SUNSET LIMITED by James Lee Burke


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After Burke’s Texas sabbatical in Cimarron Rose (1997), it’s back to the bayous with Dave Robicheaux, struggling as usual to right an old injustice while balancing the weight of the world on his back. Forty years after their labor-organizer father was crucified against a barn wall, Pulitzer photojournalist Megan Flynn and her filmmaker brother Cisco are back in New Iberia. Despite the sweeping changes in the South over the years, time seems to have stood still for most of the cast. Minor-league house thief Willie (Cool Breeze) Broussard and his jailer, Alex Guidry, are still at each other’s throats over Guidry’s “rescue” of Breeze’s late wife from Harpo Delahoussey, the brute who carried her out of Breeze’s house a generation ago. Harpo is long dead, but he’s been reincarnated in his nephew Harpo Scruggs, the ex-Angola gun bull who now hires out as a contract killer. Landed souse Lila Terrabonne is frozen in time by the sexual abuse she can neither name nor forget. So the news that Cisco Flynn’s been joined on location by his old orphanage buddy Swede Boxleiter, and that a Chinese drug triad, determined to stabilize its position before the British relinquish Hong Kong, is reaching down to New Iberia through New Orleans gangster Ricky (the Mouse) Scarlotti, does less to change the status quo than bring it to a boil. All of this will sound excruciatingly familiar to Burke’s legion of fans, and indeed the novel might have been cast out of the author’s stock company: There’s the brutish lawman, the seductive returning native daughter, the Hollywood poseurs, the big-city gangsters, the browbeaten black victims, the corrupt power-mongers—and, making his way through the middle of them all, thoughtful, hamstrung Dave, who doesn’t so much solve this case as watch it unfold in a series of slow-motion flashbacks. On the other hand, the characters’ buried secrets, floating just beneath the surface like so many hungry gators, remind you why reading even lesser Burke is like reading lesser Faulkner.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48842-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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