Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: The Glass Rainbow

PROF. WORM'S BOOK REVIEW POLICY: I only review books that, in my opinion, will be of interest to general readers. I cannot please everyone, of course, so your results may vary.

The Glass Rainbow, James Lee Burke

Simon & Schuster, July 13, 2010
ISBN 9781439128299
448 pages

"The Abelards had paneled their sunporch with stained-glass images of unicorns and satyrs and monks at prayer and knights in armor that shone like quicksilver, turning their home into a kaleidoscopic medieval tapestry. Or perhaps, better said, they had created a glass rainbow that awakened memories of goodness and childhood innocence, all of it to hide the ruination they had brought to the Carribean- like fairyland they had inherited."

The prominent and powerful Abelards, grandfather Timothy and grandson Kermit, surround themselves with some very evil people: Robert Weingart, a convict turned author; Vidor Perkins, a psychotic interloper; Herman Stanga, a pimp and drug dealer; Layton and Carolyn Blanchet, a self-made investment tycoon and his wife.

Two teenaged girls are dead, tortured and mutilated, one of whom was literally “scared to death.” The other girl, Bernadette Latiolais, was an honor student in high school and offered a full college scholarship. These were innocent young girls, but no one can be bothered to investigate their deaths.

No one, that is, except Sheriff’s detective Dave Robicheaux and his long-time partner and sidekick, PI Clete Purcel. Never mind that the girls’ bodies were found outside Dave’s jurisdiction of New Iberia, Louisiana; Dave and Clete will do whatever it takes to solve these murders.

James Lee Burke
None of this is news to the fans of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux. But what about the rest of you, who may never have heard of James Lee Burke or this series? This is the eighteenth installment, but it stands quite well on its own—it includes well-placed backstory that enlightens rather than confuses, as well as showcasing Burke’s often-lyrical prose that makes his beloved (and devastated) Louisiana come alive for the reader.

The second half of the book will surprise even Burke fans. Dave and Clete know the Abelard bunch are connected in some way with the murders—each of the suspects exude a palpable odor of human depravity— but none of the pieces are falling into place. They begin to wonder if they’ve grown too old for the job, or if they’ve lost their investigative touch, or if their decades-long streak of good luck is about to come to an end.

I, the reader, begin to wonder too. Both Purcel and Robicheaux live with demons from their past, but they deal with them differently. Clete is cavalier: he buries his with alcohol, women, outrageous behavior, and his philosophy of life, “It’s all just rock ‘n roll.” Dave, however, has demons that haunt him, sins of violence past that need forgiveness and cause him to do whatever it takes to right a wrong and find redemption . . .

It is important, then, that they solve this nearly unsolvable crime. They have a plan, as always, but the book’s ending bothers me. It bothers me because it's haunting me, the reader. Dave said about the Abelards in the quote above, “[T]hey had created a glass rainbow that awakened memories of goodness and childhood innocence . . .”

Anything made of glass, however, even rainbows of goodness and childhood innocence, can be shattered at a moment's notice.

(out of 5) stars.


mapstew said...



Pat said...

Love the title. It has a familiar feel and I wonder if it's from the same stable as another good crime story you put me onto but without hunting for the book I can't remember the title. I ought to keep your recommendations in a special place.

Eryl Shields said...

My mother would have loved it, I'm sure.

mapstew said...

Of course I mean the book, and not your xlnt review! :¬)

TechnoBabe said...

We read all of James Lee Burke in our house, we both enjoy his writing. I will forward your post to my hubby's computer. For me, if it has this author's name on a book I know I will like it immensely. Glad you like him too.

laytonwoman3rd said...

The ending bothered you a lot, and yet you gave it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. It's on my shelf, and I think I've just selected my next read.

Charlie said...

LINDA: A clarification about the ending, which I will fix. It didn't bother me because it's lousy—far from it. Rather, it's because **BIG FAT SPOILER**.

Mary Witzl said...

We've got these books on our shelves: I saw them there yesterday. And yet I haven't read them, despite the fact that Jamie Lee Burke looks very much like one of my late uncles. Now I'm wondering if he's Cherokee...? Off to find out!

hope said...

Ironically, I looked up this author yesterday while researching audio books. {For my commute, my eyes read during lunch}. I wasn't familiar until one line read that one book was a movie: "In the Electric Mist", which I'd seen. And it hit me why the author looked familiar...he LOOKS like Tommy Lee Jones, who played the title character in the book!

lisleman said...

Charlie this may surprise or may not, but I'm mostly a non-fiction reader.

However I do read a little fiction and right now I have a collection of short stories which doesn't require much commitment.

Syd said...

His books are great. I have read all of them.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I've only read one James Lee Burke book and it was set in Montana. What's up with that?