Friday, February 18, 2011

Last Car

Last Car To Elysian Fields, James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke’s admirable Dave Robicheaux series, set in and around New Orleans, always does a convincing job with those moments when Southern charm reaches its limit and the natural temperament of crooked folk living in extreme humidity comes to the fore.

As with many genre series, though, the impact has been lessened, I think, as publishers have insisted on higher word counts. Read an early book in any long-running series of the past couple decades and you will find a tighter, tenser piece of work than a more-recent entry.

There’s often an almost-Biblical quality to the violence threatened in a Robicheaux story, but as altercation after altercation ends in a draw (because we have hundreds of pages to go!), a reader can begin to feel like an onlooker at a schoolyard fight -- one of the jerks (speaking for myself) egging on the combatants when it looks like both are, sensibly, going to back down.


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