Dave Robicheaux’s latest Montana vacation is beset by demons old and new.
It’s a long way from New Iberia, La., to Big Sky country, but some things never change, like the constant threat of violence from unknown quarters. Or not so unknown, since Dave’s adopted daughter, Alafair, is sure that psycho rodeo cowboy Wyatt Dixon (In the Moon of Red Ponies, 2004, etc.) is the man who shot an arrow at her head. But Dave’s not so sure: A growing pile of evidence suggests that the archer was Asa Surrette, the mass murderer Alafair interviewed years ago in a Kansas prison for a true-crime book she gave up writing in horrified disgust. Surrette, reported dead in a flaming car crash, gives every indication of being alive, active and as malevolent as ever. That spells major trouble for Dave, who’s staying with novelist/teacher Albert Hollister; his old buddy Clete Purcel, who’s falling for Felicity Louviere, the unhappy wife of Caspian Younger, whose fabulously wealthy daddy, Love, has a summer place nearby; Gretchen Horowitz, the contract killer last seen executing her gangster father in Creole Belle (2012); and of course Alafair, the ultimate target of Surrette’s sadistic wrath. Series regulars will find no immunity from physical or spiritual maiming at the hands of Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Pepper, his replacement, Jack Boyd, or younger hireling Kyle Schumacher. Instead of simply absorbing threats and punishment, however, the good guys dish them out with a single-minded intensity that comes back to haunt them during the many reflective moments when they wonder what really separates them from the bad guys after all.
Pruning away the florid subplots that often clutter his heaven-storming blood baths, Burke produces his most sharply focused, and perhaps his most harrowing, study of human evil, refracted through the conventions of the crime novel.