Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Burke and Tin Roof Blowdown

“So what are you reading?”

Sparkle’s question didn’t surprise me. It’s one of the things we share, a love of reading, anything really but especially mystery books.

“I just started James Lee Burke’s new book, The Tin Roof Blowdown,” I responded.

Her eyes brightened and she threw back her head and laughed! “I knew it! I saw he had a new book out and I hoped you had already bought it!”

What she’s not saying is “bought it, read it and will pass it along to me!”

It’s what we do. I am in the middle of a series she recommended and loaned to my son, he is 3/4 way through (the Hyperion series) and has passed along the first two volumes to me, which, when finished, I will return to my sis.

James Lee Burke’s newest book, The Tin Roof Blowdown, is Burke at his best. His last book ended with the ominous storm rolling in that has changed the face of New Orleans and this book starts with Hurricane Katrina. The stories are heartbreaking, and all the more so because they are true. New Orleans is one of the most corrupt cities in the United States, about one third of the police force LEFT the city they were hired to protect in the evacuation, and the poorest of the poor were left behind, to suffer, to struggle to live, or to die. Many did all three.

Detective Dave Robicheaux is called into the “Big Sleazy” with the rest of the New Iberia police force to help with rescue operations, and to try to bring some order into the chaos. He gets involved with a missing priest, two looters being shot, a robbery that includes cocaine, counterfeit cash and blood diamonds, and the usual cast of psycopaths and organized crime goombahs.

The book builds inexorably to a nail-biting climax.

This author can WRITE. He is head and shoulders above the average churn-em-out detective writer. Here is one of his less poetic, but more insightful entries:

” . . . the honest to God truth is that law enforcement is not even law “enforcement.” We deal with problems after the fact. We catch criminals by chance and accident, either during the commission of the crimes or through snitches. Because of forensic and evidentiary problems, most of the crimes recidivists commit are not even prosecutable. Most inmates currently in the slams spend lifetimes figuring out ways to come to the attention of the system. Ultimately, jail is the only place they feel safe from their own failures.

Unfortunately, the last people on our minds are the victims of crime. They become an addendum to both the investigation and the prosecution of the case, adverbs instead of nouns. Ask rape victims, or people who have been beaten with gun butts or metal pipes or tied to chairs and tortured how they felt toward the system after they learned that their assailants were released on bond without the victims being notified.

I don’t believe in capital punishment, but I don’t argue with the prosecutors who support it. The mouths of the people they represent are stopped with dust. What kind of advocate would not try to give them voice?

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July 30, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Crime, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Fiction, Poetry/Literature, Relationships, Weather

5 Comments »

  1. Nail biting huh?! It sounds good.

    What is the name of the first book of the series. I am one of those people who likes to start with the first book and go in order. 🙂

    It sounds like you enjoyed Florida.

    I’ve been to the Memphis airport and had to run. Corky’s BBQ is wonderful! That’s the reason for the crowd so early.

    Comment by jolynna | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  2. I had to look it up myself, Jolynna. It is Neon Rain. I found it on the James Lee Burke Website!

    Corky’s is my favorite, too! And I get one custom made when I can, but when I am on the run, I just grab one of their already made-up ones, pay and run. I just shot the photo of the first BBQ place I came to, knowing I wanted to make the point on my blog that the places were all open, and I thought it was a hoot that this one already had guys in it drinking beer at 0730 in the morning.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  3. Oh my. Stayed up until 12:30 last night to finish TRB, even though I had to be at work for a 7:30 meeting. His phraseology is beyond compare. Although he always spins a good surface story, his backtories always are most poignant. Even though I’m only the occasional tourist in NOLA, the city and its surroundings capture the heart and soul with an astounding depth of emotion. Its unthinkable that things will never be the same – the cultural loss is breathtaking. Check out the Aug Nat’l Geogrphic – they just did an update on the flood/levee situation.

    Comment by sparkleplenty | August 7, 2007 | Reply

  4. I thought of you as you read it, Sparkle, and your particular affinity for that louche city. I liked it too, my one visit on a crisp cold night in December! It’s a melancholy beauty, isn’t it?

    Comment by intlxpatr | August 8, 2007 | Reply

  5. you nailed it – the city has a melancholy beauty, and likewise TRB was one of the most melancholy books I’ve read (yes, Burke’s are always sort of that way, but hello, extreme situation here!). Sort of an historical epilogue. My sadness at “loosing” NOLA runs deep, and things were so different when I was there last year. And I despair at the lack of logical and humanitarian assistance by govt agencies (despite the abundance of heroism!), which doesn’t bode well for future disasters of similar magitude, regardless of location. OK, the Pollyanna in me HAS TO BELIEVE New Orleans will rise again. Historically, they’ve suffered similar, rebuilt, washed away, rebuilt…perhaps leading to some of that charming melancholy!

    Comment by sparkleplenty | August 9, 2007 | Reply


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