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Burning Angel (1996)

Burning Angel (1996)

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4.07 of 5 Votes: 4
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0786889047 (ISBN13: 9780786889044)
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About book Burning Angel (1996)

Book ReviewBurning Angel, for me, didn't quite meet up to expectations in terms of story line. The ending does not address certain questions raised in the mind of the reader as the story progresses. In this, the 8th in the series, I also felt like the thing that I love about these Robicheaux books - the glorious, descriptive passages as can only be seen through the eyes of James Lee Burke and normally nicely balanced alongside a strong plot line - seemed to overwhelm the story so that the descriptions began to feel repetitive in the absence of a strong plot. Therefore the 3 star rating.The dawn was grey and there were strips of mist in the oak and pecan trees. The sun was still below the treeline in the swamp, and the trunks on the far side of the bayou were wet and black in the gloom. You could smell the fecund odor of bluegill and sun perch spawning back in the bays.Having said that, this is but part of a series and I suppose allowances can be made if one instance of this series concentrates more on characterization than it does plot. Burning Angel presents us with a feast of complicated character motivations swirling in a tornado of Robicheaux's feelings of loyalty and guilt. Vietnam lives inside Dave like a parasite rearing its ugly head at the most unfortunate of times and is made explicit in the return of some rather unsavory war buddies to New Iberia; guilt ravages Robicheaux's soul as he sadly ponders the plight of black homesteaders and realizes "How well we've taught them." Here, Batist, an illiterate black man, has a little tete-a-tete with Dave as to an unwelcome black visitor at the boat shed in back of Dave's property.[Batist] used a half-mooned Clorox bottle to scoop the ashes out of the split oil barrel that we used for a barbecue pit. I waited for him to continue."What was his name?" I said. "What kind of car did he drive?""He didn't have no car, and I ain't ax him his name.""Where'd he go?""Wherever people go when you run them down the road with a two-by-fo.""Batist, I don't think it's a good idea to treat people like that.""One like that always work for the white man, Dave.""I beg your pardon?""Everyt'ing he do make white people believe the rest of us ain't got the right to ax for mo' than we got."Burke raises the question of charity, not as a means of helping others, but as a means to assuaging one's own guilt.But as I watched her walk with labored dignity toward her car in the parking lot, I wondered if I, too, had yielded to that old white pretense of impatient charity with people of color, as though somehow they were incapable of understanding our efforts on their behalf.Fusing together a string of events that involve the mob, Vietnam war buddies, police officers, his family and black homesteaders Dave Robicheaux attempts to balance his personal life with his failing career in the New Iberia police department - all while searching for answers in several killings (historical and present day) and the mysterious purchase of land by a nefarious corporation, land that for generations has been populated by black homesteaders.Clete, his former detective colleague turned legit PI, returns to stand by Dave in all matters. Clete, a man not averse to violence, was created by Burke to be Robicheaux's tempered conscience when guilt and anger force their way into Dave's psyche. For Clete, the need to protect his friend's affinity for compassion, even at the cost of Clete's own well-being, is paramount throughout this series. Clete knows he has a bad streak in him, that he is in many ways the stronger of the two, and his struggle to prevent Dave from being defeated in the same battle that has already been lost by Clete is fierce and a testament to his loyalty.He smiled. His face was round and pink, his green eyes lighted with a private sense of humor. A scar ran through part of his eyebrow and across the bridge of his nose, where he had been bashed witha pipe when he was a kid in the Irish Channel."Dave, I know what my old Homicide podjo is going to think before he thinks it."We are introduced to Helen, a police colleague in the department. At first not very likable but as Burke explores her life Dave begins to understand her motivations and forgiving as always, an unlikely friendship develops between the two colleagues.Bootsie and Alafaire (Dave's wife and his adopted daughter, now 14 years old) form the last leg on which loyalty stands. They are at the core of Dave's life and show they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect Robicheaux. Bootsie, a former mob princess, and Alafaire, a Salvadorian refugee nearly killed in a plane crash before Dave rescued her, form the triumvirate around which the novels revolve. All readers know that were this trio to fall to harm, Dave Robicheaux would never forgive himself. He would destroy himself. Clete knows it. Bootsie knows it. Alafaire knows it (she requests training on how to handle a gun). And, a former Vietnam buddy who surfaces in this novel. He knows it too. The Robicheaux property is like a revolving door through which protectors come and go, always watching Dave's back. Hades, is not just a river.