For Dave Robicheaux, there is no easy passage home. New Orleans, and the memories of his life in the Big Easy, will always haunt him. So to return there -- as he does in Last Car to Elysian Fields -- means visiting old ghosts, exposing old wounds, opening himself up to new, yet familiar, dangers.
When Robicheaux, now a police officer based in the somewhat quieter Louisiana town of New Iberia, learns that an old friend, Father Jimmie Dolan, a Catholic priest always at the center of controversy, has been the victim of a particularly brutal assault, he knows he has to return to New Orleans to investigate, if only unofficially. What he doesn't realize is that in doing so he is inviting into his life -- and into the lives of those around him -- an ancestral evil that could destroy them all.
The investigation begins innocently enough. Assisted by good friend and P.I. Clete Purcel, Robicheaux confronts the man they believe to be responsible for Dolan's beating, a drug dealer and porno star named Gunner Ardoin. The confrontation, however, turns into a standoff as Clete ends up in jail and Robicheaux receives an ominous warning to keep out of New Orleans' affairs.
Meanwhile, back in New Iberia, more trouble is brewing: Three local teenage girls are killed in a drunk-driving accident, the driver being the seventeen-year-old daughter of a prominent physician. Robicheaux traces the source of the liquor to one of New Iberia's "daiquiri windows," places that sell mixed drinks from drive-by windows. When the owner of the drive-through operation is brutally murdered, Robicheaux immediately suspects the grief-crazed father of the dead teen driver. But his assumption is challenged when the murder weapon turns up belonging to someone else.
The trouble continues when Father Jimmie asks Robicheaux to help investigate the presence of a toxic landfill near St. James Parish in New Orleans, which in turn leads to a search for the truth behind the disappearance many years before of a legendary blues musician and composer. Tying together all these seemingly disparate threads of crime is a maniacal killer named Max Coll, a brutal, brilliant, and deeply haunted hit man sent to New Orleans to finish the job on Father Dolan. Once Coll shows up, it becomes clear that Dave Robicheaux will be forced to ignore the warning to stay out of New Orleans, and he soon finds himself drawn deeper into a viper's nest of sordid secrets and escalating violence that sets him up for a confrontation that echoes down the lonely corridors of his own unresolved past.
A masterful exploration of the troubled side of human nature and the darkest corners of the heart, and filled with the kinds of unforgettable characters that are the hallmarks of his novels, Last Car to Elysian Fields is James Lee Burke in top form in the kind of lush, atmospheric thriller that his fans have come to expect from the master of crime fiction.
Homicide detective Dave Robicheaux is pitted against a handsome, urbane war hero of a bad guy instead of the typical obscenely grotesque villain in this latest installment of Burke's stellar series, set in New Iberia, La. It's a shift in adversaries that forces Robicheaux to take a different tack than his usual uncontrolled tilting at the windmills of elusive justice. As in many of Burke's novels (A Stained White Radiance; In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead), current felonies are tied to a crime from the past. Here, Dave's friend Father Jimmie Dolan is being stalked by Irish hit man Max Coll; linked to this intrigue is the story of blues singer Junior Crudup, who entered the hell of Angola Penitentiary in the 1950s and was never heard from again. In present-day New Orleans, three teens die in a fiery crash after buying drinks at a drive-by daiquiri stand. Porn star Gunner Ardoin takes a beating from Dave's sidekick, Clete Purcel, who wreaks his usual havoc. Mysterious lady cop Clotile Arceneaux keeps popping in with advice, and a minor thug, Jumpin' Merchie Flannigan, is married to Robicheaux's old girlfriend Theodosha. These are just a scant few of the characters and subplots that thicken the deep and complex gumbo of Burke's story. The writing is beautiful, as always, laced with the author's signature descriptions: "the sepia-tinted light in the trees and on the bayou seemed to emanate from the earth rather than the sky." This is an outstanding entry in an excellent series.
Was hoping to continue a good series and enjoyed the priest - hitman interplay. Then the kidnapping and forced drinking ruined an otherwise good read. Have to stop and find a new author now.