Sunday, September 13, 2009

Last Car to Elysian Fields, by James Lee Burke

Last Car to Elysian Fields, by James Lee Burke

Dave Robicheaux is an alcoholic detective working in southern Louisiana; this is the third book in which he stars I’ve read. The plot is a bit crazy, including a decades old murder of a blues guitarist, a tragic car crash that kills three teenagers, and a hired killer that masquerades as a priest. You don’t read Burke for the stories, though; you read Burke for the rich and evocative descriptions. “New Orleans wasn’t a city. It was an outdoor mental asylum located on top of a giant sponge.” Or, “Lightning rippled like quicksilver across the thunderheads in the south, and the sugarcane in the fields along the road to St. Martinville thrashed and flickered in the wind and rain, the oak canopy blowing leaves that stuck like leeches on my windshield.” I love imagery like this; it makes the literary experience so much richer.

First Sentence:
The first week after Labor Day, after a summer of hot wind and drought that left the cane fields dust blown and spiderwebbed with cracks, rain showers once more danced across the wetlands, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and the sky turned the hard flawless blue of an inverted ceramic bowl.

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