--------------------------------------------------------------Series ReviewJames Lee Burke was born in Houston, Texas, in 1936 and grew up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast. He attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute and later received a B. A. Degree in English and an M. A. from the University of Missouri in 1958 and 1960 respectively. Over the years he worked as a landman for Sinclair Oil Company, pipeliner, land surveyor, newspaper reporter, college English professor, social worker on Skid Row in Los Angeles, clerk for the Louisiana Employment Service, and instructor in the U. S. Job Corps.He and his wife Pearl met in graduate school and have been married 48 years, they have four children: Jim Jr., an assistant U.S. Attorney; Andree, a school psychologist; Pamala, a T. V. ad producer; and Alafair, a law professor and novelist who has 4 novels out with Henry Holt publishing.His short stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, New Stories from the South, Best American Short Stories, Antioch Review, Southern Review, and The Kenyon Review. And, in case you're a write and often get discouraged, listen to Burke when he says: "My advice is to never lose faith in one's gift and to never quit. An artist must ignore the naysayers and not be discouraged by rejection and never, under any circumstances, give up submitting one's work." His novel The Lost Get-Back Boogie was rejected 111 times over a period of nine years, and upon publication by Louisiana State University press was nominated.Has he won any awards?In 1988 James Lee Burke Burke was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. [1]. Burke received the 2002 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the "literary intellectual heritage of Louisiana." The award was presented to him by then Lt. Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, on November 2, 2002, at a ceremony held at the inaugural Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, LA. James Lee Burke has been recognized three times by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). The MWA awarded its Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year in 1990 for Black Cherry Blues. In 1998 the MWA again awarded its "Edgar" for Best Novel of the year for Burke's Cimarron Rose. Then in 2009 James Lee Burke received the MWA's Grand Master Award. It is rare for a mystery novelist to win both an "Edgar" [Edgar Allen Poe] Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.Which of JLB's books have been made into movies?TWO FOR TEXAS starring Kris Kristofferson and Tom Skerrit was produced by TNT. HEAVEN'S PRISONERS starred Alec Baldwin, Terri Hatcher, Kelly Lynch, Eric Roberts and Mary Stuart Masterson. IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH CONFEDERATE DEAD, starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman and Mary Steenburgen.What else is on the horizon for the Dave Robicheaux series?After two so-so attempts to adapt James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux terrific mystery novel series into features, the New Orleans-based crime saga is being redrawn for cable TV. Fox-based producer Hutch Parker has optioned Burke’s books and is packaging the series. After how well FX and Graham Yost did with Elmore Leonard’s U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens character in the series Justified, cable sounds like just the place for Robicheaux if you're still a believer in cable (personally, I think cable is so 20th century and I would guess it won't be around in ten years given Netflix and Hulu's move as of late into developing their own exclusive series. I've been seriously considering shutting down cable. Primarily known for his Dave Robicheaux series (with his Billy Bob Holland series rapidly catching up), Burke is known for marrying literature with crime-fiction while simultaneously standing at the forefront of crime-fiction authors with his second-to-none character development across a series. In case you haven't noticed, there's a marked increase in "regional" crime fiction of which Burke is a pioneer (for example: the Cork O'Connor series set in Minnesota, or the Walt Longmire series set in Wyoming). In this series, Burke exposes America to Louisiana and specifically to New Orleans and New Iberia. Having traveled quite a bit both within the United States as well as outside of it, it is my opinion that Louisiana is one of those states that most resembles a foreign country. Its French ancestry, its Napoleonic law, its parishes, and its Creole and Cajun population infuse this series with a decidedly exotic slant, a perspective that is really driven home when one listens to a competent audio book reading (preferably read by Mark Hammer).Every novel in this series delves into moral uncertainty, the menace of uncontrolled human behavior, greed and sloth and violence all delivered via a careful juxtaposition of Louisiana's coastal natural beautfy and its dark underbelly. If that were all there is to this series, it would be a fabulous read. But, Burke doesn't stop there. His novels are a study into the deep recesses of love and loyalty; Of family and compassion and in this sense his resembles the work of William Kent Krueger who explores a similar vein in his crime series featuring Sherriff Cork O'Connor. It is James Lee Burke who stands out as one of the true pioneers in American crime-fiction (much as his counterparts do by rote in Scandinavia) by seriving up a devastating expose of the sociopolitical issues that exist in our nation today, and more specifically within the region for which he writes.Unlike Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire series, who delivers a hero rather than an anti-hero (to the delight of his romantic literature fans), Burke has engaged the help of a decidedly flawed anti-hero, Dave Robicheaux, to accomplish his mission on earth. It is a calculated move that allows his readers to experience a harrowing journey through the former Napoleonic waters of New Iberia and New Orleans. You will not be disappointed and if you're like me (New Orleans and its French Quarter is a former home of mine), you will find yourself willfully putting the book down...not because the book's no good, but because it's so good you will want to savor every moment.

