Light of the World by James Lee Burke
This is book 20 in the Dave Robicheaux series, and the latest. The next Robicheaux novel is due for release on January 2nd, 2018, so fans don’t have too long to wait. The next edition is titled… Robicheaux (Burke is becoming no nonsense when it comes to finding titles. From In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead to Robicheaux…).
In Light of the World, we find Dave, Molly, Alafair, Clete and Clete’s contract killer daughter, Gretchen, on holiday in Montana. They are staying close to the Bitterroot Mountains, the setting for one of Burke’s previous books, Bitterroot, as reviewed by Rebel Voice. Bitterroot is part of the series of books that form the Holland family saga. You can read the review here https://rebelvoice.blog/2017/11/21/bitterroot/
This particular story (Light of the World) is interesting for a number of reasons. One is that it’s the first occasion where Rebel Voice has reviewed a Robicheaux tale not set in Louisiana. Another is that there is a central character in Light of the World who had previously appeared in Bitterroot. Light of the World is a direct link between Burke’s two highly popular series.
Dave’s daughter, Alafair, has interviewed a notorious serial killer in prison. The crazy loon then escapes, or does he? Alafair gets worried that Asa Surrette is after her and tries to convince the skeptical Dave. Meanwhile. Clete is trying to get laid but suffers from an attack of conscience as the woman he has fallen for is married. Still, a standing cock has no conscience, they say, so Clete is fucked (or perhaps it’s the beautiful and dainty Felicity who is about to be… excuse the language but these are tough guys I’m writing about).
Onto the stage steps, Wyatt Dixon, who appeared as a badass in Bitterroot. Having been arrested previously and had electro-shock treatment, Wyatt appears to be somewhat reformed. He’s still a badass though and his appearances in this are memorable. It’s easy to see why Burke has chosen to bring him on board.
We also have the terrible Love Younger and his completely sickening son, Caspian. Burke again reveals his proletarian bias by creating yet another corrupt and morally bankrupt member of the ruling elite. Love Younger is a stereotypical monied thug with a son who couldn’t spell morality let alone understand it. This is a recurring theme in Burke’s novels and a feature that is mentioned throughout as being a personal source of rancour for Dave, namely that incredibly wealthy individuals have little compassion or scruples or ethics or morality. In this I laud Burke’s approach and his obvious commentary upon modern and not so modern societies by using the voice and actions of Robicheaux to condemn the Surplass.
Young women are disappearing in the area where the gang are staying. As the local cops continue to bungle the investigation, Dave and crew become convinced that Surrette is back on the prowl, but no one will believe them. There are also questions being asked about oil rights on land in the region. Dave’s friend and host, Albert Hollister, is an environmentalist who has made many very rich and powerful enemies. The strands are gathering.
As Dave starts to probe further into the Younger clan and the history of Asa Surrette, he starts to wonder if there might be a connection. The Youngers are known for employing ex-cons, as Dave and Clete find out. They also employ crooked cops who are only to happy to take on the Louisiana guys for the right price. But is Montana ready for such a complex and capable unit as Dave and his people are? You’ll have to read the book to find out, you lazy dogs. It’s well worth the read though.
Again, in this novel, we find Burke’s repeated suggestion that there is something supernatural in the world that is moving across Dave’s path on a regular basis. It is never firmly stated. It is not a done deal. But the novels have moved towards the possibility that Dave is but a pawn in some theological and paranormal battle. In this there are similarities to the John Connolly novels centred around detective Charlie Parker. Burke got there first though. I have the feeling that the next installment of Dave’s life, Robicheaux, will delve deeper into the otherworldly aspects presented to us, thus far, in such a tantalizing fashion.
The serial killer in Montana begins to tease and goad Dave, Alafair and Gretchen, as he continues his destructive ways. The race is on to catch him, not only to prevent any other abductions, but also to ensure that Alafair is not in danger from Surrette, should that be who is responsible. Robicheaux will stop at nothing to protect his daughter. Clete will stop at nothing to protect his daughter, and get his hefty leg over Felicity. There’s serious trouble a-brewing’ in the mountains of Montana. I bet the law enforcement agencies of Louisiana are breathing a sigh of relief that Dave and co are wrecking the Big Sky Country instead of the Big Easy.
The descriptions of the Montana countryside and its outdoor pursuits are exemplary. Burke lives in the region and is clearly in love with the place. As is always the case with his stories, his prose is poetical in a great many places. His is not cheap, tacky or throwaway literature. He provides depth for a lot of characters as well as his customary social and political commentary. Burke’s books can be an education if the reader is open to such.
– James Lee Burke –
I won’t lie to you, good reader, and say that this is Burke’s best. It’s not. But then again, Burke’s best is as good as it gets. Light of the World is a very enjoyable read.
It does have its little problems. Dave is again running about with no weapon on him as a serial killer threatens his family. Personally, under such circumstances, I wouldn’t take a shit without a gun nearby. Buy hey, Dave is a Cajun and so perhaps they’re more laid back. The same problem applies to his casual concern for his daughter when she heads off in her car. It’s as if she couldn’t be taken off the road by a competent killer. Alafair seems to have inherited her Da’s nonchalance, at least until the shit hits the fan and then she’s as crazy as her old man, but much more attractive.
There is also the dynamic that exists between Robicheaux and Clete Purcell. I have written previously about Clete who is a firm favourite of Rebel Voice. In Light of the World, we find Dave behaving in a crap manner towards Clete at times. It’s not sustained, and Dave does apologize, but his attitude is not impressive. Clete always emerges as the better man, in my humble opinion. I say it again, Clete Purcell deserves his own book, or series. Maybe that would teach the bold Dave some respect.
In any event, I tend to back Clete’s plays in every book as opposed to those of Dave (when there is a difference). Perhaps that says more about this author than either Dave, Clete or Burke. Light of the World is a story that is tender at times. At other times, however, it is the people in it who are tenderized. It has layers. It has meaning. It matters.
Guns galore. Bucking broncos. Kidnappings. Bar room brawls. Car smashes. Interweaving plot-lines. Questions and violent answers. This book has these and more. One point I will make is that Burke has a daughter named Alafair, as does Dave. I’m willing to bet that at no time will Dave’s daughter be portrayed as having sex. That would seem to be a tad too close to home for ole James Lee. I think he has snookered himself with that particular plot mechanism.
Sult scale rating: 8.5 out of 10. A very good read and highly recommended. Give it a go, then book a flight to the Bitterroot Mountains and try to avoid the militias and serial killers and horny cowboys. Other than that I expect you’ll have a grand time.