James Lee Burke is a mystery writer with a series of twenty or more novels detailing the exploits of Detective Dave Robicheaux, a deputy sheriff in a small Louisiana town, a recovering alcoholic, Vietnam war veteran, married to a former nun--a good if somewhat complicated man. In the latest installment of the series, which I finished yesterday on an airplane to Sacramento--where I'm playing my favorite role, that of "gramps"--Dave finds himself in the middle of a story involving homicide, theft, looting, organized crime, a missing priest, and a psychopathic killer, all coming in the days and weeks following the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
What is remarkable about the novel, at least to me, is the elegiac mood. All the Dave Robicheaux novels involve the solving of a crime, but it's the backdrop of this one, the character's (and author's) palpable sense of overwhelming grief, mixed with anger, at the destruction of a once-beautiful city which he clearly loves, which gives the story the depth of feeling that kept me turning pages for several days.
I recommend it highly to anyone who likes mystery novels or who wants to try to imagine the chaos that followed in the wake of the terible hurricane.
If you're interested in learning more, click here for the New York Times review of the novel (226).