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Heaven's Prisoners (2002)

Heaven's Prisoners (2002)

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4.11 of 5 Votes: 3
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0743449193 (ISBN13: 9780743449199)
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About book Heaven's Prisoners (2002)

When Burke writes, I see dead people. And sand sharks, and listing planes and oil-slick bubbles of air. The book opens with a small plane going down near Dave's trawler, and Dave and his wife Annie checking for survivors. Its a vivid scene.This is the second book starring Dave Robicheaux, described by a local stripper as "I know you were a good cop and all that bullshit,' she said, 'but there's a lot of stuff you guys never see. You can't. You don't live in it, Streak. You're a visitor." Unfortunately for Dave, he's about to take an extended vacation.Burke challenges me; as a new writer to me, I haven't get been able to predict where he is going or how he'll get there. The first book had a strong level of violence, not merely implied, but described, and not merely murders, but torture. I don't like to go to those places, which lends itself to reading distraction; putting the book down and walking away. But its a hard-fought distraction and I always find myself returning to his vividly created world.I enjoy Burke's descriptions; the lush world-building of southern Louisiana, past and present. But in this story it gets a little lost, and Burke can't quite keep his focus tight enough on the plot. This is, perhaps, one of the ways Burke and Lawrence Block, of Matt Scudder fame, differ; while Block is able to build a solid feel for period New York City, he doesn't lose focus on the mystery. In this case, the true focus is Dave Robicheaux, the detective, and his ability to wrestle with the demons that drive him. "I wondered if I would ever exorcise the alcoholic succubus that seemed to live within me, its claws hooked into my soul." But he knows "I was not simply a drunk. I was drawn to a violent and aberrant world the way a vampire bat seeks a black recess within the earth." I like it, a lot, but it isn't my normal escapist fiction. The story driver is Dave himself, and his inability to turn the other cheek, so to speak, and his attraction to the violence. At one point, it is nailed quite nicely when someone says, "You know what your problem is? You're two people in the same envelope. You want to be a moral man in an amoral business. At the same time you want to blow up their shit just like the rest of us."There's lines I just loved: "I walked into the confessional and waited for the priest... I had known him for twenty-five years, and I trusted his working-class instincts and forgave him his excess of charity and lack of admonition, just as he forgave me for my sins."And a very powerful thought for those in public safety:"The truth was that I enjoyed it, that I got high on my knowledge of man's iniquity, that I disdained the boredom and predictability of the normal world as much as my strange alcoholic metabolism loved the adrenaline rush of danger and my feeling of power over an evil world that in many ways was mirrored in microcosm in my own soul." Heady stuff for a mystery-thriller, and one that bears thinking on.I also admire Burke's acknowledgement of political events and how it continues to effect Robicheaux's life today: "Why did Dave Robicheaux have to impose all this order and form on his life? So you lose control and total out for a while, I thought. The U.S. Army certainly understood that. You declare a difficult geographical and political area a free-fire zone, than you stand up later in the drifting ash and the smell of napalm and define with much more clarity the past nature of the problem."I understand both Burke and Robicheaux's preoccupation with the culture of their childhood, time past, with seeing an entire way of life slowly slip into the mud. For both of them, there were negative aspects--Burke is quick to acknowledge the racism--but also good things, particularly of a time when the moral code felt more straightforward. That's the illusion of childhood, of course, and perhaps by the end Dave realizes that as well.Still, as a genre reader, this strays a bit too far into Southern gothic literary fiction for my pleasure, although it is a taste that's growing on me. While I like the tour of Louisiana, I would have preferred a stronger balance between the mystery and the character turmoil; a little more outward focus and a little less inward. Still, no one can say that Burke doesn't breathe life into his setting and characters; I felt like I'd know most of them on the street (not that I'd likely wander down those particular streets) and be able to find my way to his tour boat. Food especially--this time it's fresh seafood, roadside strawberries and ice cream (the first book it was po'boys and Dr. Pepper with limes and cherry juice). Now I have a food craving.And boy, can this guy ever write. Not really a comfortable story, and it felt a little screenplay ready--(view spoiler)[I just knew his wife would die (hide spoiler)]

