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Black Cherry Blues: A Dave Robicheaux Novel    by James Lee Burke order for
Black Cherry Blues
by James Lee Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2001 (1989)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Not all novels work well as audiobooks. Of course, a lot depends on the narrator but a talking book's viability also has a lot to do with the writer's style. James Lee Burke's lyrical prose comes across beautifully in audiobook format, particularly when masterfully narrated - as Black Cherry Blues is - in a variety of soft Southern accents by Will Patton.

As the story opens, Cajun ex-New Orleans policeman/Vietnam vet/recovering alcoholic Dave Robicheaux has nightmares about his wife's murder and his father's accidental death. He works casually at his boat-and-bait business and enjoys the presence in his life of his adopted (El Salvadoran refugee) daughter Alafair, of whom he is very protective. Unable to sleep one night, Robicheaux encounters an old, troubled friend, Dixie Lee Pugh. Pugh, an alcoholic and drug addict, has done time, has close ties to the mob, and now works for a greedy oil company. Pugh tells Robicheaux about overhearing two colleagues speak of murdering Blackfeet Indian activists and burying them in the forest.

Though Robicheaux tries to keep his distance from Pugh's problems, he's soon sunk deep in quicksand and struggling to stay alive. After he beats up two bad guys who threatened Alafair and one is found dead, Dave is arrested for murder. Once out on bail, he follows the trail to Montana where he must uncover the truth or do hard time himself. In the mountains, he comes up against mobsters and his corrupt ex-partner Clete Purcell, who's working for them. He is also briefly entangled - to his regret - with Clete's girlfriend, Darlene American Horse. And he's himself being stalked by pros.

I enjoyed listening to the early (third in the series) episode in Robicheaux's career described in Black Cherry Blues, my only problem being that the two cassettes of this abridged version were over all too soon. Though his subjects are dark, James Lee Burke's writing sings in the ears.

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