Select one of the keywords
Last Car to Elysian Fields: A Dave Robicheaux Novel    by James Lee Burke order for
Last Car to Elysian Fields
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Last Car to Elysian Fields, James Lee Burke writes like an angel about the seedy streets of New Orleans and about those who have sold their souls to the devil. Dave Robicheaux mourns his wife Bootsie, attends AA meetings, works as a police officer in New Iberia, and pursues private investigations with the help of his old friend Clete Purcel - 'the bravest and most loyal man I ever knew, and also the most irreverent, reckless, irresponsible, and self-destructive.'

As usual, the author pulls together a variety of tense plot threads. Robicheaux is concerned to find out who orchestrated the vicious beating of his friend Father Jimmie Dolan, an activist who makes many enemies while 'trying to shut down drive-by daiquiri windows and trash incinerators and these guys who been dumping sludge out in the river parishes.' Ex-IRA hitman Max Coll has been paid to off the good father but, in a hilarious sequence of blundering attempts, can't quite bring himself to kill a priest. He makes an engagingly cynical character who views New Orleans as 'an outdoor mental asylum located on top of a giant sponge.'

There are multiple, connected deaths - a young woman burnt alive in a car crash, a psychiatrist whose files are missing, a daiquiri shop operator, a part-time porn actor, and more - and Robicheaux believes that the key to untangle their byzantine knot lies in the cruel murder twenty years before of Creole guitarist Junior Crudup, a convict at Angola Pen. Theodosha, a troubled old flame of Dave's, is involved as is her wealthy family, who soon get Dave in hot water with his boss Helen. He has friendly run-ins with black, state trooper Clotile Arceneaux, who works undercover at the N.O.P.D.. The Mob is on his trail as well, and action quickly escalates to a bloody crescendo.

Robicheaux and Purcel are violent men who care too much and act outside the law, and Dave muses that 'Legal definitions had little to do with morality. It was legal to systematically poison the earth and sell arms to Third World lunatics ... polluters and law advocates are always legal men, as the Prince of Darkness is always a gentleman.' Robicheaux does have a point and James Lee Burke's writing once again soulfully sings the blues.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews