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Bitterroot (2002)

Bitterroot (2002)

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3.93 of 5 Votes: 4
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0743411439 (ISBN13: 9780743411431)
pocket books

About book Bitterroot (2002)

This was a pretty good book. I suppose in giving it four stars, I am unfairly comparing Burke to himself rather than to other writers, at least to a degree.Here's the issue: most writers who keep a series going have trouble adding another and keeping it distinct; the only two situations where I've seen writers do this concurrently without blurring their characters are Ed McBain's 87th precinct (in which he had multiple protagonists, but also had another series going), and JA Jance, whose Allie Reynolds and Joanna Brady, both crime-solving females in Arizona, tend to blur, but both of which are distinct from her Seattle character, JP Beaumont. And indeed, I find that Billy Bob has much more in common with Dave Robicheaux, Burke's more successful protagonist, than is distinct. The writer's voice and moral code are strong, which is great, but he would do better to stick with the Robicheaux series. (I have not yet read the third series, what there is of it).That said, his pacing is fine here, his word-smithery strong, and his romantic thread very sweet, albeit subordinate to and inseparable from the main story line, as he intends. Having been on something of a Burke jag lately, I will also say that I have seen way more fishing information (literally fishing) than I ever need to see again. I don't CARE what kind of lure he uses, what type of rod, or where the best fish are found. I share his environmental passion and as far as I'm concerned, he can talk about that just as much as he likes. I also enjoy his class perspective, and his realistic view of exactly how much help ordinary people can expect from cops as a general rule.I read a lot of mystery/crime/detective novels, and I was nonplussed when I found last winter that not only was this writer out there for decades completely undetected by me, but he was also a double Edgar winner. Just how did I miss that?The cover of this one tells me EXACTLY how I missed him: a cowboy hat and a fish hook! Not going to grab my eye, because it suggests a Western novel.If you can read this one cheaply or free, or if you have already read everything else Burke writes, go ahead. Why not? But if you have money for just one paperback book, I would usher you first toward the Dave Robicheaux series that starts with The Neon Rain.

Read enough crime fiction and you realize that it basically comes in two flavors. There's the "whodunit," where a sleuth moves through a limited number of suspects--all of whom have motive and means to commit the crime. And then there's "noir," where there might be a formal mystery, but what really matters is the protagonist's tortured relationship to the social environment that produces criminality. This may not be the orthodox meaning of the term, but it fits. Defined in such a way, noir transcends the hard-boiled urban environs the word emerged to describe, and encompasses all kinds of gritty psychological fiction.Despite noir's greater literary cachet, most popular crime novels are whodunits--formulaic, plot-driven, predictable and, when successful, "fun." They are the perfect books to read on a beach or an airplane, or when you want a good story but don't really feel like being challenged--which, apparently, is most of the time. So big name authors keep cranking the suckers out, and readers just can't get enough of them.Bitterroot, the third book in Burke's Billy Bob Holland series, fits uncomfortably into this scheme. Burke is a bona fide name brand in crime fiction--he's won 2 Edgar awards, is ranked the #70 most popular fiction author on Amazon and has made the New York Times bestseller list numerous times. His books are published in the travel and airport bookstore-friendly mass market form generally reserved for high volume authors whose books aren't considered shelf material by most of their audience. And boy does he ever crank 'em out--32 novels and 2 short story collections in total, and nearly one every year since hitting stride in 1987.But Bitterroot, at least, isn't the kind of disposable whodunit I usually associate with writers who do things like that. Instead, it's a surprisingly atmospheric, character-driven crime novel that's two parts noir for every part whodunit. And that's a good thing--because the plot is an utter mess...Read the full review at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

Do You like book Bitterroot (2002)?

I'm surprised, honestly, that so many people have given this book so many stars. I found it so unrelentingly grim that it was unrealistic and, at times, preposterous. How many bad*ss villains can there be in one tiny town in the middle of nowhere? Well, in Bitterroot there are Italian mobsters, sadistic biker gangs, totally amoral militant militias, corrupt corporations, and cruel, revenge-seeking ex-cons. And if that were not enough, the main character is even attacked by a particularly bad-tempered moose. Yes, a MOOSE! I found this parade of arrogant, posturing, threatening evil-doers to be ultimately tiresome and ridiculous.

I've read six of Burke's books now, and they are great fun to read, always with a happy and satisfying ending where the bad guys get what they deserve. He is a darn good writer, but the more of him I read, the more I noticed his little idiosyncracies and problems. As in--nearly all the characters sound the same, even the males and females. He also tends to repeat his descriptions. A better editor would help with this, I expect. Still, if you want an absorbing and fast read which is better written than most of the mystery/crime/thriller stuff out there, particularly with more interesting characters, it is hard to beat James Lee Burke.
—Karen Klink

I love James Lee Burke's writings and am a true fan of his Dave Robicheaux detective novels. Thought this might be a good series, too. Sad to say this one was not up to Burke's abilities in the least. But he has written so many quality books that I suppose he can be forgiven for laying an occasional egg. Still, I'm not encouraged to read any more "Billy Bob Holland" novels. The character's name alone should have rung a warning bell in my head, LOL. Can't recommend it. Feel generous giving three stars, but part of it were worthy.
—Karleene Morrow

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