Burke’s Robicheaux series is so highly regarded and recommended in the detective genre that I am compelled to start from the beginning of this long series a see what the fuss is about. Heaven’s Prisoners is #2, and I found it hard to put down. Robicheaux is a complex character, wracked with guilt, remorse and depression, stemming from his Vietnam experiences, tough childhood and ongoing battle with alcoholism. Try as he might, he can’t find tranquility, even after retiring from the NOLA force, taking a wife and moving into the bayou to run a bait shop. When a small plane crashes in his swamp, Robicheaux dives to the wreck and saves a young girl, but also finds trouble; loads of trouble that gets him knee deep in quicksand with the DEA, INS, and a host of really bad local people. The thing to do is keep his nose out of it, but he can’t, and that becomes a central point in this story. Burke injects heavy doses of philosophy and introspection on the nature of good and evil, good guys and bad guys and the struggles of the victims in this tough world. I would say that Burke totters on the edge of overdoing it in this regard, but manages to balance the whole story with enough action, atmosphere and poetic descriptions of the bayou country to keep things interesting. If I can read literally non-stop on a 2-1/2 hour flight, the writing must be good, and Burke is a great writer. I recently read a book review of A Confederacy of Dunces (a book I just read and found underwhelming) that said it was the quintessential New Orleans book. Hogwash. Although he may dwell on the seedy underbelly of the bayou, I can’t imagine anyone painting a better picture in words of NOLA than Burke. He gets a little repetitive in his descriptions (lavender skies streaked with orange, smells of shrimp and boudin, bream popping on the surface…etc.) but that’s a minor gripe. I wish Burke would pay a little more attention to some of the plot details and less on the poetic descriptions. In this book, the plot threads involving the government agencies are pretty thin. I'm curious to see if Burke can hold my interest over such a long series. On to Black Cherry Blues!

Do You like book Heaven's Prisoners (2002)?

Another reviewer said exactly how I feel. That I can't muster up much enthusiasm for Dave Robicheaux, and that I need my mysteries to bemore cerebral.I had heard James Lee Burke interviewed on BBC's book review podcast, andthe three panelists were positively gushing over him. So I gave him another shot, after being unimpressed with The Neon Rain many years ago.I made it through more than half the novel before giving up.I don't like Robicheaux. He's too much of a loose cannon, and there'slots of gratuitous violence. I like mystery/suspense novels to havemore psychological aspects than slam-bang shoot 'em up, punch 'em up action. I also find Burke's style to be repetitive: At the end of mostdialogue sequences, there follows a description of the sky, smells, andsights of what's going on around him. While his descriptions are quiteimpressive (especially the many unique and poetic ways he could describe clouds), nonetheless it got to be formulaic.Hard-boiled isn't for me. I thought that maybe I hadn't given Burke much of a chance (I probably still haven't), but I don't see much in what I look for in crime novels, so I think this is it.

The second Dave Robicheaux novel had a handicap for me, during the reading I realized I had seen the movie not so long ago which took some of the excitement away as I generally remembered the plot. That said the book contains a far stronger wallop and content which Hollywood would never allow to be filmed.DR is retired from the detective business and is running a fishing and boat-rental business in Louisiana Bayou country with his beau who he met in the previous novel. They see a small plane crash into the sea and all they can save is this little girl. And the story is not at all about the little girl named Alafair, after Daves mum. The trouble starts when the authorities claim that there were only three dead people in the plane when Dave clearly knows there were four. Robicheaux decides to go looking for an answer which has powerful consequences for him and his loved ones.The world of the Bayous comes to life on the pages, as are the seedy bars and world Dave visits in this book. You feel his love for Alafair and his Beau who finally gets the child she never could get. A points a beautiful written novel that does have its moments of terror & death. Again a powerful insight in the head of a drunk and sometimes irresponsible character that gambles too much with the lives of his loved ones in search for the truth.Well recommended

Unfortunately, I started reading this Dave Robincheaux series out of order simply because Black Cherry Blues was an Edgar Award winner. First book was Neon Rain which was great. This was the second book then Black Cherry Blues, the third in the series. Personally, this one is a favorite. No, changed my mind, Black Cherry; no, Neon; what can I say? They are all so, so good and can see all of them nominated for the award and/or receiving the award. Dave is one flawed individual but he knows it and is continually trying to be a better human being. He conscience guides him, sometimes into more trouble but he still he moves forward. Can't recall how many are in the series but look forward to reading them all because Burke's writing is about as flawless as his character isn't. A reviewer said it's 'gritty' and I can't improve upon that description. I like the rough and tumble writing and although I know very, very little about Cajun anything, am learning slowly since the locale is New Orleans and New Iberina with side trips near and far depending on the book.Do urge you, if you decide to read Burke, to start with The Neon Rain. As an aside, he's first cousin once removed to Andre Dubus III, the writer of House of Sand and Fog, and Burke's daughter is also an accomplished writer. A writing family, no doubt, so talent runs in their blood along with that French connection.
—Cathy DuPont

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