Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feast Day of Fools

By James Lee Burke
Simon and Schuster 463 pgs
978-1-4516-4311-4
From my personal library
Rating - Read This!

James Lee Burke is one of my top five authors. By my best accounting he has written 31 books. He is probably best known for the Dave Robicheaux novels that follow the life and times of a deputy sheriff in New Iberia, Louisiana. One of these novels, The Lost Get-Back Boogie, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Mr. Burke has a gift for description that defies description so I won’t try. I’ll just say that you can feel the humidity of the Louisiana Gulf coast on your skin, smell the drowsy summer bougainvillea and taste the craw fish jambalaya. Please everybody try this guy and if you don’t like him I’ll send you a dollar.

Feast Day of Fools is a Hackberry Holland novel. Mr. Holland is the sheriff in a rural southwest Texas county situated in the Chihuahuan desert, somewhere in the Big Bend region. As it happens, I live in West Texas and will vouch for the stark beauty of this land, dramatic vistas in every direction, 6,000-foot mountain peaks, deep canyons revealing a geological story of eons, fuchsia prickly pear blossoms, the lazy Rio Grande known as the Rio Bravo south of the border. Mexico is a pervasive presence, impossible to separate the people or the land here. Mr. Burke takes that raw material and spins a poem.

Back to the story. It begins with the grisly murder of an escaped kidnap victim from Mexico by a scary psychopath known as Krill. This murder is witnessed by an alcoholic Indian by the name of Danny Boy Lorca who believes he has ecstatic visions of his ancestors. And we are off! Sheriff Holland and his deputy Pam Tibbs begin an investigation that will, before it’s over, involve a Russian terrorist, a Chinese woman with a reputation for miracles, a sociopath called Preacher who if I tried to describe you wouldn’t believe me, a guy with a head for physics harboring a secret that very likely could get him killed, and a mobster looking for the guy with the secret. The theme here is absolution and aren't we all searching for that?

I read everything Mr. Burke writes. I would read a book by this author that was just description. His dialogue is spare and true to his characters. My only quibbles with this book are that it was a tad long, I think it could have been edited down some. There’s one character, another preacher, that I don’t entirely understand his function in the story. My other beef is that the plot is so circuitous that I got confused trying to keep all the characters straight in my poor brain and how they were related. Other than that I am a very big fan. Read it!

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