Jolie Blon’s Bounce by James Lee Burke
This novel, set in Louisiana, is yet another gem in the Dave Robicheaux series. In this story, we find Dave on the trail of the rapist/murderers of a young woman in New Iberia. The main suspect is defended by a sex-mad lawyer from a major plantation family that has its own secrets to keep. Tensions run high as Robicheaux and his good friend, Clete Purcell, conduct their own investigations into the tragic event.
In Jolie Blon’s Bounce, Burke has surpassed his own high standards. This story-line is a beauty. It combines old-fashioned detective drama with exotic characters with brutal action with a suggested supernatural element. It reminded me a lot of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, but with less of the paranormal (Connolly’s book, Every Dead Thing was released years before this novel).
There are a number of intertwining plot-lines in this. The young woman who was killed is not the only one to have suffered in this way. Yet the incidence of two such murders in a small area seems to indicate a serial killer at work. Robicheaux is finding that the deeper he digs, the murkier it all gets.
We also meet Joe Zeroski, the former Mafia triggerman, and his fiery Private Investigator niece who has attracted the romantic interest of the long-suffering Clete. Joe’s daughter was the second victim, and he wants revenge.
In the exceptional cast of characters, there is the bible salesman who innocently plies his wares throughout the area, running into all manner of trouble. And of course, there is Legion, the most daunting and intriguing personality in the story. Legion is, as his name might suggest, a questionable human being. His appearances are noteworthy and memorable. He is a great creation of Burke’s. I won’t give any more away about him other than to state that I believe that readers will enjoy his part in this, in an uncomfortable way.
As the tale progresses, we are left with a number of possible suspects who may have committed the crimes mentioned. The author does a fine job of keeping the reader enthralled, and guessing. It’s the mark of a writer who knows his trade.
The action increases as the investigation unfolds. The characters become more transparent. The conclusion is worth waiting for. It’s a great read.
There have been quite a few other books in this series since. However, I have not read any that offer up the same level of supernatural vibe as this one. It’s a nice departure for Burke and one I welcome as the preternatural feel isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t dictate the story. I look forward to more in the future.
Anyone interested in getting into the Dave Robicheaux series should read the first book, The Neon Rain (1987). But Jolie Blon’s Bounce is a good enough place to jump in, even if you have to backtrack a little.
Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. Recommended for those who enjoy a ripping yarn with so many different aspects as to completely spoil the reader.