Another round of violence in New Iberia Parish leads sheriff’s investigator Dave Robicheaux (Sunset Limited, 1998, etc.) to reopen the darkest mystery he’s ever faced: the murder of his mother.
The door into his past opens with startling suddenness. Letty Labiche has almost run through the legal obstacles keeping her from the death house for killing abusive ex-cop executioner Vachel Carmouche eight years ago when Dave learns that Little Face Dautrieve, a coke hooker from New Iberia, has been saving newspaper clippings on the case for her pimp, Zipper Clum. Braced by Dave and his friend Clete Purcel, a New Orleans shamus, Zipper blurts out the news that Mae Guillory, the mother who left Dave’s father years before, had been drowned by a pair of cops back in 1967. The revelation acts like a starting gun for Dave—and for melancholy, hyperactive out-of-town trigger-man Johnny Remeta, whose killing of Zipper is only the first in a string of half a dozen new murders. Politely insisting that Dave’s just like him, Remeta appoints himself Dave’s guardian angel. Dave would love to see this sensitive killer dead before he ingratiates himself too deeply with Dave’s teenaged daughter Alafair. But he needs every bit of Remeta’s despised help, because his no-fists-barred attitude toward the cops will end by antagonizing every law officer in Louisiana, from New Orleans Vice cop Don Ritter and powerful City Hall insider Jim Gable, whom Zipper insisted had offered to let Little Face skate in return for regular sex for both of them, to state Attorney General Connie Deshotel, as Dave tears through the ranks looking for Mae’s murderers.
Though the links among felonies can be insultingly casual, and the mystery is no more mysterious than a ritual sacrifice, Burke’s powerfully evoked world shows why the past, as Faulkner said, not only isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.