I’ve been reading James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series in order and this was number eight. Since reading many different series, I had forgotten how much I missed Burke’s thoughtful, insightful and descriptive writing. Dave, as usual, is faced with bad guys who know no mercy. They are beyond the pale in cruelty and are not afraid to demonstrate it in any way imaginable. Burning Angel doesn’t move far from these wicked characters, with each one, in my mind, worse than the one before.Clete who was long ago Dave’s partner at the New Orleans Police Department, went awry in previous books, but is now on track (and legal) is a private investigator and is at Dave’s side when the ‘chips are down.’ This book is no exception and makes Dave’s character even stronger by contrasting the two personalities; that is Dave, more morally forgiving and Clete feeling and saying something like, ‘Dave, the dude will clock you out before you blink an eye, so you go first.’ That’s not a direct quote, but clearly shows the two differing personalities, never of which is totally right or totally wrong.I took notes on some of my favorite lines which show Dave’s constant moral dilemma between right and wrong and the thoughts and feelings of some of the characters he encounters:• “My cell partner told me today my head’s like a bad neighborhood that I shouldn’t go into by myself. ‘There was a time in my life (Dave’s) when I was the same way. I just didn’t know how to say it.’”• “Smoke ‘em or bust ‘em, make their puds shrivel up and hide, Clete used to say. But how you take pride in wrapping razor wire around the soul of a man who in all probability was detested before he left the womb?” Dave continues with his gracious way of apologizing for the decades of the white establishment treating their servants and blacks, in general, the ways of subservience. Unfortunately and Dave says this, ‘we taught them well’ meaning the efforts of past generations to make blacks feel condescending to white people, especially white officials. He says “But as I watched her walk with labored dignity toward her car in the parking lot, I wondered if I, too, had yielded to that old white pretense of impatient charity with people of color, as though somehow they were incapable of understanding our efforts on their behalf.” (On a personal note, from time to time I see it myself, a native and resident of north Florida, whereby an older black fellow will open a door for me, with his head down, not looking me in the eye and mumbling, yes’um, ma’m when I say thank you. It saddens me and I agree with Burke (Dave) that we taught them well. It saddens me every time it happens.)Lastly, another character, who I expect to show up in the next of the series, is Helen Soileau, Dave’s partner at the New Iberia Police Department. She’s quite an interesting character who resonates with a different attitude, sexual and otherwise. I like her, and she adds to Dave's opinions about social values.Since the book had so many characters with a number of sub-plots, I felt the ending didn’t, in my mind, wrap up as nicely as previous books in the series. My Goodreads friend, Jim A., who had read the book many years ago, graciously offered to read it again, and answered some of those questions of mine. I had concluded correctly, but felt much better that my conclusions were supported by another friend who is familiar with Burke and Dave. Many thanks to Jim for his time and assessment of the ending. Great read, and hopefully, next time will not stay as long absent from James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux. Although it’s been said many times before, Burke’s lyrical writing, sometimes sing-song, is simply wonderful in my mind. His writing makes me think beyond the written words.

Do You like book Burning Angel (1996)?

James is one of the best crime writers - I love his books.Back Cover Blurb:Sonny Boy Marsallas, a New Orleans street hustler, entrusts Detective Dave Robicheaux with a mysterious notebook, kicking off a series of violent incidents and raising questions that need answers, and fast....What did Sonny's girlfriend know that got her murdered? Why is Sonny known as Red Angel by Central American guerrillas? And what do the Mafia want with a desolate stretch of New Iberia?This time Sonny Boy may have pushed his luck with the Giacano family one deal too far.

