Five years after his last case in far-off Montana (Light of the World, 2013), sometime sheriff’s detective Dave Robicheaux returns to Iberia Parish, Louisiana, for another 15 rounds of high-fatality crime, alcohol-soaked ruminations, and heaven-storming prose.
Jimmy Nightingale’s silver-tongued charm may destine him for the Senate, but he’s certainly mixing with some dark powers along the way, most notably his backer Fat Tony Nemo, who’s made his bones in politics, porn, and drugs. As part owner of a financial company that’s issued a reverse mortgage on the house owned by Dave’s old buddy Clete Purcel, Tony ends up with a fistful of Clete’s markers, squeezes him hard, and isn’t impressed when Dave borrows money of his own to retire the debt. Jimmy himself seems invincible until he’s accused of rape by Rowena Broussard, the painter and photographer whose husband is eccentric novelist Levon Broussard, whose Civil War fiction Tony would love to film. When Jimmy indignantly protests his innocence, Dave points out, “People do things when they’re drunk that they would never do sober.” And Dave should know, because he himself is suspected of getting blasted and killing T. J. Dartez, the truck driver who accidentally killed Molly, Dave’s third wife. Listening to Clete talk about Kevin Penny, the abusive father who’s run off after getting bailed out of jail, Dave little knows how deeply implicated Penny will be in the two other cases he’s entangled in. Fans of Burke’s fiction who recognize the familiar types he evokes so powerfully—the corrupt politician, the plausible mobster, the attractive but damaged woman, the bully who preys on the weak and helpless—eagerly await the arrival of another stock character, the crazy hired killer who’ll purify the landscape as remorselessly as a flash fire, and immediately recognize him in the person of Chester "Smiley" Wimple, who takes it upon himself to kill everyone who needs killing and a few who maybe don’t.
Despite a plot and a cast of characters formulaic by Burke’s standards (though wholly original for anyone else), the intimations of mortality that have hovered over this series for 30 years have never been sharper or sadder.