Light of the World, by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster):
I admit it, I’ve fallen behind in my Burke reading. My only excuse is that there are so many other interesting authors whose work I have sought to sample in recent years, and I only have a limited number of hours each day that I’m awake and ready for reading. The last installment I read in Burke’s series about Louisiana Sheriff’s Detective Dave Robicheaux was 2007’s near-brilliant Tin Roof Blowdown; that was four books ago. Now comes the new, 20th Robicheaux adventure, Light of the World, and though I’m only partway through its chapters, I can already tell that the full 548-page ride will be worth my time. It finds Dave spending a summer vacation up in Montana (where the author himself lives for part of each year), together with his wife, Molly, and their adopted daughter Alafair. They’re joined at a ranch in the Bitterroot Mountains by Dave’s old New Orleans Police Department partner, Clete Purcell, and Clete’s daughter, Gretchen Horowitz. To get the action rolling, Alafair survives being shot at with an arrow. Then a 17-year-old Shoshone girl, Angel Deer Heart, goes missing, only to turn up dead under conditions that remind lawyer-novelist Alafair all too frighteningly of the work of serial murderer Asa Surette, whom she’d once interviewed in prison, and who later perished in a van smash-up. Or so the story goes. Is it possible that Surette survived? Or is a copycat slayer now at work? In their quest to discover the truth, Dave and Clete will have to confront a dangerous rodeo pro, an oil-rich family, and local lawmen who are none too pleased to have a couple of Southern investigators showing them up.
* * *This month is shaping up to be a favorable one for crime-fiction enthusiasts. In addition to Burke’s latest, try Massacre Pond (Minotaur), Paul Doiron’s fourth novel featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch; David Gordon’s darkly satirical Mystery Girl (New Harvest), about an unsuccessful novelist who accepts the assignment to follow a mystifying young beauty--and thereby becomes involved with underground filmmakers and Satanists; Ivy Pochoda’s new Visitation Street (Dennis Lehane/Ecco), about a teenage girl who vanishes from a raft cast off from the Brooklyn waterfront, and how the neighborhood she leaves behind--Red Hook--copes with that event’s fallout; These Mortal Remains (Minotaur), the late Milton T. Burton’s fifth book, about a Texas sheriff who must confront white supremacists in the aftermath of an assault on his skilled black deputy; The Homecoming (Knopf), Carsten Stroud’s sequel to Niceville (2012); and--finally in a U.S. edition--First Frost (Minotaur), the pseudonymous James Henry’s initial prequel to R.D. Wingfield’s acclaimed Inspector Jack Frost series.
READ MORE: “Q&A with James Lee Burke,” by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Crimespree Magazine).