A first look at the new James Lee Burke book: Light of the World

Light of the World

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am a die hard James Lee Burke fan.  All year I anticipate his next book.

A couple of  months ago I pre-ordered Light of the World, the latest installment in his Dave Robicheaux series.

It arrived at my door step yesterday courtesy of Amazon.  I am only forty pages or so into it  not because I have stopped reading it, but because I want to savor it, enjoying it in small doses.

Burke kicks the book off inside the head of Dave Robicheaux, a former New Orleans Police Department homicide detective whose running battle with whiskey caused him and a host of others a world of hurt.

Here’s just a taste of those first three pages.

Every homicide cop lives with images he cannot rinse from his dreams; every cop who has handled investigations into child abuse has seen a side of his fellow man he never discusses with anyone, not his wife, not his colleagues, not his confessor or his bartender.  There are certain burdens you do not visit on people of goodwill.

When I was in plainclothes at the NOPD, I used to deal with problems such as these in a saloon on Magazine Street, not far from the Old Irish Channel.  With its brass-railed bar and felt-covered bouree tables and wood-bladed fans, it became my secular church where the Louisiana of my youth, the green-gold, mossy, oak-shaded world of Bayou Teche, was only one drink away.  I would start with four fingers of Jack in a thick mug, with a sweating Budweiser back, and by midnight I would be alone at the end of the bar, armed, drunk, and hunched over my glass,  morally and psychologically insane.

Not particularly light fare for the first couple of pages, huh?

Magazine Street in New Orleans
Magazine Street in New Orleans

 

But what a way to set the scene for bad things to come.  We already know Dave is flawed, the world is flawed, something lurks in the shadows.  We are about to meet it, and we won’t be able to turn our heads pretending it’s not there.

In the early chapters I have read thus far, Burke has set this novel, not in South Louisiana, the Acadiana which we expect in a Robicheaux book, but in Montana where Dave, his daughter Alafair, his wife Molly and his sidekick Clete Purcel are on holiday.

Or so they thought.

It seems some things are with us always.

I stayed  ninety-proof for many years and got a bachelor’s degree in self-immolation and a doctorate in chemically induced psychosis.  When I finally entered sobriety, I thought the veil might be lifted and I would find answers to all the Byzantine riddles that had confounded me.

That was not to be the case.  Instead, a man who was one of the most wicked creatures on earth  made his way into our lives.  This is a tale that maybe I shouldn’t share.  But it’s not one I want to keep inside me, either.

We don’t want you to keep it inside, either, Dave.

 

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