A 'Stained White Radiance' is a really good read, a bridge to others which follow. I wouldn't necessarily suggest going back to it after having become accustomed to his best. Still, had I missed it, I would feel as though I'd missed a heart-to-heart talk of past experiences with a good friend.

I think this is the second Dave Robicheaux novel I have read by Burke. I know I read DIXIE CITY JAM several years ago and really enjoyed it. Not sure why it took me so long to read another in the series. Anyway, STAINED WHITE RADIANCE was highly readable and a great hard-core crime novel. In this one, Robicheaux is working to protect an old friend, Weldon Sonnier, who had been shot at and later whose house had been ransacked resulting in the death of a police officer. This leads Dave to a mob boss named Joey Gouza who it looks like sent his gang of thugs to even some kind of score with Sonnier. Also involved is Sonnier's brother-in-law, a former Klansman who is running for political office and possibly Sonnier's father who was presumed to be long dead. As Dave works his way through the mire, he is always most concerned about his family and his friend, Batist, who works in his bait shop. Burke really is a master story-teller and his descriptions of the Louisiana bayou country makes the reader feel as if they are there. High recommendation for this one and I definitely need to read more in this series!

This was the first James Lee Burke novel I read, and it was so, so good, it forced me to read everything by him. It's still, I think, his best Dave Robicheaux novel, or perhaps second to "The Tin Roof Blowdown," which was perhaps my favorite. I've read all the others, and I have to say, I can remember little that differentiates them from one another. Not so with this book or the "Tinroof." If you have not read Burke, it's good to begin at the beginning of the series with "The Neon Rain." But if you plan to read only one-- read "A Stained White Radiance."
—Amanda Spake

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