I've enjoyed and reviewed the whole Robicheaux series up to this point over the course of the last year, & began with a much more recent one that I read out of sequence because it found its way into my home. So now that I've commented multiple times upon the brilliance and eloquence of this writer, I just have to get this off my chest:Does this protagonist EVER eat VEGETABLES? (Onions on a sandwich don't count!)We move through the plot lines with a steady series of meals, & this makes it realistic. Some crime/mystery writers have protagonists who appear to never eat or sleep, & at some point one starts to notice. This writer uses food to evoke a sense of setting, constantly parading before us his begniets, his boudin, his po' boy sandwiches. He fries fish and gobbles that up, too.In one of his novels his narrative mentions a bad guy as being among those who let their bodies get vastly overweight because they eat wrong and don't care what they look like, and I want to say, maybe they didn't get your excellent DNA, pal, because even though you jog & work out, your diet is a walking heart attack. Coffee, Dr. Pepper, fried fish, dairy, and starch. Holy crap.Okay, I just had to rant this once about that, because I've been thinking about it awhile.The story line itself is like others, except that it isn't; by this time he has established a following, and the series is consistent in its approach and has characters we see again, and others that are hauntingly real, but that we probably won't see. As always, Burke uses his characters to show us the ambiguity in humanity, and that sometimes the people you expect to be good guys aren't all that good, and that sometimes the archetypical bad guy has some good in him, too. In this story, a gangster gives his life to save Dave's. This also gives him one more dead person to talk to and dream about. But it isn't stale; it makes me snuggle a bit more deeply under the comforter at night and think, "Ah yes! Here we go!"If you are a reader of Burke's who fancies Clete Purcel, as my spouse and I do (and my guy, who is almost always strictly a nonfiction reader, is completely hooked on this series and is reading ahead of me now, chuckling happily whenever he runs across Cletus), be assured he is an integral part of this particular story, and he's in fine form.The constant struggle Robicheaux finds throughout his career is that when you are a cop, you have a decent paycheck, the authority to do things that a private citizen cannot, and a certain amount of personal protection, especially in dealing with mobsters. But the problem with being a cop is that you're working for an apparatus that is not set up to defend those who need it most:"The big trade-off is one's start your career with the moral clarity of the youthful altruist, then gradually you begin to feel betrayed by those you supposedly protect and serve. You're not welcome in their part of town...the most venal bondsman can walk with immunity through neighborhoods where you'll be shot at by snipers. You begin to believe that there are those in our midst who are not part of the same gene pool. You think of them as subhuman...whom you treat in custody as you would humorous circus animals."From there, he describes the quick, slippery slope in which a cop may shoot a suspect who held something out that glinted in the very dark night and which the cop thought to be a weapon. After shooting the man with the screwdriver or car keys in his hand, a weapon with a filed serial number gets wrapped in the guy's hand, then dropped nearby. And cops stand by one another in these cases. The corruption has solidified, and you are no longer on the side of the angels.He does a nice job with character development here. His wife Bootsie is not the frightened and easily horrified woman she once was; when he launches himself out into the darkness to do something dangerous, she sends him off with the reminder: "Watch your ass, kiddo."Alafair, an enchanting toddler when the series started, has begun dating. She won't let him call her 'little guy' anymore. And she learns how to use a gun, because it seems as if bad guys are always lurking around, waiting to exact revenge either on her father, or against him by harming her family. She wants to be ready.He's on the force; he's off it. The bait shop/cafe doesn't make more than 15K a year; the family can't live off that. The private detective business Clete recruits him into doesn't make good money either. The only takers are the bad guys they don't want to deal with.At one point, someone reminds him that having his badge means he gets to walk on the curb instead of in the gutter. But he is ambivalent, because being the enforcement arm of the US government isn't pretty, and there's no way to turn that around. Being a rural deputy rather than a city cop is the compromise he has made at this point, but it's still a nasty business, and as usual, the ending is bittersweet.I wouldn't have it any other way.
—Donna Davis

Another book and another mess for Dave Robicheaux to clear up. This time Dave is given a diary by Sonny Boy Marcellus a hustler, grifter and all round low life who was mixed up in some bad stuff in Central America, but some people far worse than Marcellus are after the diary and Dave has too many principles to just hand it over to them. Throw in some strange land dealings with a lawyer and his racist wife plus another appearance by the mob and the great Clete Purcell and Dave is starting to get his hands full. You can guess how it ends but the journey there is wonderfully told and touches on the subjects of racism, enviromentalism and Americas involment in South AmericaJames Lee Burke writes beautiful prose and he captures the whole atmosphere of Louisiana both good and bad. His characters may be the standard types in crime novels but they are fully realised people and your in no doubt that they could exist. The only problem I have with this novel is the ending is rather abrupt and leaves several questions unanswered. However that does not really detract too much from another fine addition to one of the best detective series going.

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